Bonfire Eternal is a “quarantine” thrash metal project done by multi-instrumentalist Kerry Layne Jeffrey. As so many artists and musicians have been stuck at home for months over the past year, Jeffrey just up and decided to write and self-produce a thrash metal recording by the same name Bonfire Eternal. Layne has been playing in bands for a long time, including Hellso, The Welcome Home and Aftermind. However, he’s been out of the scene for many years, so, Bonfire Eternal is his first attempt to get back into writing and performing. The EP was recorded and mixed in Jeffrey’s home studio in Vancouver, Washington. He used various equipment in the process, one of which was a JST Rex Brown Plugin which produced the “gnarly bass tones” on "Ghouls."
This album is essentially an “exploration of fast, riff-y metal” but with some “unavoidably classic elements” influenced by the likes of Slayer, Megadeth and blended with more contemporary ideas – as in, what if Opeth covered an Every Time I Die song, while The Dillinger Escape Plan was sitting in the background, smoking a joint? Jeffrey made a deliberate choice to try and avoid a lot of what's going on in the metal scene right now when he wrote his songs. Everything he was hearing was just standard tuning (not even drop-D!). He just wanted to write straightforward, ballsy songs with cool riffs and some solos you could sing along to. Everything you hear is done by Jeffrey, except some back-up vocals on "Ritual," which were done by his wife Gwen. If you’re not into thrash metal or perhaps haven’t listened to some in a while, strap in, you’re in for a treat.
“Crawling Towards the Light” is a great example of the dark, heavy sounds, and lyrics, that are sometimes associated with thrash metal music. Words like “Wasting breath / courting death / For nothing in return” and “orphans of dirt” don’t get much dark and desperate than this. Jeffrey’s guitar action is absolutely fluid and fabulous – move over Kirk Hammett! The beginning to “Lesser Blood” reminds me a little of early “speed metal” Metallica, to coin an old phrase and the double bass drumming sounds like a lineup of tanks opening fire. The bass line solos are awesome and create a balance of light and dark between the guitar parts. The lyrics suggest being into too deep into some bad crude, where it’s too late to turn back.
I really liked the guitar riffs on “Ritual” - very catchy, mean and thunderous! I had to turn this one up. Lyrically, this one gets, well, real dark, and sinister – “Let me be the crux of all / Your darkest thoughts / Let me be the quiet words / To your heathen gods” and “open up hell and throw me in?” – I mean damn, take me to church I need a cleansing! Gwen’s vocal adds another dimension to this number altogether and the solo in between the heavier parts breaks up the song well. “Ghouls” is all out fast – both in the song’s length and drumming rhythm. Jeffrey’s words are a straight up “see what we’ve done? – we’ve gone and messed things up, really bad” I told you so. I sense that he may be singing about our collective negligence to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Next is “Inherent Vice” which has a more classic feel and straightforward metal approach, both in verse to chorus structure and guitar riffs, kind of in the same vein of Megadeth. Although, Jeffrey adds more thrash towards the end.
The last number is titled by the same name as his project, and compared to the other tracks, it’s his longest. Fading in, you hear tapping percussive sounds and what I’d call Edge-like echoing guitars. However, the rest of song is nowhere what U2 would put out. Lyrically, he writes some harsh universal truths about our human nature and how “everything burns” – “We’re idiot rats / who won’t flee the ship / Disbelieve that it’s going down / Pretend that it’s what we wanted / Pretend that we don’t deserve to drown.” Sometimes truths are hard to swallow. Musically, I liked Jeffrey’s double guitar work, where he lays one track onto another. I also liked his lighter moments and how he mixed in some keys in here, too. Judging from Jeffrey’s claim that he’s been out of the metal music scene, I never would have guessed. The album is tight and direct.
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