Although ‘Let The Games Begin’ is Hell In The Club’s debut release, a few of the band members are well-known faces on the Italian metal scene. Vocalist Davide “Dave” Moras is best known as for his work with fantasy metal outfit Elvenking, while bassist Andrea “Andy” Buratto and drummer Federico “Fede” Pennazzato are both members of power-metallers Secret Sphere. Rounding out the line-up is session guitarist Andrea “Picco” Piccardi. This side-band was put together after Andy decided he wanted to move away from the sound of Secret Sphere and perform sleaze-rock anthems inspired by Skid Row, Mötley Crüe and Ratt.
For the most part, if that’s the spirit they were attempting to capture, then this album is a success. Although some tracks work better than others, the love of the band’s original influences shines through – and often without sounding like flat-out imitation.
Of the best numbers, ‘Raise Your Drinkin’ Glass’ is a mid-paced stomper, where Dave gets to stretch his vocal a little. The opening riff has a slight AC/DC vibe, but as the song progresses, it carries a great amount of the spirit from ‘Shout At The Devil’ era Mötley Crüe. Underneath the crunching riff, an acoustic rhythm overdub has been added, thickening out the final sound; Andy’s bass work is rock solid and very high in the mix in places. Throw in a decent solo and and a slightly groove-oriented bridge and it makes a great rock workout. A funky riff lies at the heart of ‘Daydream Boulevard’ where Hell In The Club are extremely tight. The rhythm work is unfussy but great, the solo work even greater. The band already packs a hefty punch, but Fede’s occasional drum fills are immense. Dave’s vocals more than hold their own against the verse riff, while during the chorus, there’s an effective interplay between his lead and the backing vocals. I could point out that a few of the lyrics are a might sexist, but there’d be little point. If you’re still reading (and interested), you’ll already have a fair grasp of Hell In The Club’s schtick and know what to expect!
‘No Appreciation’ is much harder with heavy riffing on the verses, giving way to a shout-along chorus driven by gang vocals. It’s impossible not to think of early Guns n’ Roses on occasion, especially as Dave slips the words “Sunday dress” into the first verse! The funky mid-section has a G N’R slant also – which is very welcome here – and Picco’s soloing is fluid, if a little short. ‘Natural Born Rockers’ carries another sledgehammer riff that’s pure eighties sleaze rock and, like ‘No Appreciation’ the reverbed shouting gang vocals which creep in from time to time really capture the mood. While there are better numbers on ‘Let The Games Begin’, this one highlights the energy the band are capable of generating, as does ‘Rock Down This Place’ with its sweary refrain. I’m not a fan of songs with the word “rock” in the title, but it’s clear such numbers here have been designed to energize a live audience.
Among the no-nonsense rockers, the album features couple of slightly lighter numbers. ‘On The Road’ highlights more melodic leanings. The clean-toned guitar work during the verses is superb, against which the lead vocals are well delivered. The chorus itself contains another big hook, making it one of the best tracks on offer. Although the influences are obvious, ‘Star’ showcases another fantastic group vocal arrangement. For the opening section of the song, Picco’s electric guitar work rings out over the acoustic base, while during the numbers closing moments, the group vocals collide against a full-on, electric melodic rocker, where Picco’s soloing is top notch. It may never gain the accolades of Poison’s Every Rose Has It’s Thorn’ or Mötley Crüe’s ‘Home Sweet Home’, but this track certainly deserves to find a home among cult classics like Tuff’s ‘I Hate Kissing You Goodbye’.
I must confess, when I saw the band name and album art, I expected leather-trousered 80s metal played in a tired fashion with nothing much to recommend it. I take it back. While my album collection contains a whole bunch of albums which sound not unlike this – mostly purchased between 1987-92 – Hell In The Club deliver almost as well as those heroes and inspirations. If the sound of the late 80s LA scene still does it for you, then hopefully, most of this album should really hit the spot.