By: Calum Slingerland –
Known for their hard-hitting guitar riffs, tight rhythm section, and a vocal swagger unlike any other, Volbeat are one of the most interesting metal acts to come out of the genre in the last ten years.
With a sound many have come to describe as “Elvis metal,” the Danish quartet has always been known to fuse the heavier style of music with genres such as rockabilly and country in dramatic fashion. On their fifth studio album, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, Volbeatpresents what is perhaps their most ambitious batch of tunes in their catalogue yet, taking a stylistic turn away from their grinding metal roots and instead welcoming some wonderful new influences into the fold.
There are a handful of tracks that lean towards a straight hard rock feel including “Lola Montez”, “Pearl Hart,” and the album’s first single “Cape of Our Hero.” The band even manages to sneak in a cover version of the popular Young the Giant track “My Body,” which serves as a welcome surprise that certainly rocks harder than the original. The rockabilly influence is notable on “Lonesome Rider,” in which lead vocalist Michael Poulsen excels in sharing vocal duties with Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off The Earth. “Doc Holliday” is a rollicking number that takes from Steve Earle’s signature twang. The song sees some serious riffage line up along with some southern-style banjos. The band has largely taken a step back from their more recognizable metal sound to tip their hat to their other influences. The one track that doesn’t follow this rule is “Room 24,” a thrash-laced song featuring the vocal talents of fellow Danish metal master King Diamond and some impressive soloing from ex-Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano.
The impact of Caggiano on lead guitar is immediately felt, bringing his soloing skills to the forefront on many occasions like on tracks such as “The Hangman’s Body Count” and “Doc Holliday,” where he brings the same virtuosity that he brough to Anthrax. This adds an element to Volbeat, which was largely left unexplored on past releases.
Originally brought in to record guest guitar solos, Volbeat tapped Caggiano to become a full-time member, and his addition doesn’t disappoint. Michael Poulsen’s vocals are once again on point, showcasing his powerful and unique vocal tone and range all across the album. His singing is cleaner, and more refined, than anything much of what he’s done before.
At its core, Outlaw Gentleman & Shady Ladies is a hard rock record – and it fits this mould quite admirably. Though all tracks may not inspire listeners to raise their fists and bang their heads, Volbeat has assembled a very enjoyable, powerful collection of songs that treat the ears to an eclectic mix of musical avenues.
Essential Tracks: “Cape of Our Hero,” “Room 24,” and “Doc Holliday.”