New album by Flame Tides, “Bonfire Tsunami” ready to make waves

Charlotte-based duo's latest release delivers serious grooves

by David Turner

Charlotte’s Flame Tides appropriately describe themselves as a groovy melodic power duo”. Their sophomore release; “Bonfire Tsunami” shows just how accurate that is. 

Coming on the heels of their 2019 debut, Thunder Love, the new release finds them expanding on the foundation of that (almost all) instrumental first offering with a set of 10 wide-ranging tracks that dip toes in an impressive sea of genres

Flame Tides are Mike (Rocketman) McNeely on baritone guitar and lead vocals and Hayley Moran on drums and vocals. Both had worked previously in a few other area groups before working together initially with The Waves.  Hayley and Mike began experimenting as an instrumental duo with Hayley on drums in late 2016 ~ Flame Tides was born. 

The album intends to take you on a journey, as evident from the outset on track 1, “Kindred Sun”. Some atmospherics in the intro give way to a growing beat and riff through the first verse that crescendo into a stomp-worthy callout chorus. Shades of the White Stripes bleed through on this one, in the best way.

Track 2, “Broken Stars” is a juicy melodic galactic trip with a riff and vocals that had me double-taking to see where Jerry Cantrell and Dug Pinnick were hiding.

“This song touches on our deeper thoughts and feelings about the cosmos and the unifying truth that we are all made of stardust. That became a metaphor for the family we all are during such a divisive time.”

“Holy Grail” brings a touch of Black Sabbath plodding rhythm in the first verse and chorus before sneaking into a more tribal sound. An intense song that requires additional listens to appreciate all of the interplay and melodies. 

Track 4 is “Desert Trip”, the first of 3 instrumentals and maybe the best of those. Inspired by a band they saw in Raleigh, Tinariwen, who are Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert.

Mike explains, “They blew us away with these long build songs that used a lot of call and response kind of singing and trance like drumming. Simple, but effective guitar melodies woven in. We were inspired and had this simple guitar melody that we built on to try to do the same thing”. 

Side one closes with “American Dream Meets Quarantine”. A bluesy/stoner slow jam that went from a one-take mic check to a tune that somehow almost nails what 2020/2021 has felt like. 

Gorgeous Gatefold

Side two opener, “Modelo” has one of the tastiest beats and riffs on the entire disc. This won’t be the first time you doubt this is only a 2-piece. This heavy blues rocker features Mike having fun on the talk box early on and then on guitar alongside Hayley’s irresistible drumming for 3 minutes. 

“Dog Gone” is a funky/bluesy/disco love letter to their dog, Mojo. A definite highlight that is guaranteed to bring a smile or 12. 

Track 8, “Home” starts out solemnly with a nice underlying intensity that follows through the build up into the chorus. Lyrically among the best on here. 

“Run to the Ocean” is a rocker that has a touch of U2’s Zooropa era with a little extra punk flair, clocking in under 2 minutes and leaving you wanting just a little more. 

The third instrumental, “Horizon Eyes” closes out the album. The guitar work shines here with a touch of Jimmy Page’s “Outrider” sound on display. 

Pressing Details

Bonfire Tsunami was recorded, mixed, and produced by Mike (Rocketman) McNeeley at their home studio in Charlotte. The songs were mastered by Oli Morgan at Abbey Road Studios in London. Vinyl pressing was handled by Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, OH where Mike and Hayley picked them up on Dec. 10th

I bought my copy at their show at Ole Dallas Brewery in Dallas, NC in mid-December. The black vinyl pressing is 180g, flat and dead quiet. Superior work by Gotta Groove. (Extra points for the dead wax inscription!)

The mastering and production are top-notch, with a vibrant soundstage and some fine balance and centering of the instruments. The record is “hot” with a lot of punch from Hayley’s drum work.

My Yamaha subwoofer gets quite a workout from these tracks on the low end while at the same time the crispness of the cymbals and detail in the vocals and effects exceeds expectations. 

The gatefold jacket features original art work on the front cover, with an inner spread photo of the 2 artists in their home studio. It’s a wonderful spanning image and worth taking time to check out all of the various posters and memorabilia on display.

The inner sleeve has more band photos, credits and lyrics, and is printed on thick glossy paper. There really were no corners cut on this pressing and packaging. 

Last but not least, a download card so you can grab a HQ digital copy for when you’re on the go. 

We love to explore and create within the severe limitations of two instruments and vocals. This forces us to dig deep and find genuine authenticity that resonates between the two of us. We invite the listener into that space, and that’s when the real magic happens.”

With “Bonfire Tsunami”, I’m not quite sure we can talk about limitations when it comes to these two. Stellar work here! Be sure to catch them live, follow them on social media and pick up a copy of this one pronto. 


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