Hellsongs’ version of the Metallica song, “Seek and Destroy”
is almost comically unlike the original, sprightly where the Kill “Em All juggernaut is brutal,
substituting playful fillips on a grand piano for Kirk Hammett’s alarm-siren
guitar riffs and masses of lush chamber orchestra strings for the chugging
turmoil of gear-grinding bass. Welcome
to Gothenburg’s lite FM re-imagination of heavy metal’s most bruising hits – from
bands like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath — all de-amplified, de-amphetaminized and
de-constructed into songs your mom might hum along to in the break between NPR
This CD documents a night’s live performance where core
Hellsongs members brought in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra to help. So
there’s a swell of cello bowing under the chorus to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not
Going to Take It”, a plaintive oboe wandering through Ozzy Osbourne’s “I Just
Want You.” It’s too tongue-in-cheek to be the muzak it sounds like, but it is
definitely not metal anymore, either.
What Hellsongs does best is to uncover the melody and
structure under some of rock’s most boisterous songs. Who knew that Sabbath’s
“War Pigs” even had a tune, let alone the contrapuntal complexities that
Hellsongs find in it? Where did the breathless optimism,
the first-day-of-summer anticipation in Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” come from?
A nihilist anthem, an inevitable soundtrack
for all kinds of destructive behavior, turns downright positive in this string
and flute and piano loaded reinterpretation. Even Alice’s tongue-clotted “I can’t even think of
a word that rhymes” line sounds less like stupidity, more enthusiasm rushing
ahead of articulation here.
Scandinavians seem to have a penchant for softening and
prettifying metal tunes, and, to my mind, the standard is still Susanna and the
Magical Orchestra’s haunting cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top.” Hellsongs
works similar magic on Iron Maiden’s “Run for the Hills,” finding the
melancholy, melodic core of an abrasive song. I could do without the too-peppy
swing of “Skeletons of Society,” though, or smile-y, overbright shuffle of
Hellsongs’ take on TNT’s “10000 Lovers (in One).” It’s probably enough to turn these songs into
soft rock. No one wants to hear them performed by Up with People.
for the Hills,” “Seek and Destroy” JENNIFER