By The Grace Of God
Universal Music, 2002
REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/09/2003
Rather, one keynote from this album was all it took for me to realize that this Stockholm, Sweden-based quintet are serious about taking their act to lands far, far away from the humble origins that spawned their 1995 Supershitty To The Max debut.
With a deft keystroke of the electric piano, followed by a battery of seven similar notes, Boba Fett (Anders Lindstrom) launches the band's fifth full-length studio album, By the Grace of God, into the upward-spiraling title track. Fancy that for a band that only seven years prior had relied on the grit and brawn of menacing vocal scowls and a distorted twin-axe attack to stamp their arrival as the forefathers of the Scandinavian revivalist rock n' roll explosion. The year 2002 would find the grown-up and more mature Hellacopters setting their sights set on commanding a journey to the top of Europe's rock n' roll music charts.
For those familiar with the refined groundwork that the band's previous release ( High Visibility) laid down, it should come as no shock that head Hellacopter Nicke Andersson guides the band through 13 similarly slick studio selections with his lead vocal and guitar playing. Aided by Boba Fett's unique keyboard solo on the opening title track, the band succeeds in hooking the listener into their fold with a chanting chorus and traditional dual-guitar solo sound. It's probably the best track on the album and truthfully, showcasing Boba's work at the beginning of the song makes it all the more notable.
As talented as the sum of the Hellacopters parts have always been in performing their material (including on this album), few will deny that one of the band's trademarks is their ability to make their songs sound as if they came from the same mold. The grit and brawn of the earlier Hellacopters releases meant that their trademark sound rarely created an issue in differentiating the tracks on the band's albums. The rougher edges of production give those tracks identity. However, now that I've listened to By the Grace of God some 15-20 times, I'll freely admit that I still have to check the back jacket of the album to see what song it is I'm listening to. Most of the songs on By the Grace of God suffer as a result of not creating any lasting identity of their own.
One track that does attempt to stand out is "It's Good But It Just Ain't Right." The song sounds very much like the beginning of the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers track "Runnin' Down a Dream" in a slightly more atmospheric way. The tempo of the song quickly picks up and reaches a galloping speed that is more reminiscent of the material off the band's third album, Grande Rock, than most of their more recent material.
"All I've Got" is one of two songs not lyrically penned by Andersson, but rather by bassist Kenny Hakansson and guitarist Robert Dahlqvist. It's a song that gets Andersson onto a different vocal pace and pitch from most of the other tracks on the album and ends up being an upbeat little number with a catchy bass line.
From rock n' roll to rock n' soul, the new age Hellacopters deliver a very accessible album with By the Grace of God. In fact, they have already charted gold in Sweden with the album, a testament to the fact that the album has plenty of high moments. But for me, being an ardent Hellacopters listener all the way through their catalog, I'll just say that the album is a little too sterile for my tastes.