High Visibility

The Hellacopters

Universal Music, 2000


REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow


When hard rock bands noticeably change their sound from one album to another there will always be fans that are quick to criticize the evolution of the new music. Rightfully so, it can be argued, as some of the time this generally marks a sign that a band has lost its way or never was on a track to begin with.

But what if for some strange reason, a fresh new sound and style is uncovered? More importantly, what if the band has yet to break from its "underground" status and reach the masses for true judgment? Would it then really matter?

This is a debate for the ages and I won't begin to even attempt to offer suggestions of right or wrong. Truthfully, I've sided both ways over the years depending on the artist but I'm here to say that in the case of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 High Visibility, the fourth full length studio album by Sweden's leading punk turned hard rock act, The Hellacopters, it is easily their most slickly produced and accessible effort to date. Building off of the album's predecessor, Grande Rock, this album is a showcase for the band's new guitarist Robert Dahlqvist. Nicknamed "Strings," this blonde haired axeman is given the opportunity to throw hook after hook at the audience, building around the lyrics of frontman and rhythm guitarist Nick Royale.

Also, conspicuously present are the backing organs and piano work of Boba Fett. The result is a smoothly calculated and eclectic arrangement of medleys tied in to an anthemic chorus of songs.

With the departure of former lead guitarist Dregen (who left to give his full efforts to his band the Backyard Babies), the new hard rock Hellacopters maintain their ability to keep their songwriting approach "full throttle" in nature as they forge away from their punk roots. The first track from the High Visibility album, "Hopeless Case Of A Kid In Denial" is lyrically tied to the all so common theme of teen angst and rebellion and is a reflection of the in-your-face type song that is associated with past Hellacopters efforts. The following tracks, "Baby Borderline," "Sometimes I Don't Know" and "Toys and Flavors" will bring any avid listener to the brink of personal embarrassment as they attempt to hone their air guitar and vocal techniques.

On the flip side, I will say that after giving this disc several spins, it is easy to marvel at the band's ability to seemingly take the same song and, in this case, record it thirteen different ways. The songs are very good, mind you, it is just that this observation is a likely reflection of the band's rough edges being stripped away during the album's production in favor of the new tighter and polished sound the band is going after.

While it's refreshing that there is a band out there today that remembers how to rock and play their instruments to capacity, it is unfortunate that the sound is far from mainstream. In this world of second rate rap-metal bands controlling the hard rock scene and airwaves, an album like High Visibility is truly a breath of fresh air for listeners longing for sounds reminiscent of the Seventies era style of rock and roll.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2004 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Universal Music, and is used for informational purposes only.