What a pleasant surprise it was to stumble across Twitter this past week and see that Hellfire Club, the sixth album from German power metallers Edguy, had been recommended to one of our fellow metal bloggers for #MWE. Almost instantly, I flashed back to my high school years, when one weekend, I stumbled across the album while aimlessly perusing the metal section at my local FYE. I bought it sight unseen (sound unheard?) and completely fell in love. Even today, it’s one of the rare power metal albums from a band not-named Blind Guardian that I can still go back and listen to whenever. Let’s go back and take a look at exactly why that is, shall we?
Released in 2004, Hellfire Club is really the last true “power metal” album Edguy put out; its follow-up, Rocket Ride put them pretty firmly in “hard rock” territory, where they’ve more or less remained ever since. And there are flashes of that then-impending transition here, too. Consider the lead single, “King of Fools,” a mid-tempo ‘banger with a gang-vocal chorus and a keyboard melody that wouldn’t feel out of place on a dance record. Then there’s “Lavatory Love Machine,” which…okay, first off: yes, the band actually did write a song called “Lavatory Love Machine.” But here’s the thing…title aside, the thing really works! It’s a catchy, pop-metal tune that never takes itself too seriously. (How could it?)
That’s actually what works so well about Edguy: in a subgenre that often feels a bit too self-important for its own good given the cheese its practitioners peddle, it seems like Edguy really just couldn’t give a fuck. On Hellfire Club, they’re really just having fun—and as a result, it’s hard not to enjoy as a listener.
But don’t be misled; the album does cover its fair share of traditional power metal sounds, too. The band admittedly takes something of a risk early on, placing the ten-minute epic, “The Piper Never Dies,” as just the album’s second song. But fortunately, the song stands up quite well, with a thumping bass line, some absolutely infectious vocal refrains from Tobias Sammet, and a terrific combined performance from guitarists Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer. It’s the kind of thing HammerFall have been trying (and failing) to pull off since Legacy of Kings. But Hellfire Club‘s best moment might be the centerpiece, “Under the Moon”—easily the album’s riffiest, most aggressive track. Try listening to thing chug along at 150 mph and not getting pumped up. I’m not sure it’s possible to resist.
Some songs here do end up working better than others, though. “We Don’t Need A Hero” feels like it’s almost trying too hard—again, because power metal—but never really takes off. And while the pace-changing ballad, “Forever,” works well enough in the middle of the album, its closing counterpart, “The Spirit Will Remain,” does not. At all. It sucks away all of the momentum that the album had been building up and kind of leaves you scratching your head. It’s a strange inclusion, particularly when a song like “Children of Steel“—which could easily have made a case for one of the two or three best songs on this album—got relegated to bonus track-status.
In the end, these are small gripes, though. Hellfire Club is a tremendously entertaining listen, and one I still enjoy circling back to even almost 11 years later. I won’t delay your exposure any further; give it a listen for yourselves and enjoy!
Keep it heavy,