Photo Credit: Volbeat PressPhotos 2019
Volbeat are from Denmark and – at least according to conventional wisdom – categorized as a Heavy Metal band (the “Vol” part of the band’s name is even short for “volume”). This may frighten off some U.S. listeners who might assume the band to be part of the Scandinavian Death Metal movement (which fans of even, say, Metallica, could conceivably find too extreme). However, an objective listen reveals Volbeat to be in actuality a terrifically rounded, solid, and straightforward rock and roll band (with Metal being only a single ingredient of their sound).
The risk of even more possible confusion comes with the title of Volbeat’s new release, Rewind, Replay, Rebound, which might have some unfamiliar listeners assuming it’s a greatest hits album. However, it’s all-new material. Boasting sixteen-tracks, most rock fans should find something they like, as the Law of Averages would probably suggest (although common sense might counter that that length is overkill). This is not even counting the five additional tracks on Rewind’s so-called “Deluxe Edition,” which is demo versions of five of the “official” songs (seemingly, this is the equivalent of a blooper reel at the end of a comedy film).
Even though Rewind, Replay, Rebound is not a Volbeat retrospective, it’s an undeniably strong starting point and comfortably showcases the variety in the band’s sound. The first cut, “Last Day Under the Sun” even opens with a guitar riff similar to Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” or Jackson Browne’s “Boulevard.” “Pelvis on Fire” (ouch!) stomps in as a Metal-ish track before taking a surprise turn toward rockabilly. “Die to Live” (a duet with Clutch vocalist Neil Falcon) goes back to that same ‘50’s early rock sound with a Jerry Lee Lewis-type piano solo and lyrics like “Dance to the boogie-woogie and let’s fire up the booze.” “Sorry Sack of Bones” goes to a sort of mutated version of this, with a punk/surf riff comparable to bands like the Cramps.
These are not the only nostalgia trips taken on Rewind. There’s “The Awaking of Bonnie Parker” (who, in case don’t know, was the “Bonnie” in Bonnie & Clyde), which opens with the classic drum beat lifted from the Ronette’s “Be My Baby” and even includes a spoken-word section similar to those used during the girl group era. By contrast, “The Exit” opens with a Judas Priest-type riff before almost too calmly reverting to a comfortable quasi-New Wave type verse before the classic Metal marching beat returns. “When We Were Kids” is mostly a sentimental ballad but then also goes to a “Kashmir”-type stomp.
“Maybe I Believe” may put one in the mind of Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen, while “Leviathan” recalls the grandiose approach and subject matter (the title refers to a giant sea monster from the Old Testament) a bit similar to that of their fellow Scandinavians Europe (“The Final Countdown”). “7:24” may be the oddest yet most welcome surprise, giving us Volbeat’s take on jangly ‘90s alternative rock.
While many bands try to offer up a healthy variety (even with their underlying sound remaining fairly consistent), Volbeat characteristically gives us songs that have multiple, varied elements which in the end all work together. On the subject of “Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin touched upon folk, reggae etc. (and even “visited” Scandinavia with “Immigrants Song”) because they never wanted to be pigeonholed as a hard rock band. Volbeat go one further by frequently mixing musical genres inside of the same track.
The song that closes the main body of the album, “Immortal But Destructible,” gets a pass for the title alone. But will Volbeat, in the long run, prove immortal? Or destructible? Michael Polson is certainly a strong enough lead vocalist, if not the most distinct (though consideration should be made for English not being the band’s first language), while guitarist Rob Caggianno is also undeniably solid. And as their last two albums in fact both quietly (probably the only thing quiet about the band) went Top Ten in the U.S., Volbeat may well end up being Denmark’s most successful musical import since Victor Borge.
Written by: Richard John Cummins