Friday, July 19, 2013

Volbeat - Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (Limited Edition)

Volbeat
Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (Limited Edition)
Vertigo Records

Danish hard rock/heavy metal outfit Volbeat has always been somewhat of an oddity to my ears. While on the one hand I applaud the band’s willingness to throw just about every kind of influence they can into their music, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by their consistency over the course of a full-length album. In other words, while diversity has worked in their favour at times, the very same thing was also their worst enemy.
Three years after the release of their last studio effort ‘Beyond Hell / Above Heaven’ (And two years after their companion live album/D.V.D. release ‘Live From Beyond Hell / Above Heaven’), the four piece Copenhagen based act (Who comprise of vocalist/guitarist Michael Schøn Poulsen, ex-Anthrax/The Damned Things guitarist/vocalist Robert Caggiano, bassist Anders Kjølholm and drummer Jon Larsen) are back with their highly anticipated fifth full-length effort ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’. And while the band’s willingness try their hand at anything hasn’t diminished one bit, they have managed to put together an album that actually flows from start to finish without the jarring cuts that hindered their earlier efforts.
The album starts with the short instrumental piece ‘Let’s Shake Some Dust’, which brings to mind images of a spaghetti western scene with its acoustic guitars, harmonica (Provided by the renown blues artist Paul Lamb) and tribal drumming (Performed by Caggiano). The track ties in perfectly with the cover artwork adorning the album, and sets the album up nicely for what follows.
‘Pearl Hart’ is everything you have come to expect from Volbeat in terms of their hard rock direction, and a fairly solid beginning for the album. Poulsen has always been a good vocalist, and a good example of his ability to craft a strong hook can be found on this track. What ‘Pearl Hart’ lacks in heaviness, they certainly make up for in catchiness.
‘The Nameless One’ takes the hard rock song of the former and adds a little grittiness and country influences to the mix without losing any of its infectious catchiness, while ‘Lola Montez’ and the album’s first single ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ are absolute gems from Volbeat, and not surprisingly two of the standout cuts on the album in terms of the band’s hard rock efforts.
It isn’t until the fourth track, the Metallica influenced ‘Dead But Rising’ that the band starts to shake things up a little bit and deliver a far heavier sound. Although far from technically challenging, the song does have a strong galloping drum beat and catchy riff structure that works well for the band.
‘Room 24’ will no doubt become a favourite amongst metal fans with the song featuring a guest vocal contribution from the legendary King Diamond. Although Diamond’s work on other people’s albums has always been a bit hit and miss, this is one of those rare occasions where Diamond is actually a perfect fit. Needless to say, the song is one of Volbeat’s heaviest efforts, which makes it another standout track on the album.
Despite its blues like introduction (Courtesy of guest slide guitarist Anders Pederson), the album’s second single ‘The Hangman’s Body Count’ keeps the metal coming with the band once again delivering a strong groove in the vein of latter day Metallica, while the fast paced ‘Black Bart’ (Which can be best described as Johnny Cash meets a thrash mid-era Metallica) and the banjo (Played once again by Rod Sinclair) introduced ‘Doc Holiday’ keep the tail end of the album tipped in favour of a heavier sound.
Elsewhere, the slow and heavy ‘Our Loved Ones’ deserves a noteworthy mention for its soaring chorus, as too does ‘The Lonesome Rider’ – which sees Canada’s Walk Off The Earth’s Sarah Blackwood co-lead alongside Poulsen on what is a catchy rockabilly tinged rocker.
Unfortunately, the one big problem with ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’ is its length. And for that reason, I can’t help but feel that a couple of songs could have been dropped in order to give the album a bit more consistency. Although far from terrible, the inclusion of the band’s cover of Young The Giant’s ‘My Body’ and the mid-paced ‘The Sinner Is You’ only bloat the album out unnecessarily.
As mentioned above, this is a review of the limited edition version of the album, which includes a second disc of tracks in addition to the album itself.
‘Ecotone’ opens up the disc, and is a surprisingly strong track with its classic Metallica thrash guitar riffs (I’m thinking around ‘…And Justice For All’ era). But while the song does have an element of crunch to it, the band still manages to keep things catchy. It makes you wonder why this cut never made the album.
Lamb adds a bit more of his distinctive blues touch to the follow up track ‘Lola Montez (Harp Version)’, which is good, but not a version that differs much from the original.
Recorded at Wacken in 2012, the live version of ‘7 Shots’ (Which features a guest vocal performance from Kreator’s Mille Petrozza and Mercyful Fate/King Diamond lead guitarist Michael Denner) and ‘Evelyn’ (Which features a guest vocal performance from Napalm Death’s Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway) are cool extras, and certainly make the bonus worth searching for. But while the live tracks are great, the same can’t be said for ‘Evelyn (2010 Demo)’, which will most likely only be listened to the once by most.
Sure, ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’ is a little bloated. But in terms of consistency, the Danes have mastered the art of giving the album a real flow from start to finish, or giving the impression that the album is closer to a collection of recordings from different eras and line-ups.
Overall, this is a strong album from Volbeat, and one that I’m sure will initially confuse, but inevitably please most fans.

For more information on Volbeat, check out - http://www.volbeat.dk/

© Justin Donnelly