Volbeat - Guitar gangsters & cadillac blood 3.5/5

Reviewed: 2-6-09


1. Intro (End of the road)
2. Guitar gangsters & cadillac blood
3. Back to prom
4. Mary Ann's place
5. Hallelujah goat
6. Maybellenne I Hofteholder
7. We
8. Still counting
9. Light a way
10. Wild rover of hell
11. I'm so lonesome I could cry
12. A broken man and the dawn
13. Find that soul
14. Making believe

Maybe no self-respecting true metaller would be caught dead listening to Volbeat. After all, they all have short hair. They sell CDs by the truckload in parts of Europe, and even enjoy (gulp) commercial radio play in certain quarters. And a fairly convincing argument could be spun that this Danish quartet owes more to Elvis Presley, rockabilly, punk, the Stray Cats, and old-time rock'n'roll than to the heavy metal thunder we all hold so dear. But sometimes in life one must take risks in order to reap rewards. In the words of Mel Gibson's character in 'The Patriot' when giving his children last-minute advice on how to shoot those accursed Redcoats: "Aim small, miss small." It is in that same bold spirit that I present you, the denim'n'leather clad faithful, with this Volbeat review, knowing full well that I court derision for featuring such a "mainstream" act.

Describing Volbeat's style is a challenging enterprise because they have a highly original sound that borrows from an eclectic brew of familiar influences. I would argue quite forcefully that the core of Volbeat's music is absolutely crunchy, energetic heavy metal. The guitars are thick, meaty, heavy, and at the forefront of the mix. Frankly, many of the riffs seem to owe a debt of gratitude to vintage Metallica. The adrenaline-powered rhythm section pounds away like a sledgehammer, with often speedy tempos keeping the undercarriage of this beast lurching forward. Most of the songs are fully capable of inducing fits of headbanging and hornthrowing. But then things get tricky. Michael Paulson delivers powerful, impassioned vocals than can best be described as a hybrid of Life of Agony's Keith Caputo, Glenn Danzig, James Hetfield, and an Elvis impersonator. He sounds fantastic and more confident here than he has in the past.

In terms of melodies and arrangements, I hear everything from the aforementioned Metallica to Irish genre-benders Therapy? to under-rated Orange County punk-rockers The Offspring to Johnny Cash to Chuck Berry. It's a difficult style to encapsulate in a few words, and the songs on 'Guitar gangsters & cadillac blood' defy easy categorization. You've got full-bore metal hammers like the unapologetic thrasher "The wild rover of hell" and "Hallelujah goat". You've got addictive, rock radio-friendly tunes like "Mary Ann's place" and "Maybellene I Hofteholder". You've got a touching ballad, "Light a way". And you've got a semi-cover of a Hank Williams song, plus a full-blown Social Distortion cover. Every song is concise, punchy, and laden with hooks galore. Lyrical subject matter is rooted firmly in the seedy, seamy side of life: you know, bars, nightclubs, go-go dancers, gangsters, stale nicotine, and gallons of cheap beer and rotgut whiskey. Cool stuff, and a nice change of pace from the usual wizards and dragons and leprechauns and warriors and iron and steel imagery that pervades our genre.

The real rub is this: Without a doubt, Volbeat have vast potential for crossover appeal. When it all comes down to it, we underground metalheads are an elitist bunch. We don't want to share our music with the uninitiated sheep. We feel betrayed when "our bands" experience mainstream success. Cough*Dragonforce*cough. Although Volbeat have a great deal to offer to discerning metal maniacs worldwide, it is no stretch to see them appealing to the casual music fan who listens contentedly to whatever flavor of the week is being jammed down his throat by corporate rock radio. That reality may be a bitter pill for those of us who aren't accustomed to sharing our music with the unwashed proletariat. It will undoubtedly cause many in the metal world to reject and disavow Volbeat outright. But that would be a shame and a huge mistake. 'Guitar gangsters & cadillac blood' is a refreshing, simple, rollicking good time that's chock full of great songs. It deserves to be heard. It has enough power and punch to satisfy even the most ardent card-carrying true metaller, if only he'll give it a chance. Will you?




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