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Volbeat is a commercially successful Danish rock quartet that plays an entertaining mixture of diverse genres such as hard rock, heavy metal and rockabilly. The band has a weakness for American topics and movies. After exploiting gangster novels and movies in the past, this fifth studio record “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies” mostly exploits the fascination for the Far West. Some tracks don’t follow this general guiding line though and the band tries to be as diversified as possible on their fourteen or fifteen new tracks. Despite the addition of former Anthrax guitarist Robert Caggiano, Volbeat overall stays extremely faithful to its original sound and has probably even become more accessible than before with this release.
After the instrumental introduction “Let’s Shake Some Dust” that would easily fit on a country rock album or the score of a modern Western movie, the band kicks the album off with the catchy “Pearl Hart” that represents everything the band stands for. The riffs are powerful but never aggressive, the guitar harmonies are beautiful but not that memorable, the rhythm section with drums and bass guitar is audibly solid yet inoffensive and the charismatic vocals that sound like a mixture of James Hetfield and Elvis Presley are really charming and catchy. The track comes around with good melodies, inspired lyrics that tell a nice tale and a quite solid chorus executed by a band that knows how to get some airplay on rock radio stations. The whole thing comes around in consistent and radio-friendly three and a half minutes. The band’s obvious song writing strengths are also its artistic limits. Most of the songs on here are really nice to listen to but offer nothing truly memorable, profound or touching. They are all pretty much exchangeable. Instead of describing the first real track on the album, I could have chosen “The Nameless One” or “Cape of Our Hero” as well since they have almost the same approach and structure. It’s the kind of record that you could listen to while having some good time with your friends. Those who are listening to rock and metal albums will enjoy some of the few beefier riffs and the guest appearances by famous genre artists like King Diamond while those who enjoy softer rock or pop music will fall for the smooth melodies and catchy vocal lines. From that point of view, this record is a perfect compromise as most people will get something they enjoy from it. The problem is that almost nobody will thoroughly enjoy this whole conformist release.
One of the few more outstanding tracks is obviously the darker and little bit heavier “Room 24” that features King Diamond’s distinctive, occult and theatrical guest vocals that harmonize well with Michael Poulson’s darker, grooving and ingratiating timbre. Still, this song really sounds much closer to a regular Volbeat song than to one of King Diamond’s bleak offerings. The band missed the occasion to break its creative chains and come around with a truly distinctive tune. The song is quite good but definitely nothing more.
The band’s attempt creating a sound inspired by the tales of the Far West works best in the final tracks that end the album on a positive note. “Lonesome Rider” is a nostalgic yet energizing rockabilly song with soulful female guest vocals by Canadian indie rock and psychobilly singer Sarah Blackwood. Still, this catchy, joyful and rhythm orientated track adds nothing new to Volbeat’s typical soundscapes. The epic “Doc Holliday” comes around with casual banjo sounds, cool backing vocals in the chorus and crunching heavy to thrash metal riffs in the verses. This song is already more atmospheric, cinematic and also heavier than most of Volbeat’s tracks. With a harsher production, this track could easily pass as a righteous Metallica tune. Creative album closer “Our Loved Ones” opens around with harp, harmonica and acoustic guitar and slowly unfolds as an epic mid-tempo stomper where you can almost see the lone ranger riding off into the sunset at the end of a movie.
In the end, Volbeat is a talented band with its own distinctive and successful sound. As soon as the band moves out of its usual comfort zone, things start getting truly interesting. The thematic tunes with a slight country touch towards the end of the record are quite epic highlights. These moments aren’t frequent enough to make this record more than an enjoyable above average release. The first two thirds of this album include several songs that sound a little bit too exchangeable and feel like safe writing by numbers single candidates. They fail to add anything fresh to the sound and are lacking a few edges that would make them stand out. Faithful Volbeat supporters can’t go wrong with this record and fans of hard rock tunes about the Far West should also get their hands on this solid release. Those who are looking for some heavier material should look elsewhere and if you want to get a first really good impression of the band, you should rather go for the even more diversified, emotional and gripping “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood”.
I think that most people that are a fan of Volbeat could agree that this album is considered mainstream, especially compared to their older stuff. On my review of the previous album, "Above Heaven/Beyond Hell", I mention how that was the one that somewhat got them recognition and brought them some mainstream attention. That's true, but this one is their most well known and probably had the most radio airplay, especially with the tracks "Lola Montez" and "The Hangman's Body Count". Now, most metal fans would hear the word mainstream and immediately run away from this and take no interest. That's understandable, but I promise you, this is no Avenged Sevenfold or Linkin Park, thus it's mainstream at its most incredible.
To be fair, I certainly wouldn't consider this metal. The only Volbeat album that I would call metal would be their debut release. However this is hard rock at its finest. Let's start off with the singles that I mentioned. "Lola Montez" is beautiful sounding and a great listen if you're in a happy and upbeat mood. The only metal part to it is the guitar riffs (which is pretty common for most modern hard rock), because they have that heavy distortion to them as well as the screechy solos. Every bit of this song is positive and happy sounding, and very melodic to the point where I feel like even people who don't like hard rock could enjoy it. The clean, happy vocals, and the major tone are enough to overlook the hard guitar sound. "The Hangman's Body Count" on the other hand is a different story. This one is a little bit more edgy in the verses, and has the older style, metal driven Volbeat sound. Nonetheless though, it's still very upbeat in a way that can't be overlooked either.
A nice, and very different feature on this is "Lonesome Rider", as it features Sarah Blackwood. It was a shock hearing a female voice on this when I first listened to it, but dammit she really nails it. Her voice and tone fits the music played by the band so well, and when Michael comes back in and sings the chorus, it takes a turn to a more upbeat, happier sound, yet harder as the guitar comes in more as well at that part. It's a masterful duo of art by a male and female with the same vocal style. However what's great is the fact that his voice is higher pitched than hers. Now, there is another musician featured on here which would likely draw tons of metal fans in just by hearing it, contrary to the mainstream sound. That musician is the famous King Diamond, featured on the track "Room 24". When I first heard this, I knew it automatically had that King Diamond feel to it. You may not know what that means, but it had a more dark and ghostly sound to it. Anybody who knows Volbeat at all knows that they never have a dark sound to them, no matter how heavy a song might be. This one has an evil, spooky feel to the riffs, as King Diamonds haunting, high pitched voice overlays on the guitar intro. Then Michael comes in and starts us off, as the King comes in and sings different versus in the less famous yet still known, deeper vocals. Together, as different as they are, these two make a magnificent duo and really shake up this album along with its variety.
"Doc Holliday" has an immediate southern twang to it, as it starts out completely with the banjo. Volbeat is somewhat famous for that, as they pull it off very well. It's not as evident as some might think, but this one is a great example. Some could call it "southern metal" if you will. But don't let that fool you, because very rapidly does it turn into a fast but simple, and distorted guitar riff.
Something that a lot of people try to say about this band in general is that all of their songs sound the same, or at least individually on each album. That argument to me is invalid. Sure, some of them do, but look me in the eye and tell me that Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" doesn't do the same thing, even though that is a work of art in itself. It's OK to use the same style, as long as there is diversity, which this album has. You've got your harsh, almost metal sounding songs like "Dead But Rising", and your softer, more friendly ones such as the cover of "My Body". There's a country twist in one part. It features a female, has some complex guitar work as well as some simple riffs, and features a classic metal vocalist. So I really don't see how one could think they all sound the same. There is not a single flaw on this entire record, and it is wonderful from start to finish.
You know the feeling when you try the new restaurant in town for the first time? You order the steak, probably even the T-bone and its plate is nice, the side dish is decent, a green salad or something healthy like that (if you're on a date, if not, it's of course the fries, you fat slob). The steak looks nice, the exterior has a nice color and its smell is OK but the taste, man, it's way too fat and the inside is way too bloody. There's also an unnecessary amount of melted cheese on it for some unfathomable reason. The chef is experimenting and failing at it. Not everything you decide to mix together can be glorious.
Volbeat is that steak, they're indeed a very original band and I need to give them some credit for their inventive formula. Their artistic approach is not without merits and their intent is noble, well I do think so. Unfortunately, as one of Denmark's most well known bands, they totally missed the opportunity to follow Mercyful Fate into the depths of metal hell (Denner, Shermann and King Diamond are all guests on the record, this reminds me of Metallica Orion's festival, they seem totally disconnected of what metal is in 2013). But why Volbeat missed their boat? Because they fucking suck, that's why.
On their fifth album, the band expands its more than catchy side. They always had these soft songs but I feel it's a bit more prevalent here. It's not necessarily a bad thing since they're not better at being heavy or soft, they're pretty mediocre at both. Volbeat is mixing the alternative era of Metallica with a fair mix of rockabilly, country, blues, pop rock, punk and folk with their usual heavy/groove sound. The amalgamation of genres is simply too much to handle. It doesn't even sound good on paper and it's an awful novelty in its execution.
From sugary FM ballads like “Cape of our Hero” (hell, Chad Kroeger wrote a better song on the Spiderman soundtrack) to lead infused groove (Rob Caggiano, an ex member of Anthrax, he's pretty decent). There's acoustic and clean guitars and all the stuff that can make a good song. I probably wouldn't change the radio channel if I were to find it, but hey I don't listen to the radio because, frankly, it blows. Volbeat is easy, simple and they don't try hard enough. Not as heavy as their early stuff, the band still thinks it's metal enough with tracks like “Room 24” with King Diamond or “Dead But Rising”. The metal ruler of Denmark really destroys Michael Poulsen on this track, well it wasn't quite hard since I think he's a terrible vocalist and the main flaw of their sound.
His pitiful deep southern approach is really grating on my nerves. He kills the band for me since their formula is very vocally focused. His mix of modern day “Yeaaaaah!” James Hetfield and cock charmer Elvis Presley impersonator is like a slap of bad taste on my face. Even though his voice is powerful, his delivery and the sound of his voice annoys me deeply. Nonetheless, he's charismatic and it fits their Americana approach but I wonder how a David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower & Wovenhand) would sound in a metal band. At least he can write decent noir and pulp inspired lyrics but after five albums, the theme is getting a bit redundant. I get it, you like leather jackets, fedoras and you love milkshakes and you go to conventions dressed as James Dean.
While I reckon the band successfully played their cards during their whole career, their flaws are just too important for me to thoroughly enjoy them. Believe me, I tried and I enjoyed Guitar Guitars & Cadillacs Blood back in the day. Quite catchy (well, it's needed since their songwriting is hardly a subtle affair). They seem honest and hardworking but their approach is simply something I can't get behind. Both the form (14 songs, that's just way too much) and the mix of styles that makes the band undeniably cheesy and predictable.
Most of the songs have good parts but they're rarely good all the way through except perhaps the two last tracks, both excellent. I enjoy the beginnings of most tracks like “Black Bart” with its punky overture but the aforementioned vocals ruined the track once again. Many tracks have this western approach like “Lonesome Rider” with a female guest vocalist. It probably would be a hit on CMT if it was advertised enough and honestly, it's not bad. What is bad though is the fact all their sound are not completely combined with each others. You can hear an acoustic intro, some harmonica but then, it changes and they forget their western influences for the rest of the song. Sometimes they remember and play a ten seconds of clean country guitars just to be cool. I'd like to hear a good mix of metal and country since Volbeat can't hardly mix them. I don't quite remember the amount of different influences in their early albums but I have better things to than to go back and listen to them like eating BBQed shrimp and trashing Pabst Blue Ribbon cans.
Some good moments here and there but the vocals are simply too obnoxious to deal with. The band has good solos, sometimes even hints of Megadeth's melodic thrash leads. I just don't care for their music even though it's emotional and catchy. If you already liked Volbeat before, you'll certainly like their latest album even if it's wimpier than their previous releases. They're certainly still terrible and not worth your time. Have you ever met a Volbeat fan? They're as rare as Foo Fighters but for some reasons they're both popular and their albums are gonna be good picks in low price bins.
Metantoine's Magickal Realm
The fact that Volbeat’s first two records were not even available stateside is astonishing considering the impact and media attention a new release garners. For their latest release they hired ex-Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano to co-produce with longtime producer Jacob Hansen. The partnership was so dynamic Caggiano joined the band full time during the sessions. The Danish rockabilly metal titans have just released their fifth full-length record Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies.
Denmark’s Volbeat finally broke through to American audiences with 2008s Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood and 2010s Beyond Hell / Above Heaven. Sporting massive rock radio singles “Fallen”, “Still Counting” and “A Warrior’s Call” and non stop touring have propelled Volbeat to one of the premier metal bands on the scene today. The amazing aspect about Volbeat is despite their propulsion of success they have constantly kept a toe firmly rooted in the underground. For every rock radio song they create, they equally write facemelters that would make any metalhead proud. In truth, the metal community should rally around Volbeat because they are the perfect ambassador to represent what we love and respect so much.
They are one of the few bands that has gained notoriety that isn’t drenched in nu-metal or metalcore. How many bands on rock radio today can boast that the legendary King Diamond & Barney Greenway have made guest appearances on their records? Regardless if their style of music falls into a genre you prefer you have to respect that their hearts are in the right place as their love for metal is undeniable. Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies finds the band at their finest. Drawing on a diverse array of influences that include metal, punk and rockabilly, all sides of Volbeat find their way into the landscape. Vocalist Michael Poulsen is the perfect cross between James Hetfield, Elvis Presley and Mike Ness of Social Distortion.
The band does an excellent job accentuating all of their diverse influences to their extreme. The pop sensibilities of first single “Cape Of Our Hero” and “Lola Montez” showcase the band writing their catchiest melodies to date. The tenderness and emotional delivery of the former and the 80s synth added to the later brings a side to Volbeat that we haven’t seen yet. “Room 24” featuring the infamous King Diamond is the bands heaviest song to date. A mix of Mercyful Fate meets Black Sabbath the singers weave in and out of each other fluently. The King sounds better than ever and shows why he is one of the greatest vocalists to ever live. With their Metallica inspired riffing “Dead But Rising” and “Doc Holliday” punctuate why Volbeat is foremost a metal band.
Another outstanding guest appearance is Sarah Blackwood of Canada’s Walk off the Earth on the rockabilly inspired “Lonesome Rider.” The chorus is one of the most addictive of their career. Also included is a cover of Young the Giants alternative hit “My Body”, which is expertly done as it comes across more as a Volbeat original than a cover. Volbeat have delivered yet again and are quickly compiling a catalog that is as solid as anyone over the last ten years. With the release of Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies there is enough diversity that any music fan can sink their teeth into it. Volbeat should be celebrated as they can bring metal back to the forefront. The band the metal community has been waiting for has been right in front of our eyes the whole time.
- Originally Published at About.Com Heavy Metal
I’ve heard Volbeat‘s name being thrown around for quite some time now, but never really thought of checking them out until a friend brought them up a couple of months back, telling me to check their performance at Wacken 2012 out. Since it was professionally filmed footage of their entire set, I thought “why the hell not?” and got instantly hooked on their groovy yet heavy music.
So here we are with Volbeat‘s new album, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, and I have to say there is not a single moment where I don’t find myself enjoying the stuff that the band has placed on the album. The album Intro quickly gives a quick hint to the band’s country/Southern tendencies, and the acoustic guitars and the harp all give a nice buildup in the album. And as soon as Pearl Hart begins, it is one non-stop groovy journey for the listener, as the familiar and charismatic voice of Michael Poulson (the very thing that attracted me to Volbeat in the first place) comes on the audio.
The stuff that is on Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies see the band further polishing their style, with the big riffs and hooks being extremely radio-friendly, yet maintaining the heaviness and intensity that makes them such a charming act, with songs like Cape of Our Hero. Also, as usual the band has managed to bring in a rather wide range of influences on the album, ranging from the usual country influences, to rock and roll to early Metallica-styled thrash metal, like on the heavy riffs on the intro of Dead but Rising. Along with that there are the also rather subtle displays of technicality, in particular the drumming of Jon who manages to switch styles with complete ease.
There is also a whole host of guest musicians that are present on the album, and perhaps the most prominent one is King Diamond on Room 24, lending his vocals to what is already an excellent album. It is also here where the band displays their ability to write any form of music at all, with the sections with King Diamond‘s vocals being rather suitable for his classic brand of heavy metal, reminding me of my first encounter with Abigail, easily sending chills down my back. Sarah Blackwood’s vocal contributions on Lonesome Rider also adds some nice sex appeal as well, with her vocals being extremely enchanting, and with songs like that on the album, it ensures that one’s ride will never really be lonesome.
If you're familiar with Volbeat already, and like their music, this album is a pleasant addition to an impressive collection. They remain true to their country/western/metal/rock and roll/punk style without much change or improvement (read: they've clearly got their shit together).
If you're not familiar with Volbeat: there's always the classic comparison, "Metallica meets Johnny Cash" but I always took a slightly different approach. With Volbeat, you have a variation among the songs they put out; some are heavy, mostly in the realm of post-Ride the Lightning Metallica. Others are poppier, but hardly generic, rock songs that I think Volbeat are mostly known for; this is where the rock 'n roll and country sounds really come through, often with some heavier elements and ideas and present (although they often don't take center stage). These songs are catchy and bright. Thanks to this variation, listening to this album left me both headbanging and singing along throughout.
The album starts off promising, beginning with a few killer tracks; the opening instrumental (not recommended if you're repulsed by country music in general) sets a neat tone, leading into "Pearl Hart" and "The Nameless One"; both are insanely catchy and are sure to get stuck in your head immediately, although hardly in the realm of metal. Nevertheless, these are more or less two quintessential Volbeat songs in my opinion, and excellent rock songs at that. Other recommendations for songs in the vein that I enjoyed are "Lola Montez", "My Body", and "The Sinner is You"
Moving through the album, we hear the metal elements that qualifies the band to be on this page. In particular, we have a pair of the songs in the middle of the album, "Room 24" and "The Hangman's Body Count" that are an excellent showcase of what the band is capable of. The first is fast and heavy, and features King Diamond's soaring/screeching vocals (I'm usually not partial to King Diamond, but he performed well on this track, complementing both the music and Michael Poulsen's singing). The second one begins with a compelling lead guitar track on top of a western-sounding acoustic progression, breaking into a heavy riff about a minute in. Other songs that are heavier and worth a good listen are "Dead But Rising" and "Doc Holliday" (side note, don't let the banjo intro fool you on this one!).
Nothing is perfect, and as such, the only track I would recommend avoiding is "Lonesome Rider", which features a talented female vocalist. Unfortunately, the song itself doesn't really jive with everything else Volbeat is doing, and sounds more like a crummy indie-folk songs (pardon my redundancy) and is sure to leave any listener knowing to look for a review of this album on a metal forum scratching their head in confusion. All in all, however, this was a solid release with (almost) every track offering something interesting, fun, and really catchy.