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Well, the title says it all. You may as well just go read my review for their sophomore release, "Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil". Why? Because the style, format, and overall sound is the exact same. Just more songs, and a few other things that can be pointed out about this one. However, that doesn't make it bad, just adds more to the greatness it already with-holds. It's kinda like how John Carpenters "Halloween" is entitled "The Night He Came Home", and it's sequel is titled "More Of The Night He Came Home". That's basically how I look at these two records, the only thing is, I don't think it was really intended.
So, comparing to the last one, it has it's heavy, and more powerful ones such as the title track. It also has its softer ones, such as "We" and "Back To Prom", which uses a general older style sound to it, like the classic rock days. "We" is probably even better than the ballad based songs on the last one, as it's no longer experimentation, just perfection to the core. It's got the same country influence as the previous album, with its twangy sound to some of the guitars, and the fact that it does a Hank Williams cover near the end of it. The guitar work, like the last one, has it's basic hard sound, yet lacking the complex style, and Michael Poulson's vocals, clean and groovy as ever.
So where does this album have any differences then the last one anyways? Well one thing that may stick out is the overall theme. The last one didn't really seem to follow any sort of theme. This one, however seems to include more stories, some including gangsters and old tales. That becomes one of Volbeats most used lyrical patterns. A lot of the songs on here almost seem to stick to that same concept. This album holds another difference. It's the first one to feature a female vocalist, in the song "Mary Ann's Place" which would happen again in their later release, "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies". This one is also one of the ones that I would classify as using their softer, more friendly sound.
The biggest new gem that this record holds is that it was the first album to find any kind of mainstream attention and get a song on the radio. That song is "Still Counting". This album itself did not put them on what I call the mainstream market, but I think it opened peoples eyes a little bit with only that one track. It's a very catchy song with a slow intro that has a steady beat, and one can easily tap their foot to. Then it breaks in to this dark, aggressive, and monstrous riff that continues for about a minute. It's not complex, but damn can you ever jam to it. I remember pulling up in the parking lot at work with that blaring. The looks I got were high in numbers. Then, it simply slows back down, and finishes strongly, and gives way to the last half of the album that would be the last of what I call their "underground days".
Something that needs to be pointed out that others likely notice but never really mention is the album covers. They all use the same exact two colors up until their latest release. The first four are all black, and yellowish, but not a define yellow. One that could also look greenish or gold depending how you look at it. Has nothing to do with the music, but I think that it needed to be mentioned.
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