Formed in recent years in San Francisco, though it may seem more likely that they hatched fresh out of a time travel portal from the mid-80s Bay Area thrash scene, Hell Fire have the classic look and sound of modern metal’s halcyon days. Hell Fire’s sonic assault warmly condenses elements of influences like Angel Witch, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Exodus, Metallica, Riot, Virtue and Diamond Head into 8 tracks of headbanging MUYA anthems.
The free-wheelin’ creativity and infectious vitality of Bay Area thrash is a moment forever locked in time, but its spirit lives on in Hell Fire’s galloping guitar picks, soaring harmonies and blistering rhythms. The band’s perfect hybrid of NWOBHM theatrics and American thrash attitude delivers a rousing and genuine expansion on sounds long lost to pointless battles over who can be the most “extreme.”
Hell Fire began when bass player Herman Bandala moved to San Francisco from Tijuana, Mexico with the hopes of forming a heavy metal band. Herman posted an ad to Craigslist which caught the attention of guitarist Tony Campos. They bonded over a mutual love of 80s thrash and NWOBHM, which was a hard thing to find in the Bay Area scene at the time. Just before Hell Fire entered the studio to record their debut album Metal Masses, Jake Nunn joined on vocals. The lineup continued to develop over time, finally solidifying with Nunn also taking up second guitar duties and drummer Mike Smith joining prior to recording Free Again.
Hell Fire’s 2017 sophomore album, Free Again is being released for the first time on vinyl and remastered for CD and download in January 2019. it was recorded over 5 days in Grass Valley, California at engineer Tim Green’s Louder Studios (The Fucking Champs, Melvins.) Where Metal Masses showcased aesthetic nods to Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All album (as well as a cover photo brilliantly depicting a blurry hand speedily playing a Flying-V guitar), Free Again finds the band coming into their own with emphasis upon grooves, a beefier sound and tighter songs that expertly shift into new parts at the drop of a hat.
Opener “Free Again” kicks things right off with a galloping riff forming out of a haze of feedback as the tape machine comes up to speed. The anthemic chorus showcases Nunn’s powerful voice as twin guitar harmonies lead into a thundering double-time coda reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s “Aces High.” Elsewhere, a marching snare drum beat and totemic blasts set up dueling guitar leads of “City Ablaze” while dizzying, chugging 16th-note guitars drive the blistering “Live Forever” into oblivion. “Wheels of Fate” and “The Dealer” echo the groove based tunes and harmonies of Rainbow and Gary Moore era Thin Lizzy. Album closer “End of Days” is a chorus effect drenched ballad that builds into a crushing lament over the constant beckoning of depression and the struggle for freedom and clarity. It’s a touching and powerful closing to an album that traverses many moods and packs in more great parts into a single song than most thrash bands do on an entire album.