ALBUM REVIEW : HELL IN THE CLUB — See You On The Dark Side
Hell in the Club has long been my go-to getting ready to go out soundtrack. Nothing inspires and motivates me to apply my own whore paint quite like Hell in the Club's rocking song of two albums past. They've never tried to reinvent the wheel - or the hard rock genre - but they have made a true commitment to putting out damn good hard rock albums one release after another, a commitment they have upheld thus far. On September 15th, Hell in the Club released See You on the Dark Side, their fourth album in six years. Did it fulfill the Hell in the Club covenant? Well...
Prior to the official release, the Italian quartet had released four songs out of the eleven on their new album, and I was half expecting them to be the best tracks on there. Lo and behold, much to my surprise, they are not.
"We Are on Fire," the first track previously released, makes for a perfect opening song and has just the right amount of ego stroking in the lyrics to get the listeners pumped for the rest of the album without being obnoxious, "The Phantom Punch" and "I Wanna Swing like Peter Parker" are two unbelievably fun tracks that would be capable of raising hell in any rock club, while "Houston We've Got No Money" has the beat and vibe that make it just right for pole dancing, a staple of any hard rock album!
And though those four tracks are damn good, they are only slightly more unique than the average hard rock song. If the entire album followed the formula of those four songs, See You on the Dark Side would be a good album in its own right, but it wouldn't be a great one. It's the little elements, the little intricacies inserted here and there that really make a difference in how great this album is.
"Little Toy Soldier," for example, has a real southern rock feel to it. With a guitar intro that transports you straight to the bayou, you can almost feel your lungs filling with the soupy air of the humid American south the moment the track starts. "Showtime" has a strange keyboard line at the beginning that was just otherworldly enough to make this alien-phobic writer slightly uncomfortable, and though "The Misfits" is nothing groundbreaking, it is the perfect anthem for any weird kid with weird interests.
Hell In The Club - "We Are On Fire"
While the entire album is a respectable effort in the hard rock genre, it's two of the last three songs on See You on the Dark Side that push this album out of this realm.
The use of the base drum in "Withered in Venice" is brilliant. The song is slow, making use of a softer side of vocalist Dave Moras' usually more nasally vocals, and the bass drum is unsettlingly heartbeat-like at times. After a more energetic chorus ends for the first time, the guitar ceases, leaving only the heartbeat of the song and a whispering singer to sing one simple line. That unexpected shift, the calming yet unnerving nature of it all made me forget to breathe for a few moments.
And then there's "A Crowded Room," the last song on the album. Starting with soft piano, luring you in with the promise of a ballad, "A Crowded Room" quickly turns into a good but typical Hell in the Club song. Heavy on the bass, the scratchy yet oddly mellifluous vocals of Moras giving the seasoned rockstar feel that is so familiar to Hell in the Club's song, with a chorus of sing-alongs that would be fantastic for crowd participation, the song is a respectable ender. That is until the 3:38 mark, where it turns into the perfect finale and the best song Hell in the Club has ever written.
Vaudeville meets The Nightmare Before Christmas in an interlude that is as out of place as it it fantastic. The theatrical singing, the mixing of voices, the whispering, the maniacal laughter. Moras sings like the live action star of Tim Burton's iconic movie and while the music stays a little bit rock and roll, there is no denying the strong influence of the legendary claymation masterpiece. The interlude doesn't last nearly as long as it ought to, but it's a magical moment for the time that it exists.
"A Crowded Room" - and therefore the record - ends with more piano and more soft singing, a very gentle comedown from the high that is created by the middle of the last song, but it made me want more. I finished listening to See You on the Dark Side and immediately listened to it again. And again. And again. Until it felt a familiar as the other three albums in the band's discography. See You on the Dark Side has its place within the Hell in the Club family. It's the different but brilliant addition, the prodigal child of the lot.
If only you knew the power of the Dark Side.
HELL IN THE CLUB — See You On The Dark Side
Release date: September 15, 2017