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Sometimes a band grows so exponentially from one record to the next, it’s almost jarring. Hell Fire has already established themselves as the preeminent masters of a new hybrid breed of Bay Area thrash and NWOBHM in just a few short years, but their fourth album Reckoning is the type of ascendance that truly sets a band apart.
Reckoning is their Master of Puppets, their Number of The Beast, their Defenders Of The Faith. From the very first notes of the album opening title track, you can feel a vital new energy and inspiration to their music. To say Hell Fire used the recent global downtime to dig within and fully refine their sound would be an understatement. It truly is a reckoning.
“This album is every aspect of our band amplified to its maximum potential,” says singer/guitarist Jake Nunn. “This is the record we've always wanted to make, and it feels like we're just getting started,” guitarist Tony Campos adds. “We wanted to push ourselves musically and capture some of our frustrations, anger, loneliness, and rage over being locked inside and dealing with life during a global pandemic in the days when no one really knew how to navigate,” says drummer Mike Smith.
With no touring on the horizon in 2020, the band hunkered down and recorded nearly a full album in preproduction home demos. “I set up a little studio in my garage to record guitar, bass, and vocal tracks,” Campos says. “While Mike bought an electronic drum set and we demoed every song so we were more prepared going into the studio.” Each of them found themselves practicing more on their own and ironing out every last detail and nuance before finally being able to once again play in a room together.
The band’s heightened professionalism also brings in guest bassist Matt Freeman (of Rancid and Operation Ivy fame) on the album after original bassist Herman Bandala departed the band amicably during the initial writing process. New bassist Kai Sun joined Hell Fire in Fall 2021. Reckoning was recorded and mixed at Atomic Studios in Oakland, CA with Chris Dugan.
The title track kicks things off with a slight nod to the layered melodies of acoustic and harmonized guitars of Metallica’s “Battery” before the band rips into its signature galloping guitar picks, soaring harmonies and blistering rhythms. It’s an anthem and a gauntlet thrown down with Nunn’s shimmering screams and guttural howls while dueling guitar solos and Smith’s relentless double bass drum shuffle bring home the point that Hell Fire is born anew. “Medieval Cowboys” hearkens to the epic attack of Iron Maiden’s Powerslave with glistening melodies and complexly interwoven musical shifts that showcase exactly how tight and precise the band has become. “Addicted To Violence” is blistering thrash and “Thrill Of The Chase” soars with rich harmonies while both songs lyrically reflect hard truths the band faced in isolation. The lush acoustic based ballad “A Dying Moon” shows the band effortlessly stretching out in new directions. “It Ends Tonight” is an epic anthem served as a mission statement to the band’s return wherein arpeggiated riffs, squealing pinch harmonics, group chant vocals and Smith’s octopus-armed beats will have legions raising their fists in the air in salute.
“It’s somehow the heaviest and most melodic work we’ve done, and I’m proud of the discipline it took,” Nunn says. “It’s a wild thing.”
02. Medieval Cowboys
03. It Ends Tonight
04. Thrill Of The Chase
05. Addicted To Violence
06. Tortuga Nights
07. Eye For An Eye
08. Many Worlds
09. Nowhere Fast
10. A Dying Moon
11. The Executioner