– BY THE GRACE OF GOD
When discussing my
favorite albums of the 2000’s, I don’t
have to go far before thinking of
Hellacopters, who put on an absolute clinic with their 2004 album By the Grace of God. This fantastic
album somehow manages to touch on 30 years of hard rock history while still sounding fresh.
songwriting force in Hellacopters is Nicke
Anderssen, one of the founding members of
Swedish death merchants Entombed before leaving to embrace his 70’s rock n roll obsession in Hellacopters.
(As an aside, Andersson has continued his prolificacy in great bands with his latest side project, retro
death metal band Death Breath, who I also really dig.) The band began its existence with the balls-out
garage rock of their debut CD Supershitty to the Max, evocative of groups like The Sonics, but
over the ensuing 5 releases have mellowed until achieving a hard rock sound as smooth as Woodward Reserve.
Grace of God
opens with the title track, spare piano notes giving way to the ringing
and fall of
the opening riff, and a blistering drum roll to kick things off. While this is definitely what I would consider to
be a guitar-centric album, I have to give props to drummer Robert Eriksson. I’m not sure if it’s simply because
of his electric performance, or due to the fact that songwriter Andersson is also a drummer, but the entire
album posessess a lean forward, a sense of percussive urgency that I just love.
We then bust into All New Low, the main riff sharing Paul Stanley’s guitar tone from Black Diamond, never
failing to bring a smile to my face. This is another real fave of mine, as the song culminates in an uncanny
Hanoi Rocks impression at the close, all guitar crunch and driving piano. This vibe carries on into the next
tune, Down on Free Street, along with some great vocal work from Nicke and some somberly wailing guitar.
There’s a Chuck Berry
intro to Better Than You, another great tune which
hits a riff at the break
of Kiss again, or maybe even Foghat, too cool. Next we find the crystal clear summer-sweet melody of
Carry Me Home, the J. Mascis melancholic strains of Rainy Days Revisited, an Angus Young-channeled
opening riff to U.Y.F.S., and one cool ass wah-ka wah-ka breakdownafter the solo in On Time, which for
some reason reminds of Theme from S.W.A.T.
One of the joys of
this album for me is how each song brings
its own pleasures to the table, pulling together
a delicious combination of tones and influences as could only be accomplished by an absolute fan of the genre.
This historic attention to detail really pays off, as the album displays tremendous variety in style as a result
of these sonic references, yet still unfolds in a way that is delightfully unique, thanks to strong songwriting
and perfect execution. By the Grace of God also shares that hallmark of all great albums: incredible
consistency. It’s a great listen all the way through; I never skip tracks with this one.
wraps up with a succession of driving rockers,
highlighted by the crunchy All I’ve Got,
the suitably creepy Exorcist, and awesome closer Red Light.
In closing, I can’t
recommend this album highly enough. So to
all you Hard Rock fans: Give the Hellacopters
a shot and throw By the Grace of God in the stereo. It’s time to put the top down, hit the road,
and let those guitars rock!