By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two local metal bands that have established themselves as leading lights of the Bay Area scene team up Friday when Hell Fire and Charger share the stage at Eli’s in Oakland.
Bashing out their classic-sounding mix of late ’70s British metal influences and more aggressive early thrash riffs, 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 in 2018 ahead of the band’s label debut Mania last spring. 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. Last winter, the group went on its most extensive U.S. tour yet in support of Bay Area thrash icons Death Angel.
For Friday’s show, Hell Fire is joined by fast-rising local power trio Charger. Anchored by Rancid/Operation Ivy bassist Matt Freeman, the band started bashing out it’s pummeling tunes that take cues from Motörhead and early Iron Maiden in 2018.
The threesome — which includes drummer Jason Willer (who also plays in Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine) and guitarist Andrew McGee — released a self-titled EP on Pirates Press Records last year that captured the locomotive power of Charger’s pulverizing live sets. Portland, OR-based blackened speed metal outfit Bewitcher opens the show
Hell Fire with Charger
Friday, Feb. 28, 9 p.m. $12
Eli’s Mile High Club