Frost and Fire III: Day Two Review

 

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Day two of Frost And Fire kicked off very nicely and at a very reasonable time in the day too. I like that the bands didn’t start until almost 4 every day mainly so I could have some time to do a bit of relaxing beforehand. So after eating for the day and checking out the …child abuse and neglect thrift store(basically a goodwill but with a strange name), It was time to indulge on another batch of bands new and old for the day.

First up on the main stage was California’s Hellfire. Hot off the release of their new album “Free Again” they were one of the highest bands on my list to see this year and they did not disappoint. For being the openers for the day, they definitely could have played higher on the bill playing mostly from their new album with a few of my favorite cuts from “Metal Masses” as well. Their style of classic speed metal definitely won a lot of early goers over for the day as well. Next up on the front bar stage was OVVL who were probably the most unique band on the bill for the weekend overall. At face value they had a very progressive 70’s hard rock sound but coupled with their lead guitarists cowboy mixed with Charles Manson look, they were anything but straightforward. They were not a bad live band, actually quite entertaining as they were very into the groove of their songs. As the shift was back onto more traditional metal, Skelator were up next and were damn amazing live. The vocals were what impressed me the most and just how commanding of a live act they were. Some highlights from their set included “Samurai” and their cover of Judas Priests “Jawbreaker” was definitely very fun to hear as well.

After grabbing some water as the bar was filling up with people and getting way up in temperature, it was time to see Venomous Maximus for the second time. The band has a more straightforward doom/stoner metal grooving sound which I am into a lot however I always appreciated them more as a studio act. Live they don’t cut it as much for me at least not this time. Perhaps it was the technical difficulties peppered throughout but they just weren’t as commanding as when I saw them back home a year or so before. In the middle of their set, I felt it was time to get some air and socialize a bit before possibly the most gimmick and slapstick performance I have ever seen was to occur.

Iron Thor who are a cover band of the cult metal act Thor were up next and were as cheesy and epic as the real thing. From bending steel to a literal wrestling brawl breaking out on stage, they had it all and were one of the most fun bands of the weekend. their set was all classic Thor songs done very faithfully as well so bravo to them. Twisted Tower Dire, a band that needs to introduction. With albums such as “The Isle of Hydra” and even their most recent from 2011 “Make It Dark”, the band has established themselves as one of the most consistent power metal acts today and this performance was no exception. The band played a fair mix of both older and newer songs with one of their covers as well because cmon they do really pull out some amazing covers. The song was Mercyful Fates “A Dangerous Meeting ” and was done very well and was really the cherry on the top of a very solid performance.

Finally it was time for the band I was looking most forward to all weekend (besides Cirith Ungol) Mythra. Another of my favorite NWOBHM bands and one that are hot on a comeback with their album “Still Burning” being released earlier this year. Finally after nearly forty years, they have braced the United States for their first ever show here and based on their performance, it would be easy to think that they were a regular touring band. The reason being they were so incredibly tight and were very energized with interacting with the audience. The setlist was mainly oldschool fair with the band opening with “The Best Is Yet To Come” and classics like “U.F.O” and one of my favorites, the energied “Killer”. Vince Highs vocals I have to praise for barely aging and still having that classic rock n roll grit as well. The band also peppered in some newer songs such as :Silence In Sirens”, “Battlecry” and a few others that I felt worked perfectly in with the old songs. Overall, I felt they had the best set of the weekend personally and if it is the only time they play the US, then by god they made a great impression. New classic metal act Amulet were next on the front room stage and were in a tight spot between two higher profile bands. Also, coming from the UK, the band sounds both live and in studio like they are straight from 1981. I really admire their vintage guitar sound and are a band to really watch out for in the future. Even though they were stacked between Mythra and the double bill of Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road, I felt they maintained a decent sized crowd with a lot of energy on stage.

Cirith Ungol were up next as the final band on the main stage for the night. Now after literally picking apart every album in the past month. Hearing them live was kind of the final piece of the puzzle for me. I missed them last year unfortunately so it was a real treat that they hopped on when Fist unfortunately had to cancel. The band opened with “War Eternal” off of their “One Foot In Hell” album and were in amazing form. I was quite surprised how well they sounded live especially today. Tim Baker is another vocalist I would say has a voice that has stood the test of time for sure with him still being able to belt those long heavy growls that are a staple of the band. The biggest shock was when the band played their cover of Arthur Brown’s “Fire”, a song I thought I’d never hear them do again. The crowd especially within the first five rows were absolutely nuts for them and rightfully so. Other highlights included the band doing nearly the whole “King Of The Dead” album toward the end of the set but keeping the set overall fairly evened out between every album. They definitely had the biggest reaction I had seen all weekend and being it was their hometown show I had expected that. After melting away nearly completely in the hotbox where the mainstage was, I decided to catch some air right before Manilla Road began.

Manilla Road have been one of those bands that no matter how many times they hit my town, I always miss them somehow. Well this night I was finally able to see them and what good timing to see them for a first time. The band pulled out a lot of stops with a very special setlist composed mainly of older songs from albums “Mystification”, “Open The Gates” and of course “Crystal Logic” as well as a few new songs that I can’t name off the top of my head at the moment. The weirdest thing was that the band was on the small front room stage which gave for a more personal experience for at least a lot of fans up front. Unfortunately, the band didn’t have a lot of elbow room to work with and weren’t able to move around much. They really just stuck to playing their songs with vocalist Bryan Patrick talking a bit in between songs. Songs like “Divine Victim” and “Masque Of The Red Death” were perhaps my biggest highlights. I would have liked some songs from “Out of the Abyss” which is my favorite Manilla Road album but hey they definitely didn’t skimp out on fan favorites ending the night with a heavy dose of the “Crystal Logic” album.

I was pretty cashed toward the end of the bands set and had to head back to my room to recover for the night. Overall, day two was just as good as the first however with Mythra and Cirith Ungol, this was definitely the peak of the weekend personally. This also ended the bulk of the weekend with Sunday having the last two heavy hitters Ashbury and Bitch.

Album Review: Hell Fire- Free Again

“Free Again” is the second album California Heavy Metal act Hell fire and was released on August 18th, 2017. Hell Fire are one of my personal favorite bands in the recent years to come out of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal scene with the release of their first album “Metal Masses” released last year. Their sound is inspired much by the NWOBHM and very clear evidence of early Metallica influences all the way down to the wah and fuzz powered bass soloing throughout. However they managed to keep a consistent and varied pace throughout the album to keep it original enough.Now with their second album we see them become a four piece with vocalist Jake Nunn taking over second guitar, so I was curious if they would keep a pace like their first album or if it would be more simplified songwriting. But with the release of their first single, the title track, the album definitely has a similar vibe. So lets dig in and see if the band can keep the flame burning.

Track Rundown

1.Free Again- Right off the bat this song gives more of a vintage metal feeling akin to early NWOBHM bands. The pace has that bumpy early Iron Maiden vibe to it but the vocals still have that sound on the brink of speed metal with a real ferociousness. The production actually has a 70’s vibe with the bass being very punchy against some nice playing melodic guitar dueling. Overall it definitely is a catchy mid paced opener that shows the band branching into a bit of a different sound but keeping their roots close enough for the song to fit in their overall style.

2.City Ablaze- I love the opening of this song and how it builds. It again has an early speed metal vibe to it and is quite catchy as well with some really fluent guitar soling which I feel sound a lot more pronounced than the first album. They just feel more in your face and raw. This track overall is pure oldschool fist pumping metal and Hell Fire make it still feel fresh and fun.

3.Live Forever- This song is one of the most infectious on the album for having very simple galloping pacing and a really catchy chorus as well. The bass work in the background is really fun to listen to as well and shows just how tight this band really is. The break in pacing in the middle is always a great segment too it keeps the flow of the song varied as well.

4.Wheels Of Fate- As the song opens very softly, the song rolls right into classic speed metal territory again. It has a similar pace especially in the verses to the last track but with some nice dueling guitar solos sprinkled throughout that keep the energy running high with the melodic chorus as well. Overall, this songs very energetic and fun and the guitar solo is one of my favorites on the album as well but I also feel in parts sounds too similar to the last track.

5.Beyond Nightmares-The beginning of this song is awesome with the fuzzed out bass really taking hold building up to probably the best song on the album. I just feel the band really go all out for this one with everyone pushing all they have and one I hope they add to their live set. The frantic riffing coupled with the vocals is the biggest take away for me and really make the song at least in the main part as everyone plays an important role. This is just a great thrashing song and shows Hell Fire really at their peak of heaviness on the album.

6.The Dealer- This song goes back for more of those classic British heavy metal riffs through out with a more galloping mid pace to it. It definitely adds more variety to the album instead of nothing but speed which I like. This is definitely one of the catchiest songs on the album that a lot of old school fans can get behind.

7.Destroyers- Every time I replay this song I get like an early Overkill or early Anthrax vibe to it with it on the brink of classic and thrash metal. As it has a faster pace, it still manages to be a good sing along song during the verses. I do like how it ramps up during the chorus as well. There is also a great bass solo right before the main guitar soloing as well which is always welcome.

8.End Of Days- I suppose this song is the epic song of the album with an opening featuring cleaner guitars and some nice shimmery soloing as well that I appreciate. I almost get some Thin Lizzy vibes here mainly with the more fuzzy late seventies like production as well. I really love when the song reaches its climax with a very powerful mid paced chorus that would work well live as well. However, it then starts to get into a more frantic riffing territory that shows this being the most varied song on the album and the longest clocking in just over seven minutes. This is a very well done closer by the band and shows them still giving all they’ve got this far in.

Overall, I give the album a 7.5 out of 10. This album isn’t mind blowing or game changing in anyway, however I don’t think that was what Hell Fire was going for here. The band managed to create a fun and entertaining old school metal album that does borrow some of the sound from their first record but with a more loose and heavy production, the album manages to give you something a bit different in return. While every song is good, I did feel some parts were too similar to other songs but didn’t hinder my experience as much. If you want to a hear a really tight talented new group keeping the early eighties style of metal alive, then check out Hell Fire you won’t be disappointed!

 

Buy the album here:

https://hellfiremetal.bandcamp.com/album/free-again