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Friday, April 18, 2008

CD Review: Volbeat - Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil

Volbeat - Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil
2007-08 Mascot Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Consider this one The Metal Minute cool slice of the week...

Before he drank from the proverbial chalice of blood and swam in darkness, one of the biggest appeals to Glenn Danzig and The Misfits was their affinity for 1950's rockabilly and rock 'n roll. It wasn't so much that Danzig sounded like a mesh between Elvis and Jim Morrison so much as it was the idea of rootsy American tumbleweed music being force-fed into a screechy punk rock schism. After all, rock 'n roll was officially born in the fifties, even if its genesis was rooted long before that in the Mississippi deltas and dustbowl deserts. If you stop and think about it, this is why The Misfits were such an easy sell, outside of their cartoonish love of classic horror films, which is an effective glue for fringe culture.

Somewhere that spirit of fun was lost once The Misfits partially split and became Samhain and ultimately Danzig. While Glenn Danzig has put out some interesting and sometimes very rocking material, only on occasion did we hear that love of old-time rock 'n roll spill into his later endeavors.

Copenhagen's Volbeat obviously has that essence of North American rock and twang on their brains, despite their album Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil being at its heart a stampin' metal record. One thing about Volbeat, if they could take the jacked up tattooed blare of metal into a wayback machine and drop off onto a rock 'n roll revue with Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy and Elvis on the same bill and play "Radio Girl" from Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil, then they would probably scare these godfathers out of their peglegs and pleated slacks. Still, there's something pretty schway about the way "Radio Girl" adopts a primary throwback three chord chorus to give the metallic verses a dreamy, nostalgic essence.

Volbeat is so smart about what they're trying to accomplish with Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil they never forget to be metal even when fusing yummy, melodic structures and soaring vocals from Michael Poulson (who sounds a bit like a higher octave and fast-lipped Peter Steele). At one point Volbeat kicks the double hammer on the pulsing thrashers "Devil Or the Blue Cat's Song" and "A Moment Forever," while at another they soak up cuts with country and swamprat twang that open both "Sad Man's Tongue" and "The Human Instrument" before both amp up and run for the money with catchy grooves and blaring metal that comes more from a Texarkana roadhouse than from rolling mountains of the gods. In every case though, Volbeat executes as tunefully as they can without turning starchy.

Still, Volbeat is thunderous when they want to be. They punch and march on songs like "River Queen," "Mr. and Mrs. Ness" and "You Or Them" where they sound more like a conventional metal band that happens to have a scat-minded crooner leading the way, but in the same breath, Volbeat turn into honeydrippers on the mostly sweet "The Garden's Tale," skipping along with an acoustic thread before turning the song into a swooning rocker that you can almost get cozy with your steady to. Ditto for "Soulweeper #2" with its lobbing breeziness.

One of the savviest qualities to Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil is the fact Volbeat utilizes just enough of the past to elevate their music beyond the ordinary and in turn avoid novelty. If you want to call these guys pop metal, they probably wouldn't be at odds with that because seldom do you hear music that has a dedicated focus upon loudness that doesn't forget to be memorable in the processs. First and foremost, Volbeat remembers to have fun with what they're doing and that, in turn, makes Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil equally fun for the listener.

Rating: ****

1 comment:

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