When I heard the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire I got the impression that they were superstars already. The album to me is a definitive piece of hard rock, melodic rock, heavy metal and euro metal all merged into one cohesive package.
I had a friend who had a friend who had a friend that made me a copy of the album on cassette. I had no idea who was in the band, who wrote the songs, who produced it and on what label it was on.
What I did know was the music. And the music was great. It brought Bonfire from the minors into the majors for me. And as much as the press labeled them overnight sensations, overnight sensations they were not.
Claus Lessman and Hans Ziller started to work together in a band called Cacumen in 1978. “Fireworks” came out in 1987. Yep, this overnight sensation was nine years in the making. And to top it off, “Fireworks” was Bonfire’s second album, and if you add the releases from Cacumen, this overnight sensation was a five album veteran.
And here is one for those copyright maximalist. In the late nineties, Lessman and Ziller had a six-year legal battle to get back the album copyrights of their pre-Bonfire band Cacumen. The court case finished up in 2004, with a win to them.
Yep, the companies that originally released the Cacumen albums ceased to exist. They did nothing with the music while they existed. However the people who still worked at those companies held the copyrights for those releases instead of the songwriters in the band. And when the band wanted them back, they fought tooth and nail to keep them.
I can hear people asking what is the sense for holding the copyright of albums and not releasing them?
The answer is plain and simple. GREED. The record label owners were waiting for someone to come and give them enormous loads of money for the Cacumen albums they still controlled. Thank god the courts saw in Bonfire’s favour.
The band for the release consisted of Claus Lessmann on vocals, Hans Ziller and Horst Maier-Thorn on guitar and Jörg Deisinger on bass.
Who you say?
That was exactly the same thing that I said when I found out the band member names.
“Ready 4 Reaction” and “Never Mind” are a great one/two punch to kick off the album. This is what the Eighties album delivered once upon a time. That knockout one/two punch. The great albums delivered even more knockout punches on subsequent tracks and to be honest Bonfire delivered a great album.
Both songs are composed by the band members and you get that Euro Metal Scorpions/MSG vibe immediately.
The lead break and the harmonies in “Ready 4 Reaction” provided an instant connection to me. How good is Hans Ziller. The Eighties was the era of the guitar hero. While other guitarists took the limelight and the instructional tape offers, Hans Ziller let the music do the talking.
Michael Wagener’s production is also crisp and clear.
If you are a fan of music that like genre’s “Ready 4 Reaction” well here is a new one for you, melodic speed metal.
Then the tempo goes into rock territory for “Never Mind” with the pinch harmonics riff that gives Zakk Wylde a challenge for who can do better pinch harmonics. And that lead break is another powerful piece of composition.
“Sleeping All Alone” and “Sweet Obsession” are both written by a songwriting committee like the current songs that make up the top 40 pop charts. Jack Ponti and Joe Lynn Turner this time are included as songwriters along with the four band members.
Some people hate him
but a winner never quits
when he’s rollin’ he’s a one man blitz – look out
Aint that the truth. Everyone hates a winner, thinking that it should have been them instead. People always think that they had the better song, the better look, the better story and so on. But the reason why people win, is that they never stop.
In the end, Bonfire was one of the thousands of bands that signed contracts stacked against them and of course they got ripped off. If you have read any interview with Hans Ziller and Clauss Lessman, they say the same. A small consolation is that Bonfire was not the only band who were ripped off. But it took its toll and Hans Ziller left the band in 1989.
And one more mention as it is not on an official Bonfire album.
Sword and Stone
It’s written by Desmond Child, Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick. By the late eighties, Desmond Child was rock royalty. Riding high on the charts with hit songs from Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Kiss.
“Sword and Stone” sounds like a lot of other songs that came before it and a lot of songs that came after sound like it, but, man, I tell ya, there is something about this song that just makes me play it on a regular basis.
You can hear the “Crazy Crazy Nights” and “Hot In The Shade” pop metal stylings in this song. It was originally a demo for the KISS album “Crazy Nights”. Paul Dean from Loverboy also used the song for his “Hardcore” album. But the Bonfire version is the one that I like.
It appeared on the “Shocker” soundtrack which to be honest is a pretty wicked soundtrack and having “Timeless Love” from Saraya coming after “Sword and Stone” it was another one/two punch.