March 2, 2021

The Coronavirus has truly impacted on society and our way of life has been on hold for a year now. So many things that we took for granted have not been possible, holidays, visiting friends, nights out in the local pub, meals in restaurants, the list is endless and it has been, virtually, death by a thousand cuts. Of course, live gigs were one of the first losses and even new recording sessions could not take place if the distances to travel broke protocols. As fans, we have been bemoaning the lack of gigs but we have to remember that many groups have virtually lost their livelihoods almost overnight so the position for many of them is perilous to say the least. One of these is the mighty fine German metal band Bonfire with their last studio album, Fistful Of Fire, being released in March last year just as the virus started to kick in which resulted in the chance to take it out on tour being lost so the momentum given by live performances did not happen and, slowly, the band coffers have run dry. Imagine that for one moment, a new album and a band high on confidence and keen and eager to take it to the masses but not one single performance has been possible. As a way to fight back, the band has carefully produced Roots a ‘new’ album featuring 24 choice cuts recorded again with many being re-imagined and all in a mostly unplugged format.

So, what we have is a collection of 19 band and crowd favourites including a couple of songs from Fistful Of Fire plus 5 brand new songs which has kept the band occupied, gives the fans new product to enjoy and, more importantly, gets more product out there to help with the band finances. Thank goodness for the World Wide Web and streaming platforms as it would be impossible to do any of this in the pre- internet world! As this is Bonfire, the band simply could not just re-record 10 or 12 songs and rush release a hasty album so they have gone to town as usual to produce a real labour of love which is what you would expect from a band that is so close to its fanbase. So what we now have is 24 tracks and 105 minutes of melodic rock heaven and, oh boy, does the band pour heart and soul into these recordings. Vocalist Alexx Stahl is simply stunning and his performance will blow you away as he takes control of all the material and stamps his own style and authority over each and every track and you can do no more than sit back and listen in open mouthed admiration at a real vocal masterclass. Hans Ziller and Frank Pané are immense and it is great to hear their acoustic guitar which is so expressive and intricately beautiful. They have a great deal of fun too as they slip in quite a few very famous rock riffs and it’s great fun picking them out. It fantastic when a band has fun recording material as this really does show in the recordings and there is a great deal of joy in the music. As usual, Ronnie Parkes on bass and André Hilgers on drums are the glue that hold the band together which allows for the vocals and guitar to steal the show. The material is designed to please fans old and new and there are many old favourites included here and it is great to hear some of the re-interpretations which will then have you reaching for the original albums which, no doubt, means many nights of pleasure to come as you trawl through the band’s impressive back catalogue to compare and contrast. The five new tracks are excellent and a mix of acoustic and electric with Young Bloods being a thrilling rocker with Stahl simply immense and lots of stunning guitar and the album closing Wolfmen is sure to become a concert favourite, a hard hitting song with plenty of opportunity for crowd participation.

I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the MTV driven Unplugged series as I want to hear huge riffs and searing guitar solos and I always felt that so many song actually felt toothless without the amps to crank up the power but Roots has truly surprised me. I love Bonfire and was always going to love this album anyway but I also suspected I would miss the power yet the music is delivered so well and the format really does bring out the intricacies of the music and you realise just how truly talented and skilled these guys are. Roots is a lovingly recorded set of fantastic songs that you will thoroughly enjoy and the 5 new songs show where this fine band is at the moment and it will be great to see the band back in the live environment and I’m sure that some of these acoustic versions will become welcome additions to their future sets.

Roots track list

CD1

  1. Starin’ Eyes (5:22)
  2. American Nights (3:51)
  3. Let Me Be Your Water (4:55)
  4. The Price Of Loving You (3:10)
  5. Comin´ Home (6:04)
  6. Ready 4 Reaction (4:29)
  7. Give It A Try (4:29)
  8. Sleeping All Alone (3:39)
  9. Who´s Foolin´ Who (3:42)
  10. Why Is It Never Enough (4:19)

CD2

  1. Fantasy (4:03)
  2.  When An Old Man Cries (5:29
  3. Love Don´t Lie (5:42)
  4. Lonely Nights (4:46)
  5. Under Blue Skies (4:51)
  6. You Make Me Feel (4:42)
  7. No More (4:26)
  8. The Devil Made Me Do It (3:25)
  9. Without You (4:47)
  10. Your Love Is Heaven To Me (new song) (3:29)
  11. Piece Of My Heart (new song) (2:49)
  12. Young Bloods (new song) (3:46)
  13. Our Hearts Don’t Feel The Same (new song) (4:35)
  14. Wolfmen (new song) (3:47)

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