By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Bashing out their classic-sounding mix of late ’70s British metal influences and more aggressive early thrash riffs, Bay Area metal quartet Hell Fire celebrates the release of their new album Mania at Thee Parkside in San Francisco Friday night with SoCal headbangers Haunt and newer prog/metal upstarts Psychic Hit.
Hell Fire was founded in 2010 by guitarist, San Francisco native and pro BMX rider Tony Campos after he met recently transplanted Mexican metal fiend and bassist Herman Bandala. The pair started out playing covers of songs by their heroes Iron Maiden, Diamond Head and Metallica, gradually developing their own vocabulary and writing original songs. The two musicians found additional collaborators and started playing their thrashing tunes at shows around the Bay Area.
After cycling through several line-up changes and refining their songwriting, Hell Fire eventually connected with singer Jake Nunn before recording their self-released debut album Metal Masses in 2016. The current line-up would be complete when drummer Mike Smith joined before the band recorded its sophomore album Free Again the following year. The effort showed a quantum leap forward in songwriting and arranging as Campos and Bandala refined their riff chemistry on NWOBHM-infused tracks like “Wheels of Fate” and “Beyond Nightmares” (the later featuring Bandala’s growling wah-wah pedal manipulations that recalled Metallica’s original bass legend Cliff Burton).
Since that release, the band has steadily raised its profile, playing shows with local thrash legends Exodus and Municipal Waste and touring clubs across the country. Hell Fire signed to noted SoCal metal imprint Riding Easy Records, which reissued Free Again on vinyl last year ahead of the band’s label debut Mania. The first recording to feature Nunn playing guitar since he took up the instrument, it showcases more deft six-string interplay and some of the band’s most memorable metal anthems yet.
For this hometown record release party at Thee Parkside Friday night, Hell Fire will be joined by like-minded Fresno outfit and tour partner Haunt. Guitarist Trevor William Church, the son of Bay Area rock icon and Montrose/Sammy Hagar Band bassist Bill Church who first came to fame with now defunct doom metal band Beastmaker leads the band.
Haunt has pursued a more classic, melodic metal sound on two EPs and two albums issued since just last year. While echoing similar New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences of Iron Maiden and Angel Witch shared by Hell Fire, Church’s songs are as hook-heavy as some of the best Maiden and Priest singles issued back when metal actually got radio airplay. Opener Psychic Hit is an East Bay band Psychic Hit features members of several notable psychedelic and space rock bands (Queen Crescent, Nik Turner’s Hawkwind, Ovvl) who are mixing classic metal and prog sounds to great creative effect.
Hell Fire, Haunt and Psychic Hit
Friday, March 29, 9 p.m. $10