Celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band, Swedish powerhouse quartet Bonafide bring a new album to the party, or rather 14 parties in 14 days. There’s no let up for these guys, as they travel the length and breadth of the UK, converting more fans to their brand of high tempo rock n’ roll. It’s always a tricky one, bringing the energy of a full throttle high energy rock show into the studio and replicating the moment, like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. I’m happy to report, though, that ‘Flames’ goes a long way in capturing the intensity of a Bonafide live show.Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be more soul on ‘Flames’ than previous albums. Take ‘Like It Now’ for instance, beginning with a simple drum beat from Niklas Matsson, it leads into a Chuck Berry style guitar sound. Expecting it to explode into a bar room bruiser, it’s a great surprise when instead, it turns left and gets it’s groove on. To these ears, mainman Pontus Snibb sounds more like Paul Stanley than Bon Scott, and ‘Like It Now’ is the best song that the Kiss frontman never wrote. It’s upbeat, with a great tempo, and you’ve gotta love the infectious hand claps towards the end, which, along with the gospel background vocals, help raise the song above the bar… but hang fire, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here. Before ‘Flames’ arrives at it’s most soulful moment, it batters down the track like a runaway train. ‘Back In Flames’ opens the album up with four minutes of adrenaline-fuelled boogie that comes second nature to Bonafide. The groove on ‘Smoke & Fire’ is monstrous. Snibb and fellow guitarist Anders Rosell lock down an incredible guitar sound. The interchange between them mid song is fantastic.
‘Power Down’, ‘Bottle Of Jack’ and ‘Keep A Safe Distance’ are straight up boogie merchants that get the head bobbing and fire up the air drumming, whereas ‘Written In Stone’ goes with a ‘lazy Sunday afternoon on the bayou’ feel. The backing vocals are highly effective on a track that has a great, organic vibe to it. It’s the kind of track that the Black Crowes used to make before their ‘Grateful Dead extend-a-jam’ period. ‘Gotta Go’ is another moment that belongs to drummer Niklas Matsson. His playing fuels the fire for his bandmates to glow. The guitar solos are exemplary, and around the two minute mark it’s like Chuck Berry is in the room. Intentional or not, it’s still an example of how important the legacy of the 90 year-old still is. ‘Flipside Groovin’’ is bodacious, man. How could you listen to this one without dancing like no-one is watching? It’s joyous, uplifting, and makes you break a sweat. Job done. Saving the best to last, Bonafide close out the album with an eight minute epic, ‘Under Your Spell’. Damn, it truly is magical. A quiet, understated vocal from Snibb , passionate soulful guitar solos, and the gospel choir will have you reaching for the repeat button as soon as it finishes. Nothing flash, just simple heart-wrenching playing. Can’t ask for more than that really, can you?
‘Flames’ is available now through Off Yer Rocka Records,and the usual outlets.
Review: Dave Stott