Review Summary: Volbeat delivers their most consistent album to date, which is potentially the Rock Album of the Year.
When it comes to the ability to rock hard, and by hard, we’re talking the kind that immediately sprouts extra chest hairs and the irrepressible urge to reach for a bottle of Jack and throw your fists to the sky, Volbeat never had a problem. As a matter of fact, over the course of their first three albums, Volbeat wrote a blueprint for massively energetic, manly rock bursting with an almost over-the-top capacity for surging adrenaline. Someone once described Volbeat as the result of Metallica, Clutch, Elvis, Danzig, and Johnny Cash having a disgusting gang bang with a willing groupie. In the most simplistic terms, Volbeat are a Danish metal band. More complex, Volbeat is a metal band that blends the finest elements of the aforementioned dignitaries, blending rockabilly influence with soaring choruses and chuga-chuga riffs that introduce a giant b*tch slap to the majority of metalcore bands alive. The problem, if they had one in the first place, was Volbeat had a tendency to revel in inconsistency. They had hooks, and those hooks were massive enough to snare any name-your-clichéd large animal, yet they occasionally missed their mark when cast out by surging guitars and rapid fire vocals. In other words, Volbeat’s first three albums are awesome, yet are mired by a nagging capacity for occasional filler. “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” solves this problem. As in solves it big time, in an unquestionable, climatic fashion, born through the fires of exceptional songwriting.
“Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” finds Volbeat sharpening their songwriting chops to the tune of there isn’t a single dud on the album. The sound is unmistakably Volbeat, although the METAL aspect has been sacrificed slightly for their ever-growing pop sensibilities, something that could have been catastrophic had it been done incorrectly. Fortunately, “Beyond Hell” is so righteously infectious and executed with laser-focused precision that the nagging metal purist will be quickly jettisoned by the unending flow of massive choruses, anthemic overtones, and positively soaring atmospheres. “Fallen” is the type of song that can and should break Volbeat into the limelight. Moreover, it’s the type of song that should allow them to own it for a solid month. “Heaven Nor Hell,” “Who They Are,” “Seven Shots,” “Thanks,” and “The Mirror and the Ripper” are amongst the greatest songs they’ve written. It would be fruitless to describe the massive fist pumping energy permeating each track; they are all solid and could all conceivably be a single, save “Evelyn,” which provides the most metal cred with Barney from Napalm Death supplying death growls in the verses, only to be overshadowed by yet another lifting melodic chorus. If Volbeat had a previous issue with miring their exceptional work with skip worthy clunkers, Michael Paulsen’s stint at the “how to be a consistently awesome songwriter” clinic has paid off tremendously. Maybe its maturity, maybe its growth, hell, maybe they were saving these up for an epic assault on the commercial metal airwaves, but regardless Volbeat this time around is delivering the goods in waves.
It seems Volbeat are aiming for a bigger stage on “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven,” and if greater notoriety is the intention it would be an unmitigated travesty if not fully realized. After riding their natural tendency to deliver face caving rock over the years, Volbeat has finally achieved the summit of rock nirvana. The ability to rock hard as only they can has finally collided with overwhelming consistency. When one bumps Volbeat, fists will automatically be aimed at the sky. The difference is when “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” is the soundtrack, they will never come down to take a break.