Call it post-punk revival, or call it garage rock, but one thing's for certain: The Hellacopters have their bread and butter in high-voltage jams to transcend the trends. Formed in '94 in Stockholm, Sweden, more known for its death metal pedigree, these guys have stuck to their guns and carved their initials on the country's musical export. They know what they're good at, and they've stayed their course for nearly 30 years. That said, it's fair to assume what The Hellacopters' eighth album Eyes of Oblivion has in store. The question becomes whether it's particularly needed in the larger landscape of loud guitar music.
The Hellacopters rode in on eventually impounded when audiences asked, "why do we need more rock that sounds like this?" Whatever throwback appeal that existed for a song like opener "Reap A Hurricane" has long passed on. Its vitality depends entirely on songwriting, which the track has in spades. The riffs sound as natural and electrifying, and Nicke Andersson's voice hits as hard as ever. The following "Can It Wait" achieves a similar effect, with the band transcending generic riffs with some tasteful rhythmic coordination. Every instrument feels necessary to the song's impact.
Where many bands of this nature end up centering on the frontman for than the whole band's input, The Hellacopters display their versatility by following up the bluesy sway and soulful croonings of "So Sorry I Could Die" with the uproarious leads and battle-cry choruses of the title track. The former's more slow-burning vibe gives more credence to Anders Lindström's keyboards and piano chops, while the latter almost comes off like a garage-rock version of the best trad metal. That's honestly the best way to describe the driving percussion and infectious melodies—not too precise for punk, but too gritty for Judas Priest or The Scorpions.
Such a combination might bring Motörhead to mind, and drummer Matz Robert Eriksson's galloping beat certainly starts "A Plow And A Doctor" to that effect. But really, The Hellacopters aren't trying to embody one era of rock or metal music. They pick and choose based on what their arrangements need. The more acoustic bounce and resonated strains of "The Pressure's On" mix quite well with the driving rhythm section, giving Andersson to evolve his hooks naturally with surprisingly dense chord progressions.
The only newcomer in the The Hellacopters at this point is bassist Dolf DeBorst. Everyone else is either a founding member, or been in the band long enough for it to feel that way. Songs like "Positively Not Knowing" display the confidence of a band who still loves making noise together after a few decades, especially the guitar interplay between Andersson and Dregen. They knew exactly when to keep riding a riff, and when to shake things up with a key change or a harmony. Take "Beguiled" for instance, which comes through with a rousing harmonized lead for otherwise straightforward power-pop vibes. These guys know just how to push their songwriting toward metal, while remaining true in their garage roots.
It honestly takes courage to throw the Boston-esque shuffle of "Tin Foil Soldier" into the 2022 musical landscape. The song's ascending guitar licks and jubilant hooks are suitably danceable, even if it's the most obvious retro-core moment on the record. To their credit, The Hellacopters don't sound like they're trying to resurrect classic rock music. Perhaps that's what makes closing cut "Try Me Tonight" easier to get behind than the usual classic rock aesthetic LARPers. It sounds like these guys simply write the music they like, making every performance distinct: from the bombastic piano slides, to the empowered chugs and bass harmonies that close out the record.
As rip-roaring as this album can sound, it's really the small things that make Eyes of Oblivion fun—such as the nuanced speed up in the album's last passage. It harks back to a time before everything became grid-locked… when a band could just play, pushing the time as they feel. The Hellacopters clearly still like what they do, and have the means to do what they like. As long as both are true, a new record from Sweden's finest garage music can't be a bad thing.