Artist: Hell In The Club
Album: Devil On My Shoulder
Release Date: 3rd November
Label: Scarlet Records
Devil On My Shoulder is set to be the second full-length release from the 4-piece Italian glam-rock/heavy metal outfit, Hell In The Club, and it’s simultaneously nostalgic and fresh.
It’s easy to dismiss current day heavy metal acts as being purely a novelty, an idea exacerbated by bands such as Steel Panther, but I can’t help but feel this is unfair. Hell In The Club certainly sound like they’ve been torn kicking and shredding straight out of the 80’s, and for this lack of musical compromise, I feel nothing but respect. It takes some real balls to pick a genre that you love and stick with it when many consider it to have had it’s heyday 30-odd years ago and your modern compatriots are often seen as little more than purveyors of dick-jokes and cheap gags in the form of smutty songs. This being said, Hell In The Club are still fun, and you really feel that they love what they do.
This monster of an album opens on Bare Hands, a song with so much variety that you’re left pretty bombarded with all the levels of glam-rock and heavy metal. It begins with a thumping intro full of guitar squeals (which sounds almost suspiciously like the intro to the X-Men animated TV show theme), which then leads into a verse that’s at least 70% Van Halen-esque, before clashing fantastically with the sweeping, pure old school heavy metal sound that is the chorus. It’s an absolute gem of a track to start on, managing to really grip you as it forces it’s way into the rest of the album. The title track, Devil On My Shoulder, follows the album’s opener, but has less impact. It starts on some lovely sinister guitar notes ringing out before moving into a real upbeat chorus, and then dropping back into a nice strumming bridge. It’s a good track, but the album features far harder hitting songs. The third track of the album for example, Beware Of The Candyman, is real fun. It’s like heavy metal via Chuck Berry, a real rock ‘n’ roll kicker with the speed and shredding we’ve already come to expect out of Hell In The Club. It’s distilled happiness and a genuine joy to listen to.
The album then drifts into its single release, Proud, a more ballad-esque track. It’s a song all about living your life’s dream and being damn proud to do it. As a live track, this would be a great centre piece, with some parts, such as the late-song guitar solo, perfect for one of those ‘lighter in the air, arms waving’ kind of moments.
After the semi-soft Proud, Hell In The Club bring out their big guns. Whore Paint is a personal favourite, pulling precisely zero punches and not caring at all. It’s a fast paced riot of sound, complete with shredding, chugging guitars, simplistic, booming drums and even some chants of “hey, hey!” and “whoa, whoa!“ that’ll make you want to join in every single time. It’s a magnificent homage to the genre as a whole, and it hits all of the right places. Another track, titled Pole Dancer is of a similar vein, starting with some solo drums and building up in an intro that doesn’t slow down at any point, launching fast and furiously into the rest of the song. It’s an exercise in endurance for Hell In The Club, and is skillfully delivered. However, Pole Dancer finally does slow down enough to fit in a really funky, chugging central bridge that’s memorable and simply fun.
Meandering lovingly through a true ballad, We are the Ones is the next track. Sadly it lacks much impact until its final seconds, which are even then, unfortunately all too brief. The next track Save Me then mixes things up, turning previous formulae on their head by opening with a funky, chugging intro which leads flawlessly into another fast paced hard-hitter. Although it is very reminiscent of Pole Dancer, it’s still a good track in it’s own right.
The album then moves onto Toxic Love. If Beware of the Candyman is reminiscent of Chuck Berry, Toxic Love is more Buckcherry. It’s a dirty track, gritty and quick, but boasts an interesting centrepiece in the form of some spoken word vocals delivered in a throaty voice that brings to mind Marilyn Manson. That grit is then followed by the next track Muse, which is another ballad, the staple of 80’s glam-rock. It’s more peaceable than some of the other tracks, and focuses on themes of love and devotion. I may not have spoken much on the album’s ballads, but it bears comment that they provide a nice rest and counterpoint in comparison to the albums super fast alter heavy metal ego.
Bringing Devil On My Shoulder to a conclusion is the triple-whammy of hard hitters, Snowman Six, No More Goodbyes and Night. They’re all individually good tracks, but bear a similar sound. Night is certainly the most impressive and memorable of the three, which some real nice, drawling vocals drawn out and stretched into something familiar to Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive. It’s a nice finishing touch, with enough difference that the album doesn’t finish feeling too samey.
In all, Devil On My Shoulder is a great album, a real pinnacle of modern heavy metal. It manages to stray away from the pitfalls of parody and creates something fun and unique, while still managing to channel the familiarity of the 80’s heavy metal gods. At times, it manages to sound overly familiar, with songs being almost too much alike, and the punctuating ballads, while lovingly crafted and technically sound, seem punctured by the spiky contrast of the harder hitting tracks found elsewhere in the album. It’s not much of a complaint really, as it’s truly evident that it’s these fast paced, hard-hitting monsters are where Hell In The Club excel, and it’s got to be said, they really, really do excel.
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