REVIEW: Hellacopters: By the Grace of God
The Hellacopters: By the Grace of God [Universal, 2002]
Three words? Bland Swedish meatballs
The Hellacopters look like they mean business. Long hair, leather belts, jean jackets - they've got the whole look going on, and the chops to back it up. Since 1994, The Hellacopters have been belting out Rolling-Stones-meets-Led-Zeppelin rock 'n roll. Aside from four full-lengths, the Hellacopters have numberous seven inches, split releases and compilation appearances on record. By The Grace Of God is their fifth LP proper, their second on a major label, and unfortunately it offers very few surprises.
Let’s not mince words: The Hellacopters aren’t here to make the next OK Computer. There's no doubt these Swedish boys grew up on American classic rock - and it’s rock 'n roll they’re going to play. Unlike their heroes, however, and despite their technical prowess, the Hellacopters can’t write a hook to save their lives. Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix created some of the most instantly catchy, recognizable and goddamn heavy rock 'n roll riffs ever - and those are some mighty footsteps to follow. The Hellacopters come up short.
This is not to say that no one can write great riffs any more. Kurt Cobain, Thurston Moore, Ian Mackaye and Jonny Greenwood have each carried rock guitar a step further - adding dissonance, effects, and even avant garde composition to spin the traditional rock guitar into something more exciting. Hellacopters axe-grinders Nicke Andersson and Robert Dahlqvist can wail with the best of 'em, but the heavy-metal soloing on blues scales has become a tired routine.
By The Grace Of God suffers from two major illnesses. One, major-league production has sucked any and all life from these songs right out of them. The Hellacopters are playing their guts out, but the squeaky clean production leaves raw, dirty guitars shimmering and shiny. Second, By The Grace Of God meanders and feels itself like one long guitar solo. The songs aren’t terribly original, nor memorable, and it isn’t long before the screaming guitars fade into the background.
The Hellacopters offer up a couple of moments worth remembering, particularly the bouncy "All New Low" and the straight-up "Better Than You." Still, they're one of those bands that would probably benefit from a live setting more than anything else. These Swedish bad boys certainly have all the right ingredients for a party - and no doubt they kick ass live - but their botched recipe for a rock 'n roll throwdown leaves the room feeling pathetically empty.