Thursday, April 12, 2018

Album Review: Bonfire - Temple Of Lies

Changing vocalists can be traumatic for a band that's been around a long time. Either they find someone who can re-energize them and give a second life, or they slowly begin a decline into irrelevancy as fans pine for the old days. We can run through the examples of each, but I think we've been through it enough to know what's at stake when someone new is fronting an established act. That's where Bonfire finds themselves, with a new voice trying to breathe new life into the long-running band.

Alexx Stahl does give the band an injection of youth. His ability to scrape the ceiling with high notes is not something a more senior singer would be able to pull off. I'm not sure if having that skill is really a good thing or not. Singing high is one thing, but a few of the shrieks he lets out near the beginning of the opening title track are a bit shrill and hard to listen to, at least for me. Once it gets going, the song does a good job of being both catchy and heavy, straddling the line between rock and metal.

"On The Wings Of An Angel" tones down the vocals, and improves immensely. Without the histrionics, the band is able to focus on delivering a catchy melodic rock song that recalls Bon Jovi's string of hits in the 80s. There's definitely a bit of "Livin' On A Prayer" to the interplay between the high vocals and the backing voices, all with the chunky guitar pounding through the verses. They might get a bad rap from people who like more 'true' music, but those songs were great, so sounding like that is nothing to be ashamed of. I'm down with it.

"Feed The Fire" slows things down, and makes a questionable decision along the way. A more plodding track that goes to the chanting chorus trope rather than a big melody, the lyrics of the chorus go so far as to reference a bonfire, which seems a bit to meta for my taste. There had to have been another approach that didn't seem to 'on the nose'.

That difference in style carries through the rest of the album. For every track with a great melodic hook, there's one with a chant that isn't nearly as engaging. It fits the bill of old-school hard rock, but it's one of the traits I've never enjoyed about the style, and have never warmed up to. It probably goes down better in the live setting, where the crowd will join in and turn it into a communal experience, but we're talking about a record, and those sorts of things don't translate in the studio.

The album does regain its footing and end on a high note. "Crazy Over You" might be the best Bon Jovi song Bon Jovi never wrote, and it closes the album with the best track of the bunch. It's slick, it's melodic, and those backing vocals make the hook sound absolutely massive. The chanted choruses might be what sounds great being shouted back in a club, but this is what works in an arena. I just wish there was a bit more of it here.

This new Bonfire album is one of those that falls into the middle ground. There is some really, really good stuff on it, and a few songs that slow the momentum to a crawl. As a whole, it's a fine album, though I think its greatest appeal will be to those fans who came up through the 80s and are more forgiving of that brand of songwriting.

No comments:

Post a Comment