Bonfire - Don't Touch the Light (MSA) 1986
1. "Intro" (1:57)
"Don't Touch the Light" is slick, sing-along heavy metal/hard rock from Germany. However, it is quite obvious that these German rockers have an obsession with American made rock, especially the mid-80's Los Angeles metal sound, as this is the sound they go after. Even the lyrics reflect a love for American rock 'n' roll. They do a good job at it as well. Had I not known Bonfire were German, I would never have guessed it. Laid on top of their melodic rock songs are layers of vocals that create some memorable melodies. As would be expected from a band emulating the L.A. poodle rockers, there are a few mellow ballads, but there is a good batch of hard rocking songs as well. It's these tracks that I like the best. Despite the cliché song title, "Hot To Rock" is probably my favorite track on the disc. It's also the album's hardest rocking track. "SDI," No More" and the title track are also memorable radio-oriented rockers.
Bonfire - Fire Works (MSA) 1987
1. "Ready 4 Reaction"
Sophmore release from glossy AOR rockers Bonfire. For years I hated this type of corporate hard rock, but there is something genuine about Bonfire. I suppose that it's the slight neo-classical influence that Bonfire bring into the mix. Despite all their efforts to sound American, they can never completely shake their German roots and I think that fact is what attracts me to them. No where is this more apparent than in "Never Mind" a rocker with a big chorus and some smokin' guitar work that reminded me a bit of Uli Roth. These guys also remind of fellow German rockers Sinner's early material. "Sleeping All Alone" and "Champion", in like manner, also contains big, catchy sing-along choruses. The production is top notch, once again tweaked by Michael Wagener, who produced/mixed for Dokken, Alice Cooper,Ozzy, Stryper, Skid Row, Testament and Accept, among others. This particular CD was originally released by BMG with a completely different cover that featured the four band members. When MSA took over Bonfire's catalogue, "Fireworks" was reissued with the cover pictured above. The shots of the individual band members have been moved into the insert.
1. Streets of Freedom (4:58)
"Knock Out" is the fourth album from Germany's Bonfire and was released at the very end of hair metal's rule in the world. For whatever reason up to this point the band were building momentum, but "Knock Out" sold less than the band's previous recordings. A quick check on-line reveals fans making comments about "Knock Out" being a weak album in comparison to "Fire Words" and "Point Blank". Frankly, I don't get dislike at all. "Knock Out" is exactly what anyone would expect from Bonfiree. All of the trademark Bonfire elements are present and accounted for; big guitar hooks, catchy choruses, Claus Lessmann's distinctive vocals, hard rockers, party anthems, and of course, the obligatory ballads. It's not rocket science, it's just good time rock 'n' roll. There is even a cover of Billy Squire's "The Stroke" which remains fairly faithful to the original version. "Streets Of Freedom" is definitely a standout track from Bonfire, sounding at least as good as the best songs on the previous three albums. The closing track is a nine-minute, mostly-instrumental track titled "Tonmeister" that seems slightly out of place on the album, which I am sure is why it's included on the end of the album, so as not to break up the momentum of the album. Really, if anyone likes those first three records, there is no reason no to also like this one.
Bonfire - Rebel Soul (LZ Records) 1997
1. "Wake Up" (5:37)
I was actually excited to hear this one after reading some reviews talking about the "Southern Rock" direction this album had taken. Well, aside from the Southern Rock looking cover and the name of the album itself, there really isn't anything Southern about "Rebel Soul". This is melodic, 1980's style, rock 'n roll. Some of the songs have nice hooks, but overall this album is lackluster, predictable, radio rock with a slight blues vibe. However, there is absolutely no killer instinct at all. That's not to say it's all bad. "Lay Your Heart" and "Somebody's Waiting" are quality melodic rockers and could have easily have been hits if someone with a big marketing push, like Bon Jovi or Def Leppard, had recorded them. Also, "Good and Bad" is driven by a good guitar riff. OK, so "Rebel Soul" isn't all that bad, but it's certainly not the best these guys have done nor is it Southern Rock as so many reviewers have stated. Perhaps these reviewers never listened to the CD and judged the book on it's cover alone.
1. Daytona Nights (3:51)
2. Don't Go Changing Me (3:43)
3. Proud of My Country (4:57)
4. Sweet Home Alabama (4:09)
5. Rebel Pride (5:08)
6. Goodnight Amanda (5:23)
7. Ode an Die Freude [instrumental] (1:01)
8. Thumbs Up for Europe (3:47)
9. Bandit of Love (4:43)
10. Break Down the Walls (5:19)
11. Heat in the Glow (3:37)
12. Life After Love (5:47)
13. If It Wasn't for You (5:04)
14. Can't Stop Rockin' (3:32)
Much like "Rebel Soul" many seem to place "Fuel to the Flames" in the Southern Rock category. The band did record a hard rockin' version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Proud of My Country" has a Southern flare. As well songs like "Daytona Nights" and "Rebel Pride" have the 'good 'ol boys' type of lyrics. However, that's about as far as it goes. Perhaps if someone's idea of Southern Rock is 1980's-era .38 Special meets Night Ranger and the Damn Yankees, then the description would fit. In reality, "Fuel to the Flames" is melodic, gritty, hard rock! Stunningly recorded, the guitars have a bite and the drums and bass cut through the mix nicely. Claus Lessmann's slightly gravely voice gives works well with the band's edgy hard rock sound. There are some more mellow moments but they are kept to minimum. "Goodbye Amanda" is the only ballad on a nearly hour-long album. "Fuel to the Flames" is actually a big step up from "Rebel Soul" as the songs just seem to have more going for them; passion, intensity, big hooks, choruses and melodies.
Bonfire - Strike Ten (BMG) 2001
1. "Revelation Day"
Man, didn't think good melodic metal like this existed still. Bonfire are a German band that are heavily influenced by the 80's American AOR sound. The thing about this CD is that every song is good. There really isn't any filler material here. There is also a good bit of variety from song to song. I especially like the Southern Rock tinge of "Down to Atlanta" and the closing ballad "Angel in White." It's a shame that good time rock 'n' roll like this isn't 'in vogue' anymore, 'cause I still love hearing it.
Bonfire - Double X (LZ Records/Bmg) 2006
I had read many reviews of Bonfire’s album that proceeded this one. Most reviews were negative and complained that the band were trying their hand at alternative/modern rock. So, when this CD showed up in my mailbox, I didn’t expect much from it. Having said that, this album was a pleasant surprise. “Double X” is just a straight forward, melodic, European hard rock album. Songs like “Day 911”, “Right Things Right “ and “But We Still Rock” have everything that made albums like “Fireworks” so good; big hooks, heavy riffs, quality vocals, memorable choruses, etc. “Notion Of Love “ also brings back memories of the band’s early records. The mid-tempo, acoustic driven “Cry For Help” has a great chorus as well. “What's On Your Mind” is a nice rock anthem. I’m not a huge fan of ballads, but “Blink of An Eye” is a decent song nonetheless. Why it was included twice is a mystery. The album finishes with a nearly eight minute version of this song as a bonus. The “Rap is Crap” song is amusing, mostly due to the lyrics and the bands obvious distaste for rap music. I actually agree with some of the sentiment expressed in the song. However, the song itself is not really one of the better songs on the album and is mostly just an interesting novelty track. All in all, if this band had gone off track on recent albums, you would never know if from this album. “Double X” is a stellar melodic rock album.
1. The Räuber (0:56)
Bonfire are now 12 albums into their musical career and are still cranking out the same high quality melodic-rock/AOR that they have always excelled at. However, this album stands out from among the pack moreso than some of the others.
"The Räuber" is a concept album based on the play of the same title by German playwright Friedrich Schiller. Thought the album tells this story, it matters little if the songs are boring or don't keep the listeners interest. The album opens with a dark, almost industrial intro before breaking into a heavy rocker titled "Bells of Freedom". If this song wasn't the band's opening number during the tour for this album, it should have been. The song is upbeat and fairly heavy, for Bonfire standards. The story gives the band a chance to explore a bit outside their usual three minute AOR formula. As such there are musical interludes such as "The Oath" as well as fun party-rock songs like "Hip Hip Hurray". I quite enjoyed the songs sung in the band's German tongue such as "Blut und Tod". This song is a slower, plodding and heavy number with a moody guitar solo. "Black Night" is not a cover of the Deep Purple song, which would have been cool. It is a melodic-rock song with big, sing-along hooks and is a definite highlight of this album.
"The Räuber" is easily one of the better albums this band has recorded in the 30-plus years together. It's still the same melodic rock that the band has always made, but with some new twists.
Bonfire - Branded (LZ Records) 2011