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The Hellacopters By The Grace Of God

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Thursday, November 14, 2002 @ 3:11 PM


(Universal)

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Once again Sweden's mighty Hellacopters have unleashed a potent Molotov cocktail of rock n roll in the form of a new album just oozing with riffs, power and energy. By The Grace Of God is their fifth official album (not counting the endless amount of reissues, singles, compilation, live stuff, etc) and these boys just keep getting' better and better.

Lead by former Entombed drummer Nicke Andersson, now over on guitar/lead vocal duties, the 'Copters play balls to the wall, full tilt boogie woogie rawk that borrows as much from the songbook of classic heavy metal as it does '70s proto-punk. Whereas one coulda easily classified them as "garage rock" upon hearing their first two efforts, or KISS wannabes upon hearing their Sub Pop debut, they have now grown into a full-fledged hard rock outfit capable of shifting gear and style with ease, jamming as long as they want or keeping it short and sweet, writing song after song that keeps the rock n' roll torch burning brightly.

From the monstrous opening title track to the closing salvo, "Pride," By The Grace Of God finds the 'Copters tearing pages from great albums past. Touches of Humble Pie slide into dashes of Skynyrd while the MC5 and Stooges are quoted in the backbeat and an Ace Frehley touch dominates the guitar sound. "Down On Free Street" finds the boys soaking up their Detroit influences and embracing the roots rock sound of early Bob Seger or their hero Scott Morgan. "Carry Me Home" and "On Time" sound closer to the style of their rootsy, soulful High Visibility effort, while "All new Low" and "Better Than You" capture the essence of their earlier, rawer work (BUY Payin' The Dues NOW if you don't own it already!!!!!!!!!!!!). On "It's Good But It Just Ain't Right" the boys lament over the return of their heroes who are older and wiser but not necessarily better. Are they referring to the onslaught of reunions these days? Are they referring to anyone specific? Does the line about Helsinki indicate that they may be taking a swipe at sort-of-reunited Finnish glamsters Hanoi Rocks, with whom they shared the stage with at many a-festival this past summer? Who knows…

The real highlight here though is the epic track "The Exorcist," a blazing fast, hard driving, hard riffing number that could almost be off a Megadeth album, with it's venomous lyrics about being overtaken by Satan, jagged guitar lines and intricate arrangement. It's the darkest tune here and is clearly the oddball in an otherwise peppy, upbeat collection, but it shows that these Swedes are ready, willing and able to take chances and that can only be a good thing.

Musically, the band is in top form through this affair, with lead guitarist Robert "Strings" Dahlqvist in particularly fine form. His tasty work on "U.Y.I.S." and ""All I've Got" recalls old school guitar heroes such as Sir Joseph Perry or former Black Crowes shredder Marc Ford but with a modern day attack all his own. Nicke is singing better and better with each album, Boba Fett's piano playing is always a welcome addition to the guitar-heavy sound, and I'll damned if bassist Kenny and drummer Robery haven't developed into one of the shit-kickinest rhythm sections around. All in all, a real motherfucker.

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