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Byte The Bullet
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Rating:
4.5 Stars

The German band BONFIRE is one I have been a fan of for many years. I was first introduced to them here in the US on WSOU radio in NJ and then through the MTV video for “Sweet Obsession” from their “Fireworks” album. The band did very little touring in the US and so I always followed from “afar” I would say. I loved their albums and always tried to keep up on the bands doings, of course that wasn’t so easy back in the late 80’s and early 90’s with lack of the Internet and social media like today and I had to rely on European music magazines I bought through specialty music stores.

The band has released albums pretty consistently, with the exception of a five-year period in the early 90’s where they went on hiatus and “Byte The Bullet” will be their 14th studio record since the debut in 1986. The biggest difference in the band today is they are now fronted by brand new vocalist, Alexx Stahl, who is taking over from a combo of David Reece and Michael Bormann who have fronted the band the previous three years since the departure of original vocalist Claus Lessmann.

“Byte The Bullet” is a record I highly anticipated because I was eager to see what the band would deliver with native German Stahl at the mic as opposed to the previous studio record with American singer Reece. No offense to Reece but much like you expect to hear the endearing German-accented vocals from Klaus Meine with the SCORPIONS you just as much expect that from BONFIRE also so I envisioned Stahl just being a better fit for this classic German act.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings and let’s get to the record at hand, “Byte The Bullet” on UDR/Warner Music which will hit the stores on March 24.

The album opens with an epic intro to “Power Train” as the track takes a full two minutes before the vocals roar in building a high anticipation. Stahl immediately reminds me of a more aggressive Lessmann in his prime and that’s a welcome sound. The song is heavy and aggressive with a beefy and full production. The record is off to a great start! “Stand Up For Rock” is not quite as aggressive as the opener but is just as powerful with the soaring vocals of Stahl. The album seems meticulously produced with attention to the details in the arrangements and guitar work and the band sounds very focused. Two for two!

“Praying For A Miracle” (check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AxZjcmQNmA&feature=youtu.be) is a true European melodic hard rock anthem and maybe a bit more reminiscent of the band’s earlier work as they have had their share of anthem-style rockers on albums like “Fireworks” and “Point Blank”, although I have to say Stahl’s powerful vocals turn things up a notch in the overall sound. The Hammond organ sounds of “Some Kind Of Evil” are a nice touch to a song with a serious groove and I bet it’s a fun track for bassist Ronnie Parks to play. “Lonely Nights” slows things down with a moody power ballad complete with huge backing vocals and it’s here that you really hear how wonderfully produced the record is when things get a bit quieter and more open. The title track “Byte The Bullet” is up next and the song opens with a slicing guitar riff and is back to the more aggressive sound as displayed earlier in the record and with a certain attitude about it in tow. There is some great guitar work throughout too so pay attention to the little guitar nuances thrown in and you really see how intricately the album was put together. Up next is a cover of the JETHRO TULL classic “Locomotive Breath” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSEGnNocOIs). It’s certainly their own version as it’s not really closely distinguishable to the original, then again how could it be without a flute! It does however fit in the context of the album itself so I give it a passing grade for that reason alone as it flows perfectly with the rest of the songs. “Reach For The Sky” is back to a slicing rocker with more great vocals from Stahl and a huge chorus that reminds of something in the AVANTASIA style. I like the song as it brings a slightly different feel to BONFIRE but in a good way. “Sweet Surrender” opens with the vintage BONFIRE sound of crisp guitar riffs and underlying keyboard sounds. The song is a mid-paced rocker, standard in its approach but the top-notch vocals and overall sound elevate it a bit more. You really hear Stahl sounding like Lessmann with this song in my opinion.

I’m not sure what is going on with the track “Friedensreich” as it not a song at all but more the band having some fun with the sole American in the group, Ronnie Parkes. Sounds like he was getting a lesson in German or maybe it was just an inside joke! “Instrumetal” (not instrumental!) is in fact an instrumental! Huh? Well, it’s a rocking instrumental piece that starts out sounding a bit classical but ramps up the speed to a break that pays homage to “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” by composer Edvard Grieg. The song would certainly not be out of place on a TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA or AVANTASIA album that’s for sure!

The album is rounded out with the final two tracks “Too Far From Heaven” which surprisingly starts out sounding like “Eye Of The Tiger” by SURVIVOR but quickly ramps up into a ripping metal track with some over-the-top vocals by Stahl, while the final track “Without You” is a piano piece which sort lends itself to a SAVATAGE sound from their “Streets” record. Stahl again sounds like Lessmann and this track and it’s a pretty cool way to round out the new album from BONFIRE. A bonus track of the bands classic “Sweet Obsession” is thrown in for good measure probably more to give fans an idea what the new guy will sound like on the bands older material. It’s a straight ahead cover of the song and Stahl handles it just fine as would be expected.

BONFIRE’s “Byte The Bullet” is a finely crafted record from this classic German band and it seems they are finally back on track with new vocalist Alexx Stahl at the mic. Welcome back!  

 


Band Lineup:
  • Alexx Stahl Lead vocals
  • Hans Ziller Lead guitar
  • Ronnie Parkes Bass
  • Tim Breideband Drums
  • Frank Pane Lead guitar

 

Track Listing :
  1. Power Train
  2. Stand Up For Rock
  3. Praying For A Miracle
  4. Some Kind Of Evil
  5. Lonely Nights
  6. Byte The Bullet
  7. Locomotive Breath
  8. Reach For The Sky
  9. Sweet Surrender
  10. Friedensreich
  11. Instrumetal
  12. Too Far From Heaven
  13. Without You
  14. Sweet Obsession (bonus track)




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