BONFIRE – Legends

After two successful albums – Byte The Bullet (2017) and Temple Of Lies (2018) – where the latter really put the band on the map again after some turbulent years (they’re now on their third singer since Claus Lessmann left/got fired back in 2015), German melodic rockers decided the best idea was to strike while the iron was still hot. So the most logical step would, of course, be – to release a cover album. A cover album!!?? Ok, here’s the deal, cover albums aren’t really that popular among fans, especially as every band and their mothers seems to make one at one point or another and more often than not, they’re actually pretty pointless even though there are a few exceptions. So why Bonfire believe that releasing a cover album just a few months after their most successful – and best – album in a very long time is somewhat a mystery to me. Well, it was a mystery until the Bonfire And Friends tour began.

The idea was to bring in some of the artists they have covered and include them in the shows and make an evening out of it seems to be the reason for the existence of this record, at least the only reason I can think of because in all fairness, I’m not sure that this album is something people will rush out to get. But one must admit that Bonfire have done this project in their own way – this is not just a rushed 10-track record that will “show our fans where we’re coming from”. Bonfire hasn’t recorded just one album, they have recorded two – Legends is a double album that contains no less than 32 tracks and on many occasions, they have chosen several songs per artist. And the artists covered aren’t just the usual Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy suspects, no what we’re given is way more unexpected – and at times obscure – ones. A brave move but I get the feeling that 32 songs just might a bit much to digest in one chew. Still, I couldn’t help but to feel a bit curious of how this might sound.

The first three tracks are by Toto – an unexpected choice to say the least. “Africa” is out first and in the hands of Bonfire it becomes more of a Melodic Rock track with tougher riffs, a raunchier groove and a lot less AOR. A good version. “Hold The Line” haven’t really changed that much at all and it sounds like Toto with Alexx Stahl on vocals. Ok but doesn’t do that much. “Rosanna” is more or less a more guitar laden version of the original with a bit heavier rhythm section, otherwise there’s not much difference to talk about. Rainbow is the next band for the Bonfire treatment and they get five (5!) songs. “Man On The Silver Mountain” is impossible to better which is also proven here. It’s ok but in Bonfire’s hands it sounds a lot more Melodic Rock than the Classic Rock that is the original. “I Surrender” is much more up Bonfire’s alley. It’s a Russ Ballad cover to begin with and really a Pop/Rock tune and Bonfire stays true to the original. Too true, actually. It’s ok but it hardly rocks my world.

“Stone Cold” is a bit more uptempo than the original and brings on a heavier and more groove-laden arrangement but the melodies are just as smooth and the chorus is catchiness deluxe. Good version but not as good as Rainbow’s. “Death Alley Driver” might be an odd choice which automatically makes it cool. But where Rainbow’s version is Hard Rock, Bonfire makes it Melodic Rock albeit in a faster and rockier way. Good version, could have worked on one of their early records. And speaking of odd choices, “Black Masquerade” from the underrated Doogie White fronted Stranger In Us All (1994) album definitely is one. I love this song, in my book it’s a classic – and apparently in Bonfire’s as well. This version stays very true to the original – this could have been that Rainbow line-up with Stahl singing – and he does it well. But they haven’t Bonfired it at all, they have done nothing to put their stamp on it.

AOR heroes Survivor gets three songs here and first up is “Burning Heart”, originally on the Rocky IV soundtrack. It’s basically the same as the original, only a bit more guitar driven. It’s a killer song but I’d take the original 24/7. “Eye Of The Tiger” is a both boring and unimaginative choice. Personally I have always found the song not bad but overrated and on top of that, it’s been played to death throughout the years which certainly doesn’t help. Bonfire doesn’t bring anything special to the table here so it gets the skip-button alert from me. “Caught In The Game” is a more unexpected choice and since I never was overly thrilled by the song in the first place, it feels really nice to state that Bonfire have made a damn good version of it even though stay pretty true it. It’s a bit heavier and the guitars is more edgy here, something I think the song benefits from. Very good.

Even though I was a kid of the 70’s and a teen of the 80’s, I never really got into UFO. I think they were a good band but they never made a lasting impression on me. But UFO’s next with three songs. “Doctor Doctor” is a classic and a killer song and a tune that’s really hard to do anything with. So Bonfire haven’t. They play it like is originally – and they get away with it. Not that I prefer their version but it is a very good cover. All of the above goes for both “Lights Out” and “Rock Bottom” (yes, I do love some of UFO’s hits). Bonfire doesn’t mess with them at all, they just straight forward plays them like they should be played. All good versions. Deep Purple gets two songs but on different CDs. The closing track on CD 1 is “Child In Time”, a brave move – and then some. Or maybe a stupid move – your choice! But. This song should never be played by anyone else than Purple. Many have tried, all have failed – and so does Bonfire. No, it doesn’t suck, it just sounds wrong – even though Stahl hits all the high notes.

CD 2 starts with three Queensrÿche songs, another brave move. “Jet City Woman” is up first and even though they have stayed true to the original, they have made it more Melodic Rock – the verses actually sounds like it could have been a Bonfire song – and I’m not sure I’m that comfortable with that. “Silent Lucidity” is next. It’s a tune that’s so associated with Queensrÿche it should be left alone. Bonfire doesn’t make it suck but I think they should have chosen another song. Just like with “Child In Time”, this only sounds wrong with anyone except the original band playing it. “Eyes Of A Stranger” is also a carbon copy of the original song – the only thing that stands out here is that Geoff Tate’s voice and Scott Rockenfield’s very personal drum style is missing – which is very enough to not be a big fan of this cover. Nah, I don’t think that Queensrÿche were a good cover choice at all.

Robin Beck is the next one to get the Bonfire treatment. “Tears In The Rain” totally works – Alex Stahl got the vocal resources to pull this one off and besides, Beck’s AOR is much in the line of what Bonfire are all about. It’s practically the same version as Beck’s original but it really doesn’t matter. The ballad “First Time”, once a Coca Cola ad, has never been a favorite of mine and Bonfire doesn’t make it one now either. It’s still a cheese ballad and I can do without both versions as Bonfire hasn’t changed it much. “Save Up All Your Tears”, also recorded by Cher, is an awesome track. What I wrote about “Tears In The Rain” also goes for this one – a good choice and a good cover! Two tracks by Hardline is next. “Hot Cherie” is a cover in Hardline’s hands as well. It’s not as heavy as Hardline’s version and the keyboards here are more prominent and this version is a bit less Hard Rock. That said, it fits Bonfire like a charm and they do this cover very well.

“Dr Love” is one of my fave Hardline songs because it mixes rough guitars and a heavy rhythm section with a big, catchy Melodic Rock vibe. Bonfire’s version is quite similar to Hardline’s and again, this music is right up Bonfire’s alley – very good. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a very odd choice and in Bonfire’s hands, this stripped and soulful tune becomes some kind of a power ballad and even though it sounds like sacrilege, I think they did it justice. They made a Bonfire track out of it – the right way to do a cover, in my book. Fellow Germans Grave Digger got two songs covered. I’m not a fan of Grave Digger and therefore I’m not too familiar with the songs “Rebellion” and “Heavy Metal Breakdown”. But I think that Bonfire’s versions sound really good and maybe Grave Digger fans wants to punch me now, but I have a feeling I’m gonna prefer Bonfire’s versions over Grave Digger’s.

Next up is two songs by House Of Lords. The ballad “Love Don’t Lie” was originally written and recorded by AOR-rocker Stan Bush and style-wise, it fits Bonfire well. They make a very good version of it but House Of Lords’ version is still number one – by far. “I Wanna Be Loved” is to me the weakest track on HOL’s debut and Bonfire doesn’t shy away from the original at all. It’s ok but a filler. The second Deep Purple track is up next – “King Of Dreams” by the Joe Lynn Turner fronted version of that band. The tune is originally Deep Purple goes AOR which suits Bonfire. I love the original and I think that this tune is perfect for Bonfire – and they make a killer version of it, the best cover on this album. Well done.

The three last songs are by a German band called Phudys. I have no clue who they are. The songs are sung in German – “Frei Wie Die Geier” is a pop-rocker, pretty catchy with an AOR refrain and a pretty good song. If Bonfire makes it justice, I have no idea. “Erinnerung” is an uptempo, Hard Rock laden Melodic Rock track. It’s good and catchy but I’m not stunned. “Alt Wie Ein Baum” is an upbeat rocked up tune that I suspect comes with a different arrangement originally. I’m not sure but the main melody tells me so. It’s a happy-go-lucky sounding Pop song that really goes nowhere. The fact that the songs were sung in German makes them hard for me to judge with an open mind – no I don’t think German is a good language to sing in – and since I have never heard these tunes before in my life, I can’t say if Bonfire made them justice or what they have done to them.

Overkill! That’s the word I’d like to use to describe this massive cover-project. And I really can’t see the purpose in making this a double CD with so many songs by each artist. I’m sure the band had a blast making it and they got to record songs the love – and probably wish they had written themselves – but I’m pretty sure this album is more fun for the guys themselves than for their audience. Ok, so Bonfire haven’t fucked up any of the songs but they sure haven’t bettered any of them either and the fact is, I can’t see any reason what so ever to put this album on again when I already own almost all of the originals here in my record collection. It’s an ok album but totally unnecessary and they should have focused on recording a new album of originals instead.

5/10

More Bonfire reviews:

Byte The Bullet
Temple Of Lies

Tracklist:

CD 1

1. Africa (Toto)
2. Hold The Line (Toto)
3. Rosanna (Toto)
4. Man On The Silver Mountain (Rainbow)
5. I Surrender (Rainbow)
6. Stone Cold (Rainbow)
7. Death Alley Driver (Rainbow)
8. Black Masquerade (Rainbow)
9. Burning Heart (Survivor)
10. Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor)
11. Caught In The Game (Survivor)
12. Doctor Doctor (UFO)
13. Lights Out (UFO)
14. Rock Bottom (UFO)
15. Child In Time (Deep Purple)

CD 2

1. Jet City Woman (Queensrÿche)
2. Silent Lucidity (Queensrÿche)
3. Eyes Of A Stranger (Queensrÿche)
4. Tears In The Rain (Robin Beck)
5. The First Time (Robin Beck)
6. Save Up All Your Tears (Robin Beck, Cher)
7. Hot Cherie (Hardline, Danny Spanos)
8. Dr. Love (Hardline)
9. Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
10. Rebellion (Grave Digger)
11. Heavy Metal Breakdown (Grave Digger)
12. Love Don’t Lie (House Of Lords)
13. I Wanna Be Loved (House Of Lords)
14. King Of Dreams (Deep Purple)
15. Frei Wie Die Geier (Phudys)
16. Erinnerung (Phudys)
17. Alt Wie Ein Baum (Phudys)

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