Volbeat’s latest album ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’. It starts soft, the first song being only a minute and a half long, but it sets the bar for things to come, with harmonicas, strings and drums battling it out before coming to a close. Then comes the recognisable tones of Michael Poulson’s vocals bursting in, belting out syllables with a harsh “ah!”.
Newest Volbeat member Rob Caggiano, formerly of Anthrax, seems to be using each song as a means of proving his worth, and it works. Subtle riffs and chords are sewn through each song, constantly changing with the tone of the album. Poulson’s voice is incredibly listenable and diverse; imagine if James Hetfield and Tom Araya took singing lessons and did a duet, then you’re sort of on the right track. The songs are relatively short, but each is a journey within itself; changing and evolving, keeping things interesting, shunning repetition.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise when a song heads into heavier territory. Riffs become darker with steady, thrash-inspired rhythms, don’t be surprised if you start air drumming or beating every surface nearby. ‘Room 24’ is such a tune, with things getting slower and darker, verging on the scary. Definite thrash territory. On the other side of the spectrum, ‘Lola Montez’ is a much more romantic rock effort, something you’d play to your crush out their bedroom window, with a catchy chorus and a pop-punk vibe.
‘Black Bart’ (possible relation to Betty) has all the tropes of a classic metal song: guitars a-plenty, rhythm and lead doing beautiful things together, and a lovely growl at the end of each verse. ‘Lonesome Rider’, on the other hand, is so rockabilly you’ll have to control yourself from slapping your thigh and headbanging; think Johnny Cash, if he turned his mic up. ‘Doc Holliday’ holds its roots in harder-edged thrash, making a welcome change, with guitars driving the song for once. Expect impressive solos and a bit of banjo, because why not? By all means, ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’ is a brave album; it’s trying to a do a lot with each track, but it achieves its ambition. Volbeat aren’t trying to appeal to one select group, they’re branching out to every genre they can, and they’re nailing each one on the head.