Bashing out their classic-sounding mix of late '70s British metal influences and more aggressive early thrash riffs, Bay Area metal quartet Hell Fire headlines this post-holiday show at the DNA Lounge Sunday night.
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 in the spring of 2019. 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.
The pandemic shutdown that closed music venues across the globe forced Hell Fire to stay home and focus on writing and recording material for their next album. While 2021 brought the departure of longtime bassist Bandala, the band was able to recruit Rancid/Charger four-string master Matt Freeman to fill in on recording sessions for their latest Riding Easy release. Kai Sun of the SF metal band Space Vacation has since joined as a permanent member. In the summer of 2022, the quartet released its fourth album Reckoning, another bracing salvo of galloping, infectiously melodic, two-fisted metal that was met with wide praise.
For this show at the DNA Lounge Sunday night, the group is joined by the aforementioned Space Vacation, which features former members of Vicious Rumors and Orchid, as well as opener The Suffering, the latest project of ex-Bleeding Through guitarist Scott Danough. DJ Bleeding Priest -- better known as Death Angel and Old Grandad drummer Will Carroll -- spins appropriately heavy vinyl selections before and between bands.
Hell Fire with Space Vacation and The Suffering
Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 p.m. $15-$20
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