Review: Bonfire – MMXXIII EP Sampler

Review: Bonfire – MMXXIII EP Sampler

AFM Records

Reviewer: Jason Hopper

It’s always a big risk when a band decides to change out their lead singer upon achieving a level of success that saw a significant growth in their fan base. That risk increases every time a band decides to alter such a noticeable aspect of their sound. One need to look no further than to see what happened to Black Sabbath and Van Halen when they tried out a third lead frontman.  With that in mind, Bonfire has decided to swap out their singer for the fourth time and have DYAN give it a shot.

Claus Lessmann drove the band to early success in Europe and fronted the band for over 25 years. Replacing him would be a tall order but David Reece stepped up to the plate for one album before being replaced by Alexx Stahl. While I missed Claus, Alexx’s debut on ‘Byte The Bullet’ is one of my favorite Bonfire albums and I was happy to see them settle down with a great singer, at least for a period of six years.

Rather than record new material, original guitarist Hans Ziller opted to re-record their first three albums and give them a modern metal gloss. ‘MMXXIII‘ is a three song EP meant to generate buzz for the albums to be released late Summer/Early Fall. Are these tracks any type of improvement? Absolutely not. DYAN is all over the place vocally and sounds like he is trying way too hard to show off his voice. While it’s impressive, there is no need to go up and down the vocal range chart like a toddler trying to draw a Picasso.

A perfect example can be found early in the song ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’. DYAN sings the line “About the night before” and delivers the ending utilizing a high-pitched scream. I don’t pretend to be a vocal coach, but if you are going to add a scream to any word ending in “-re”, then the scream needs to be of a lower register. Forcing a higher register is jarring and makes the track seem like a parody of metal songs.

He settles down a bit with ‘Fantasy’, a favorite track of mine from the excellent ‘Fireworks’ album. Unfortunately, towards the end he cannot help himself and once again engages in vocal theatrics. Of the three tracks, ‘SDI’ suits his voice best because it’s a song that has its roots planted in metal more than hard rock. His screams fit the mould better.

Bonfire were one of my favorite bands to come from the European scene. Their first three albums are endearing to so many fans. To re-record them with a new singer right after introducing him to the world is a misstep. He is being compared to three different singers, which is a tough hill to overcome. Saddling him with this responsibility is not fair. He should have at least been introduced via new material to make his impact known before trying out the older albums. These songs should have remained exactly what they are, terrific representation of the 80s hard rock sound that never needed to be updated. They were perfect as they were. I can see these upcoming albums being bought by completionists only. No one is going to select these songs over their originals.

Track Listing:

  1. Don’t Get Me Wrong
  2. Fantasy
  3. S.D.I.