For those of a certain age, it came as a surprise when Nicke Andersson, drummer for Swedish death and roll band Entombed stepped away to form sleaze rock garage ensemble The Hellacopters with guitarist Dregen, co-founder of Backyard Babies. But in the sometimes-optimistic melting pot of the 90s, the freshly minted band would go on to carve out a path that saw them named alongside The Hives as one of the most important Swedish rock bands of the era.
Between 1994 and their hiatus in 2008, the band would produce seven albums of high octane, punk-influenced rock and roll, placing them alongside bands like the UK’s The Wildhearts, and at the forefront of a movement that harked back to the rich legacy of The Rolling Stones, MC5s, New York Dolls, the Ramones and Motörhead.
Having reunited in 2016 to play a few shows for the 20th Anniversary of their debut album Supershitty To The Max!, they have bothered the festival circuit ever since, then last year it was finally announced they’d inked a deal with German record label of excellence Nuclear Blast ahead of their eighth collection of balls to the wall, good time music to soothe the savage beast.
The resulting ten tracks prove that time has not dulled their sharp wit, nor robbed them of their vitality as Eyes Of Oblivion is a timely reminder of just what we’ve all been missing from this unstoppable five-piece.
Lighting the touch paper with the blistering catchy Reap A Hurricane, they waste no time in reintroducing themselves. Rich blues rock, squealing guitars, and pumping drumming urgently ushers in the new era, Andersson’s whiskey-soaked vocals passionately drawing you in. In less than a minute, they hit you with the song’s massive chorus, instantly singable and a certified earworm as each member gets their moment to shine. Anders Lindström’s keys provide more hooks on top of a track chock full of standout moments. Gone in just over three minutes and if you make it past this track with just the one play, you’re in possession of a stronger will than me; it’s perfectly acceptable to be flailing around an empty room air guitaring at 43 years of age I’ll have you know.
The remaining nine offerings zip past in a blur, all subscribing to Andersson’s assertion that all of their songs are ‘three chords and a chorus’, understating and doing themselves a massive disservice at the same time.
Bombastic, and unapologetically fun, the entire band are on point…
So Sorry I Could Die is a swinging swagger that recalls the best parts of Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion with its impassioned blues and lurching choruses. The vocals feel like they have a touch of an eighties era W.A.S.P Blackie Lawless rasp, and the title track, Eyes Of Oblivion, is up-tempo, full of energy with over the top, yet phenomenal lines like ‘I’ve got to get movin’, with my groovy aviators, they will be my guide, yes they will…’. And of course, it features a chorus that some bands would sacrifice their entire output just to write.
Elsewhere the highlights just keep on coming; for a band whose studio releases have been dormant for nearly a decade and a half, they clearly had energy to burn, serving up hit after hit so that it gets hard to decide whether it’s the ludicrous lyrics of A Plow And A Doctor, the uplifting and harmonic pounding drive of Positively Not Knowing, the hand clapping, foot stomping Beguiled, or even the gang chorus of Try Me Tonight are your new favourite moments.
Bombastic, and unapologetically fun, the entire band are on point. Dregan, long recognised as a fret botherer of extreme talent, dances all over every single track with dazzling guitar solos and literally blisters the faster tracks with his pyrotechnics. At times it’s a breathless rush of adrenaline, wrapped up in a joyous celebration of everything that is simultaneously clichéd and revered in rock and roll, delivered with a self-aware nodding wink that says The Hellacopters know exactly what they’re doing, and absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
If I have one complaint about this album, it’s the meagre 34-minute run time. After 14 years I want more damnit! I want this mainlined into my eyeballs and the hit to last and last. Alternatively, I should just be thankful it exists at all and put the album on again.
Look, I know that the world seems like a (super) shitty place right now; after two years of a global pandemic we’re faced with an energy crisis, rapidly rising cost of living, friggin’ World War III is apparently around the corner so there is plenty of reason to be stressed and afraid… but for the sake of your own sanity, to keep a little piece of your soul alive, I urge you to step away from your chosen fear broadcaster of choice, put down the Twitter machine, step off of Zuckerberg’s hate mill, draw down the blinds, turn up the stereo and party like there’s no tomorrow.
The Hellacopters are back, and they have just given us the soundtrack to being truly free.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden