Album review: BONFIRE – Roots

AFM Records [Release date 26.02.21]

Bonfire‘s continued popularity and success confounds critics, of the genre at least, if not the band. And you could hardly describe each new album as a reinvention. They have constantly returned to their home territory – melodic hard rock – in the creation of fresh recordings. That of course is down to the influence and leadership of mainman/songwriter/guitarist, and only remaining original, Hans Ziller.

When multi octave vocalist Alexx Stahl came on board in 2016, Ziller grabbed the chance to recalibrate, to inch his way toward a more expansive sound. And so 2018′s Temple Of Lies twists and turns through AOR, Melodic Hard Rock and Metal.

2020′s Fistful Of Fire again was much more adventurous, with finely turned instrumental pieces unconventionally mixed in with the muscled up version of the band’s more traditional material.

This new double CD album, Roots, has an even more interesting blueprint, though it may not seem so at first glance. But by putting a fresh, “almost unplugged” spin on some “old” material, then splicing some innovative touches into the arrangements (plus the addition of 5 new tracks), the band can deservedly claim to have moved into relatively new territory. It’s also fair to say that Bonfire’s music has a solid sonic core, which means you can pretty well hang anything on it and it will sound good.

Indeed, across 24 tracks and 104 minutes of music, the quality holds up.

Conventional wisdom has it that the true test of a great song is how it sounds stripped down, so it’s always something of a risk. But on Roots, never has an unplugged sound filled the air so completely. The sonorous sounds of a Hammond organ and the sweet strum of an acoustic guitar are pretty much all that Stahl’s expressive vocals need. ‘When An Old Man Cries’ and ‘Without You’ are sung by a voice haunted by real life experience.

‘American Nights’ is a tip of the hat to the music’s original influences and the rough and tumble of ‘Ready For Reaction’ is now propelled by some urgent finger pickin’ and keyboard drive.

Arguably though, an emphatically emotional ‘Your Love Is Heaven To Me’ and the sublime ‘Love Don’t Lie’ are the picks, if only because there is an honest earthiness to them that’s not prevalent in most examples of the genre. ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk

(Sunday 25 April 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT)

It’s an Anniversary Show celebrating a year of Sunday Sessions.

Next session: Sunday 23 May, 21:00 GMT and 16:00 EST

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 18 April 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 20 April 2021.

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Featured Albums w/c 19 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 STEPHEN CRANE Kicks (AOR Heaven)
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14:00-16:00 AMY SPEACE & THE ORPHAN BRIGADE – There Used To Be Horses Here (Proper)

Power Plays w/c 3 May 2021 (Mon-Fri)

THE COLD STARES In The Night Time (Mascot)
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