Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 2 Aug 2019
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Somehow I've managed to miss out on the varied joy that is Volbeat, a group from Denmark who have been around since 2001, feature a former key member of Anthrax in their line up and have little interest in playing only one style. Unlike the Roadside Crows album I reviewed yesterday, however, the shifting from one sound to another somehow doesn't remove coherence from the record.
I'll get to my surprising conclusion on that later. First, I'll introduce a few apparently disparate sounds that Volbeat keep returning to, so you can see how this builds.
For a start, there's safe alternative rock. Last Day Under the Sun could be a Bryan Adams song if it didn't have quite so crunchy a guitar tone. Rewind the Exit is perkier than Creed and less funky than the Chili Peppers but is reminiscent of both. Cloud 9 epitomises this approach, being overtly radio friendly with its harmonies and strong beats.
It also features a little rockabilly, the second sound in play. As you might expect, Pelvis on Fire is kind of like a punk rock Elvis holding court over a very different audience to the ones he thrilled in Las Vegas. Sorry Sack o' Bones does the same thing but it has a gimmicky edge, like the melody is taken from an alternate universe TV theme tune.
And then there's groove metal, when they decide they want to be heavier for a while. Cheapside Sloggers introduces this when it goes all doomy and starts into Metallica-style chugging guitars. The Everlasting is a bold red underline to that, easily the heaviest song on the album, with that chugging guitar sound accompanied by a more James Hetfield style vocal style.
That's not quite everything, because there are also tracks like Parasite, an abidingly polite 37 second punk song which cheekily became the first single, and When We Were Kids, which feels Irish, like a Flogging Molly ballad, but with some oddly classical riffage added in for good measure. However, those three styles cover the majority of what's going on here. This is rockabilly and alternative rock and groove metal. You know, because why not?
But here's the kicker... while each of the first few songs only play in one of those styles, as the album runs on they quickly start to merge them until everything surprisingly starts to sound like a safer version of the Michale Graves era of the Misfits, just without the expected associated focus on the schlocky horror sci-fi movies of the fifties. That begins with Die to Live, which is only experimental in the sense that the band decided they wanted to see if they could get a piano, a saxophone and the lead singer of Clutch on the same song.
And, to me, that averaging sound is really odd, but it's also weirdly blah. Like them or not, those first few songs aren't ones that can be ignored. If you like Last Day Under the Sun, you may not like Pelvis on Fire and that's doubled the other way around, but both are excellent examples of what they try to be and they'll both have a lot of fans. By the time we get to later songs such as Maybe I Believe, Leviathan and The Awakening of Bonnie Parker, it's all starting to sound the same and my main focus unintentionally ended up being to miss Doyle's guitars every time.
I didn't go to see Volbeat when they hit Phoenix last week as a supporting act on the Slipknot tour, but I have friends who went. I'll have to ask what they thought of the line-up, which is surprisingly diverse, even if we see Volbeat as just one style. They're clearly not Slipknot, but they're hardly Gojira or Behemoth either and none of those are remotely like any of the others. I'm all for breadth of styles but I do wonder who showed up to see whom on that tour and who was still playing when they left.
Based on this album, I'm intrigued as to what earlier albums sound like and there are six of them out there in the wild. I want to find out where these sounds came from, but sadly a lot more than I want to listen to this again.