Imitation, it is often said, is the sincerest form of flattery. In the musical medium there is a fine line between being influenced by the sound of a group and blatantly aping another band; however, that is often more of an issue with similarity between songs than it is with a general genre. It does stand to reason, though, that if you enjoy the sound of one group you would concurrently appreciate their acolytes.
Every trailblazing band on the planet will cause subsequent groups to be accused of stealing their soul to an extent. For every Pearl Jam there will be a Stone Temple Pilots or Creed who suffer the slings and arrows of being labelled coat-tail riders, regardless of whether they truly bear any similarity sonically to the preceding group.
In my mind if you, as a performer, are actually adept enough to warrant a comparison to another group or artist more often than not it’s flattering. It can also be a source of great pride if someone nails an influence you may not believe is obvious in your art.
Now on to the meat of the matter. When I first encountered Jon Watkins in my travels as a performer I was impressed by his voice and songwriting. His solo acoustic compositions are melodic and drifting, and he can from moment to moment channel a Daniel Johns-y vibe vocally. I enjoyed that immensely. Thus, when I heard he was taking the reins as the lead vocalist of the Phoenix-based band Hellfire Club (Guitarists Jason Hallack and Danny Pierce, bassist Damien Voita and drummer Ryan Mabee round out the roster) I was expecting something in the vein of Silverchair to meet me at my speakers. I was both shocked and enthralled by what my headphones emitted.
Hellfire, upon first listen, sounds so tonally similar to a post-Stone Sour era Slipknot that I was blasted back in my seat. Very few groups can produce that sort of energy with material that is also melodic, hook driven and not overrun with masturbatory guitar licks. That’s certainly not to say Hellfire Club is not technically proficient: their riffs are heavy, aggressive and kinetic without sacrificing the spirit or fluidity of their songs. Every element serves the melody, and there is a dynamic to their tunes– something which often eludes high-octane rockers because they tend to start at point A and simply try to maintain it through the track.
The band lists Alexisonfire, Foo Fighters and Every Time I Die as influences, and elements are certainly present from each in the group’s sound. While mimicry is certainly not the band’s intention, they have definitely managed to channel the spirit of Corey Taylor’s flying circus to an extent, and this will certainly endear them to a number of listeners just on proximity alone. However, their material is substantial enough to keep the fans there beyond the gimmick of similarity. Tune in and see what I mean…