Latest release: City of Fire (Stomp)

An offshoot of bassist Byron Stroud’s first real band from more than fifteen years ago, Canadian five piece City of Fire will have only played live nine times before they arrive in Australia in September to support Soulfly. But with the years of experience behind the individual members, that should prove no hurdle when it comes to bringing it on.

“We’ve all been around for over 20 years now, so it’s all good,” says vocalist Burton C. Bell in a light Californian drawl.

Bell, best known to most as the hate machine voice of Fear Factory, joined City of Fire in 2008 on Stroud’s invitation when his teenage band Caustic Thought got back together and decided to turn professional. After a name change, the group found time in between commitments with other bands to record a self-titled album, released back in April in Australia. Yet so far, City of Fire has only ever played a few club dates in Canada.

“We’ve done seven shows in British Columbia,” Bell explains, “and that’s it! We just did a show opening up for Fear Factory in Vancouver. I pulled double duty, and the fans there really loved it. It was a very positive response. We’re excited to get out on the road for real. We’re already a good band, but the more we play the better it gets. So we’re excited to get out there and get even tighter.”

Not only is City of Fire touring Australia, they’re doing so as the main support to Soulfly.

“We’re all very excited to be in that slot,” he says, somewhat unsurprisingly, “and we hope to win over some of their fans! Australia and New Zealand are going to be the first to see [us], and that’s another reason why we’re excited.”

Considering Stroud and Bell’s musical past, it would be easy to conclude what City of Fire might sound like. So it may surprise some to learn that this band’s music has a distinctively looser rock feel that draws more from the classic heavy rock bands of the 70s than it does from SYL or Fear Factory.

“[Some people] assume something before they listen to it, ” says Bell. “But the only comparison really is my voice. Sometimes it sounds like Fear Factory. Only a couple times. I’m doing a lot of different things, lyrically and vocally. I’m taking it to a whole different level. Most people who’ve heard it or seen it live have no comparison at all really. So you have to come see us live to understand that we’re a completely different vibe, a different band and we head in a completely different direction.”

The looming tour will see them playing club shows in venues beyond the state capitals, much like Bell’s first visit to Australia with Fear Factory in 1993.

“We totally requested to do that too. When Fear Factory first toured Australia — and the same with Strapping Young Lad — we toured a lot of those smaller cities: Canberra, Newcastle… even Lismore. And we found that doing that kind of grassroots work, as we call it, it makes the fanbase so much more loyal. It spreads the word around so much more, and we wanted to use the same technique, so we basically requested to get out to these places that no one ever really goes to.”

And, as mentioned, for City of Fire’s first international tour, they’ll be opening for none other than Soulfly, on whose debut album Bell made a guest appearance. In his interview with Loud, Max Cavalera hinted at the possibility of the pair teaming up to do the song live during the tour.

“I hope he asks me to [sing with them], yeah!” exclaims Bell. “It was just on the first album, on ‘Eye for an Eye’, and if he asks me to come up I’d gladly do it. And it would be the first time I would have performed it with him onstage too and so that would be really cool as well.”

Burton is hoping that the reaction to City of Fire’s album from other markets is also cool. Despite having been released in Australia at the beginning of the year, City of Fire doesn’t see the light of day in the rest of the world until the end of August.

“So we’re still waiting for that news!” Bell says. “But I’ve been doing interviews in Europe for City of Fire, and everything’s been very positive. The reaction’s been very positive, from fans and press alike. Fans that have got the CD so far have been very keen to see City of Fire live. So everything’s been very positive and we’re very excited to get on the road and play our music.”