Review Summary: What If: Elvis Pressely's mysterious death on the toilet was indeed a myth and he instead flead to Denmark where many years later he formed a melodic thrash band...... What If?
I’m always on the prowl to find bands that continue to mangle the boundaries of metal and create something so insane that I have to give them some serious props. I recently found a metal act from Denmark called Volbeat and they definitely fit the bill. Forming in 2001, Volbeat have currently released two full length albums and have already garnered a lot of critical success from their native country. I came upon this band from reading a review for their second album which led me to read another one and finally check the band out. On the bands myspace, the band cites Napalm Death, Social Distortion, Elvis Presley, Iron Maiden, and Johnny Cash as their creative influences. I was sold instantly. Call it a mixed bag but Volbeat really do manage to incorporate these influences into their own music. Now, I’m not quite familiar with the rockabilly term other than that it’s used to describe a form of music stemming from the 1950’s period. However, Volbeat manage to merge this particular style with heavy metal similar to the likes of Metallica and Pantera.
“Rock the Rebel/ Metal the Devil” is the bands most recent album and quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect after hearing the myspace tracks. Needless to say, the album itself was a journey. Constantly shift shaping from one influence to another all while retaining the traditional heavy metal element. Now, the star of the show is the vocalist Michael and his uncanny ability to merge several different vocal styles into Volbeat‘s guitar driven ruckus. Picture a Danish metal singer with the genetic makeup from Danzig, Sully Erna, Johnny Cash, James Hetfield, and Elvis and you got Michael Poulsen. The thing is, throughout the album you really can hear all of these figures come out in the music. However, this is the make or break for the casual listener. In my opinion, his vocals are great but I’m sure many won’t be able to deal with his voice at first. I understand because I didn’t get it at first either. Fortunately, when not aping others, he displays a voice of his own. Loud, crisp and somewhat reminiscent of grunge, Michaels approach is just as effective. “The Garden’s Tale” is a great example. Technically the lyrics are written and sung in English but due to a heavy Danish accent it’s hard for me at times to understand what he’s saying.
One thing I’m greatly impressed with is the guitar work. I wasn’t expecting this to be heavy but Michael and Thomas pay an ode to their metal roots quite well. “Rock the Rebel/ Metal the Devil “has plenty of mid paced Gothenburg thrash madness, complete with face ripping solos and Pantera esque grooves. Technicality doesn’t mean anything to me if you can’t write a good song and Volbeat do not disappoint. The goal seems to focus on crafting songs to be accessible to the crowd as they are hard hitting. The guitars get particularly interesting when they transcend genres. “Sad Man’s Tongue could mind as well be a rip of a famous Johnny cash song before shifting back to heavy metal. “Radio Girl” has a distinct rockabilly feel to it early on before going all out Social Distortion. Drum work is pretty solid but standard stuff. Nothing in particular needing to be mentioned but Jon holds a steady rhythm through the duration.
Production is pretty solid for the most part. Everything is big and clear as crystal. The vocals shine perfectly and the guitars crunch with massive power. The bass however, is pretty much tuned out on the album. If you can get past all the ridiculous fanfare that I’ve been spewing, it’s actually a pretty solid album. Fans wanting to hear something new and fresh to the metal genre need to look no further. A sense of humor would also be great.