Bonfire – “Roots (Almost Unplugged)” 2LP / 2CD (AFM Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Releasing one of their toughest albums in “Fistful Of Fire” during one of the most challenging climates this planet has ever faced, German hard rockers Bonfire rebounded from their tour cancellations last year by releasing this 24-track compilation of re-interpreted and re-recorded songs – including 5 brand new crowdfunded numbers! Ok, so the twin guitar crunch of founder Hans Ziller and Frank Pané may not be biting as I’d normally expect it to, but being the seasoned musicians that they are, their acoustic talents are still manifest across this double release, be it in energetic but still passionate strumming to technical picking and even flamboyant flamenco work! On top of that, the rest of the band really pour it out with Alexx Stahl absolutely singing his heart out, especially in doing fine justice to the older material, while the rhythm section of Ronnie Parkes (Bass) and André Hilgers (Drums) make themselves felt on every track along with some classy backing keyboards – hence why this release is indeed ‘almost’ unplugged! As the swanky strings bring in the evening heat on ‘American Nights’ (from 1987’s “Fireworks”), the killer 80s chorus hits home just as strongly as it would via the amps thanks to the Stahl’s stirring vocals along with some superb harmonies really adding to the heart felt romance on this rocker. Intro’ing in with Eric Clapton’s lead offa ‘Leila’ is the re-working of ‘Under Blue Skies’ (from 2001’s “Strike X”), which is presented here in a slightly more upbeat tempo, with the sultriness in Stahl’s lead offset brilliantly by the power harmonies and organ, while the Spanish guitar work is nothing short of dazzling! Taking right off from last year’s fireball release, Stahl soars and power screams on ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ with Ziller and Pané strumming in the power while flamenco breaking superbly in leading up to the monumental singalong chorus that even without electricity will still have you rocking it out massively. As for the power ballads, then it doesn’t come any finer than ‘Without You’ (from 2017’s “Byte The Bullet”), here intro’ing gently with the acoustics before the organ tones warm you along to Hilgers’ strong beat, together only adding to the healing in Stahl’s voice along with tender harmonies in what is nothing short of a moving performance. Many bands do acoustic re-workings but very few have the talent to release a new found spirit in their material – but Bonfire are up there with the best of them, making “Roots (Almost Unplugged)” shine in the covid world, bringing love and giving hope to many for better days to come.