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So Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood holds a special place in my heart. Call me lame all you want, but this story is a requirement. It was a warm April in the desert and I remember picking up the new Volbeat album – yes, this one – on the way home. I put it in the player and began spinning it. Instantly, I was digging it; a truly perfect continuation of Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil. By the time the incredible (and very orchestral) “Light A Way” ended, my wife emerges from the bathroom with the news of our first born conceived and “baking in the oven”. Now that he is here and much older than he was, it’s only fitting that the very heavy – and slightly obnoxious – “Wild Rover of Hell” was the song that followed the exciting news of that day. But all sappy stories and lousy parenting jokes aside, Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood was instrumental in the development of the Volbeat world that would be present on every album that followed; however, they were never able to touch upon the detail and strength of that world the same way until the incredible Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies was released. And believe it or not, that album also has a story regarding my second born child. But that’s for another time.
As I stated before, Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood was an inevitable follow-up to the great Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil. However, it’s only “inevitable” if it is done right. While I prefer the straightforwardness of their sophomore album, Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood was done right and expanded their sound and lyrical content beyond what could have been another heavy, groovy, Social Distortion-meets-Johnny Cash-meets-Elvis Presley metal album. Opening up with a steel-guitar driven instrumental, followed by some head-first diving right into the solid (and highly important, story developing) “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood”, we are immediately steered into the clap-happy, 1950s bebop masterpiece that is “Back to Prom” – shoved in there for some fun but short enough not to overstay its welcome. The pace slows down for “Mary Ann’s Place”, which shows off a new Volbeat ballad (female vocals and all) before exploding into the heavy, groovy “Hallelujah Goat”, a song very reminiscent of “Sad Man’s Tongue”, found on the previous album.
After “We”, the album has a “halfway point” feeling to it that is perfect for a the vinyl copy; however, with few exceptions: the hooky-as-hell “Still Counting”, the melodic and epic “Light A Way”, and the awesome cover and Debbie-downer, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, the second half of the album slows down quite a bit and rides out the concept. While I wouldn’t call the other tracks “fillers”, there is definitely a feel of regularity and “same ole” when it comes to tracks like “Maybellenne i Hofteholder”, “A Broken Man and the Dawn”, and “Find That Soul”. While still “boogie woogie” strong and lyrically important for the story, these tracks don’t have a lasting effect like the others. However, they do assist the lead up to the beautiful closer, “Making Believe”, which sports the classic with a faster tempo and a punkier feel. This is a great way to end the album and introduce a furthering style that is reminiscent of the newest Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies.
With a few misses and an album length that would have been better with a couple tracks removed, the overall strength of the album and songs is substantial. While I prefer the sophomore album (as I have mentioned before), this is a great experiment by the band to expand and evolve. An experiment that was not only successful but created a new style and direction for the band that will forever make them pioneers and immortal in their world of metal.
Volbeat’s first two albums managed to mix heavy metal, 80s hard rock, punk, country and rock n roll into a catchy, heavy groove filled sound that was original and quite memorable. Now, in 2008, the band has released its third album and all levels have been pushed to 11.
Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood is a hard rocking, infectious album that’s been on my playlist now for the last couple of months and it’s still as much fun as it was the first time I heard it. Volbeat’s biggest strength is the voice of Michael Poulsen and the superb vocal melodies he comes up with while sounding like a cross between Elvis Presley, Glen Danzig and James Hetfield. The band also do well in coming up with solid grooves in every single song on this album that just force you to move. Looking at the influences of this band, it should all sound like one big mess but somehow, everything from classic heavy metal to Metallica’s Load to The Misfits and even touches of country, hard rock and rock n roll elements come together to create a great album.
Stand out tracks include album opener Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood with its infectious hand clap led chorus and strong vocal melody, Hallelujah Goat which is just total 80s worship in modern guise, the melodic and sing a long friendly Maybellenne i Hofteholder and the absolute highlight of the album with a terrific vocal melody, heavy thrash groove and all round awesomeness of Still Counting.
On the downside, the album could have done with some editing. The songs are all mostly cheerful and bouncy and that becomes a little tiring by the time the album reaches its conclusion. Having said that, the majority of songs will stick in your head and you’ll be humming these melodies for days on end. I know I was.
Volbeat has already achieved platinum status in Europe and on the strength of Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood it feels like world domination might just be an album away and this is one of the most fun and unpretentious hard rock albums to hit me in a long while.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com