Rising local metal heroes Hell Fire headline international bill at Eli’s

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 plays Friday night at Eli’s Mile High Club with like-minded Fresno band Haunt, Swedish power-metal outfit and London-based openers Seven Sisters.


HellFire “Metal Masses” at Tidal Wave 2012 by
LittyProductions on
YouTube

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.


Hell Fire – On The Loose (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) by
HellFire Metal on
YouTube

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.


Hell Fire – Addicted To Violence (Official Music Video) by
RidingEasy Records on
YouTube

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 the upcoming release for Riding Easy. Kai Sun of the SF metal band Space Vacation has since joined as a permanent member.

The quartet recently released its fourth album Reckoning, its latest salvo of galloping, infectiously melodic, two-fisted classic metal. For this Friday night show at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland, Hell Fire will be joined by like-minded Fresno outfit and regular West Coast tour partner Haunt. Guitarist Trevor William Church, the son of Bay Area rock icon and Montrose/Sammy Hagar Band bassist Bill Church, first came to fame with now defunct doom metal band Beastmaker before founding Haunt.


Haunt – In Show of Flames by
Metal Nemesis on
YouTube

With Church writing the songs and playing all the instruments, he took Haunt in a more classic, melodic metal direction on two EPs and two albums issued in the band’s first two years in operation. 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.


Haunt Father Time Lyric Video by
Haunt The Nation on
YouTube

During the pandemic shutdown, Church would if anything ramp up his productivity, recording four more new albums as well as a collection of acoustic recordings of earlier material since 2020, including Haunt’s latest effort, Windows of You Heart. The live version of the band has gone through a number of line-up changes over the years, but Church and his collaborators never fail to bring an incendiary stage show when visiting the Bay Area. The bands are joined by a pair of international metal acts filling out the bill, with Sweden’s Screamer and London-based headbangers (and recent Haunt tourmates) Seven Sisters warming up the crowd.

Hell Fire with Haunt
Friday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. $15-$20
Eli’s Mile High Club

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