Thrash Hits

April 11th, 2013

Album: Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies

Volbeat 2013 promo photo Thrash Hits

Volbeat
Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
Spinefarm Records
08 April 2013

by David Keevill

The ascent towards the upper echelons of Europe’s metal strata that Danish chimaera Volbeat (part-rockabilly, part-groove metal, part-rock) have enjoyed over the last 13 years is proof not of a charmed life of Michael Poulsen and co., but of hard graft at making their distinctly obscure clash of sounds work. Their fifth studio album will continue to propel them on this upward trajectory, but it’s not the self-assured follow-up to Beyond Hell/Above Heaven that it should have been.

Volbeat Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies album cover artwork packshot 400px Thrash Hits

It’s not that songs aren’t good. There’s a lot to enjoy here; genuinely vast, catchy melodic hooks explode out of the choruses of ‘Pearl Hart’ and ‘The Nameless One’ and even the brazen, empowering message of ‘Cape of Our Hero’ hits the spot without veering into realms of flaccid sentimentality. The overall theme of the album, tied into the concept of gunslinging varmints isn’t too treacherous a theme for the band, but it gives enough scope for the Danes to blast their “metal n’ roll” .45 at the diverse topics of faith, deceit and dangerous doxies.

Yet for all it beguiles with, there’s a feeling that Volbeat are stretching themselves. This was never going to be an album that played to your cerebral side (after all, this is a band that wrote a song called ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza’), but the tough, interesting aesthetics of Beyond Hell/Above Heaven seem to have fallen away for a record that’s less confident in its execution.

Incongruities start to seep in with the interesting, but misplaced, vocal assistance of King Diamond on ‘Room 24’. The song is clearly out of place, both thematically and in its adoption of a crawling doom-like riff; when it gives ways to Diamond’s distinctive falsetto contribution, the menacing but levity-flecked Western falls away to reveal a blackened pastiche that sounds at odds with the remainder of the album. Compared to the light springing amble of ‘Lonesome Rider’, it’s a song that seems to have found its way on for the glory of its conception, not for its actual contribution to Outlaw Gentlemen. This unintentional alienation of the listener from the record is staggering from a band who were able to slot the stuttering intro of ‘Still Counting’ into a consistently heavy backdrop.

Look past the jackknifed musical oddities and Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies is everything that Volbeat does very well. Thunderous riffs rush to meet vocals that veer from tenacity to tenderness; it’s sparky, filthy punk crossed with some of the hookiest AOR that exists. As fodder for Volbeat’s next tour, this should sit as pride of place amongst much-enjoyed classics.

4/6

Sounds Like: That kind of drunk you get where you occasionally spout tiresome contemplation, but mostly just drink tequila and vomit
Standout Tracks: The Nameless One, My Body

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