Bonfire

Don't Touch the Light Bonfire - Don't Touch the Light (MSA) 1986

1. "Intro" (1:57)
2. "Starin' Eyes" (4:49)
3. "Hot to Rock" (3:39)
4. "You Make Me Feel" (4:40)
5. "Longing for You" (3:41)
6. "Don't Touch the Light" (4:30)
7. "SDI" (5:45)
8. "No More" (4:07)
9. "L.A." (4:38)

"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" (3:40)
2. "Never Mind" (3:38)
3. "Sleeping All Alone" (3:31)
4. "Champion" (3:30)
5. "Don't Get Me Wrong" (3:19)
6. "Sweet Obsession" (3:04)
7. "Rock Me Now" (4:17)
8. "American Nights" (3:42)
9. "Give It a Try" (4:23)
10. "Cold Days" (4:26)

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.

Knock Out Bonfire - Knock Out (BMG) 1991

1.   Streets of Freedom (4:58)
2.   The Stroke (4:25)
3.   Dirty Love (3:51)
4.   Rivers of Glory (4:54)
5.   Home Babe (4:57)
6.   Shake Down (3:04)
7.   Hold You (4:20)
8.   Down and Out (3:39)
9.   Take My Heart and Run (5:55)
10. All We Got (4:42)
11. Fight for Love (5:14)
12. Tonmeister (9:02)

"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. 

Rebel Soul Bonfire - Rebel Soul (LZ Records) 1997

1. "Wake Up" (5:37)
2. "Just to Say We Did" (5:24)
3. "Before We Say Goodbye" (4:59)
4. "Lay Your Heart on the Line" (4:12)
5. "Somebody's Waiting" (5:15)
6. "Hearts Bleed Their Own Blood" (6:05)
7. "Rock Me Til I Die" (3:58)
8. "Desire" (5:32)
9. "Good or Bad" (4:01)
10. "The First Cut is the Deepest" (3:58)
11. "You'll Be Alright " (5:44)
12. "Dixie " (3:28)
13. "Wild Dixie" (2:50)

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.

Fuel to the Flames Bonfire - Fuel to the Flames (BMG International) 1999

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.

Metal Church Bonfire - Strike Ten (BMG) 2001

1. "Revelation Day" (:41)
2. "Under Blue Skies" (5:36)
3. "Strike Back" (4:53)
4. "Down to Atlanta" (4:01)
5. "Southern Winds" (4:50)
6. "Good Time Rock 'n' Roll" (5:00)
7. "Until the Last Goodbye" (4:32)
8. "Diamonds in the Rough" (4:13)
9. "Damn You" (4:21)
10. "Anytime You Cry" (5:35)
11. "Too Much Hollywood" (5:06)
12. "I Need You" (4:39)
13. "Angel in White" (4:01)

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.

DoubleX Bonfire - Double X (LZ Records/Bmg) 2006

1.      Day 11 (4:51)
2.      But We Still Rock (4:03)
3.      Cry For Help (4:16)
4.      Bet Your Bottom Dollar (4:25)
5.      What's on Your Mind (4:11)
6.      Blink of an Eye (6:08)
7.      Rap Is Crap! (3:52)
8.      Nation of Love (4:30)
9.      Right Things Right (4:49)
10.    Hard To Say (3:49)
11.    Wings of Fly (4:40)
12.    So What (4:37)
13.    Blink of an Eye [extended version] (7:49)

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.

Branded Bonfire - Branded (LZ Records) 2011

1.      Deadly Contradiction (5:47)
2.      Just Follow the Rainbow (3:50)
3.      Save Me (5:19)
4.      Let It Grow (5:13)
5.      Better Days (7:10)
6.      Do or Die (6:01)
7.      Close to the Edge (4:51)
8.      Crazy (4:25)
9.      Loser's Lane (3:19)
10.     Hold Me Now (5:43)
BONUS TRACKS
11.     I Need You [Private Version 2011] (3:39)
12.     Rivers of Glory [Private Version 2011] (4:20)

Germany's Bonfire have been cranking out albums for over twenty five years. "Branded" is their new 2011 release. "Deadly Contradiction" opens the album in classic Bonfire fashion; simple, straight-forward, guitar-oriented hard rock with catchy melodies. "Just Follow The Rainbow" follows in like manner. The song has more of a chugging riff and some nice wah-wah guitar parts. "Save Me" is another old-fashioned Bonfire tune with big hook and a memorable chorus line. All these songs are brought to life by Claus Lessman's slightly raspy voice and some big layered background vocals.  "Do or Die" is the heaviest track on the album and also the most up-tempo. The song features some nice double bass work. Despite the faster tempo of the song, it's still quite melodic and still falls under the melodic hard rock side of heavy metal. "Looser's Lane" is another up-tempo hard rock number.

Bonfire have long been a fan of ballads and in fact have released several compilations of ballads. I don't mind a couple ballads on a hard rock album as long as half the album is made up of ballads. Many times I feel the ballads are just obligatory and filler, while other times they really lend themselves well to the feel of the album. "Let It Grow" is the first ballad of "Branded" and has a slight bluesy, Southern vibe. This song, which follows a straight-forward hard rocker, seems to fit the album overall vibe. "Better Days" follows and is another melodic number that is only slightly more up-tempo than the average ballad. Personally, I'd consider it a ballad as well. "Hold Me Now" is another ballad and finishes off the proper album. It would be a decent song to close things out, if not for the bonus tracks. Oddly enough, however, the last two songs are acoustic re-workings of older ballads. These are added as "bonus tracks" but sort of make the album end on a mellow note, especially as they are tacked onto the ballad that ends the album. Three ballads in a row are a bit much to end a hard rock album.

Overall, "Branded" is an enjoyable, melodic hard rock album. The songs that rock hard are quite good and even some of the ballads are enjoyable.

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