Hellspray | Part of the Solution

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer

Long famous for meatballs, blonde porn, and ABBA albums, Sweden has begun exporting a lot of stunningly good melodic hard rock and hair metal the last several years and we thank them for it by cranking up our Crashdiet, Hardcore Superstar, and Crazy Lixx CDs on a regular (daily) basis. So that takes care of the hairspray metal…but what about the heavy metal? Can the Swedes serve the slam-fisted headbangers as well as they did the mousse abuse mavericks? Do they have the moxie to maneuver in the mosh pit as masterfully as they did the melodious?

With a new vocalist on board and a much bigger set of balls than they exhibited on their debut, the Swedish band Hellspray is here to tackle those questions with Part of the Solution, their sophomore album on Perris Records. The serviceable melodic hard rock of their first album has vanished, replaced by…well, serviceable heavy metal.

And therein lies the Achille’s Heel of Hellspray. They play mostly straight up metal mixed with hard rock chops and they play it competently, but rarely do the songs rise up from the rut of mediocrity and make you really pay attention. If you strolled into a room and this album is playing in the background, you won’t cover your ears and scream in pain as if someone just jammed an icepick into your eardrums, but neither will you demand to know the name of the band so you can snag yourself a copy. In other words, Hellspray is more opening act than headliner.

Hellspray’s helping of heavy metal is basically thick, meaty riffs overlaid by melodic guitar leads with plenty of room for some string-scorching solos. A few modern concessions creep in here and there—for example, the production has that modern beefy sound to it and there are some death-style backing growls on “Count Your Blessings”—but for the most part this cleaves close to the old-school category, having more in common with Saxon or Iron Maiden than, say, Trivium or Lamb of God.

The band’s flaws cannot be laid at the feet—or more correctly, the vocal chords—of new singer Anders Moberg, who brings plenty of Bruce Dickinsonian attitude to the arsenal. No, Hellspray’s primary weakness centers around a lack of memorable songs; their hooks and choruses need to be honed to a sharper level. Not sharp in a commercial sense—this kind of retro metal need not strive for pop accessibility—but sharp in a metal way. Take Metallica for instance; “Master of Puppets” is far from mainstream, but the song definitely sticks with you.

Hellspray need to learn this lesson like a bad puppy getting its ass whipped for pissing on the carpet and they come close on several songs. “Mind Over Matter,” for example, is not only one of the heaviest tracks on the album but also features a big, fat hook in the chorus that is not in the least bit commercial but still leaves its mark. Hellspray needs more songs like this and should remember that a metal band cannot live on riffs and attitude alone.

Hellspray will not revolutionize the heavy metal genre nor even inject it with fresh blood, as their overall sound is just too banal and recycled. There are too few gems (“Favorite Game,” “Morphine”), too many fillers (“Free Fall,” “Pandemonium”), and one outright dud (“Filling the Void”) to make this worth the attention of most headbangers. There is potential here, but it has not yet been fully realized. The heavy metal scene may have its fair share of problems, but Hellspray will not be part of the solution.

Genre: Hard Rock / Metal

Anders Moberg (vocals)
Janusz Fursa (guitars)
Mattias Rydell (guitars)
Nilo Kovacic (bass)
Johan Hall (drums)

Track Listing
1. Spineless
2. Artificial Love
3. Count Your Blessings
4. Mr. Hyde
5. Free Fall
6. Mind Over Matter
7. Filling the Void
8. Favorite Game
9. Pandemonium
10. Morphine


Label: Perris Records

Hardrock Haven rating: 6.7/10

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