Echo Lounge, Atlanta • May 9, 1999
They came from the land of the ice and snow, to party like it’s 1979. With a new record ( Grande Rock on Sub Pop) sounding like outtakes from KISS’ first album, the Hellacopters (from Sweden) prove their versatility by playing both kinds of music – rock AND roll. Close your eyes, take a long drink of hard liquor, and try to imagine if Chuck Berry had grown up listening to the Stooges and Mötörhead. That’s the Hellacopters.
I wondered if there was something in Sweden’s water that might explain this time warp. Then I considered whether the sights and sounds of American TV and radio might only now be arriving in their country, twenty years later? Finally, I decided, “who cares?” The Hellacopters kicked my ass and that of a hundred or so sweaty metalheads. Why ask “why?”
The band came on about as subtly as a knitting needle through the eardrum. They’re a five-piece with bass, drums, two guitarists, and a (seemingly out of place) Fender Rhodes, and all the amps are turned up to “11.” With the cool visual effect of their left- and right-handed guitarists trading solos, and pulling out all the crotch-rock moves as if they just thought ‘em up, they stagger and stumble through familiar but fun territory. Equal parts Spinal Tap and Iron Maiden, and song titles like “Paul Stanley,” “Action de Grace,” and “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” kept the crowd moving. And the same folks who lined up at the earplug vending machine earlier in the night were gathered around the merchandise table at the end, snapping up the Hellacopters’ motorpunk graphic T-shirts and posters.
The encore began with the band noodling around with the riffs from “Cat Scratch Fever” and Skynyrd’s “Needle and the Spoon,” then launching into a couple more earsplitters. After the classic ending of guitars shoved against the amps to create a wall of noise and feedback, there was one lone lighter in the back of the room. The band had rocked and rolled all night – they deserved better. ◼