Photo Credit: Ross Halfin
On Dutch hard rock band Volbeat’s fifth studio album Servant of the Mind, far and away the standout track is “Wait a Minute My Girl.” The title alone sounds like something from the early Beach Boys, if not a ’90s boy band, and it certainly sticks out on a tracklisting that includes song names like “Temple of Ekur”, “The Sacred Stones”, and “The Devil Rages On.” In its scant two minutes and twenty seconds, “Wait a Minute My Girl” starts as emo punk before the musical curtain raises to reveal a very 1950’s-style piano and saxophone instrumental break (which turns up again by the end of the song).
The presence of this track could reflect the diversity of sound which the band showed on their previous album, Replay, Rewind, Rebound (2019). However, most of Servant of the Mind doesn’t venture beyond hard rock. “Say No More” opens as more of a hardcore track before revealing a surprisingly hooky chorus, while “Step into Light” brightens things up (relatively speaking) with some fine, atmospheric goth metal. And then there’s “Dagen For” – Dutch for “The Day Before” (thanks, Google Translate!) a duet with Stine Bremsen, female lead singer from another Danish band, Alphabeat. It’s a fairly standard radio-friendly rock track, but the two voices together make for a nice contrast. The ’50s influence returns momentarily on the aforementioned “The Devil Rages On”, with lead singer Michael Poulsen briefly doing an Elvis Presley impression.
On the subject of Poulsen, he and the band at least remain as strong and tight as ever. Poulsen is a rare singer in hard rock who actually wants to, well, sing, rather than feeling the need to either scream or convince everyone that he could have done opera if he’d wanted to. Lead guitarist Rob Caggiano (who previously cut his teeth as a member of Anthrax) also feels little if any need to show off (though he does play a highly impressive solo on “Heaven’s Descent”). Bassist Kaspar Boye Larsen and drummer Jon Larsen remain solid (plus, the fact that they chose fellow Danish rocker Bremsen for the mixed-gender duet over, say, Halsey or Olivia Rodrigo, shows that Volbeat remains true to their roots).
The five supplemental tracks which create the so-called “deluxe edition” are a mixed bag. By far the best is “Domino”, a killer rockabilly/punk song in the vein of the Cramps (Volbeat explored this style – successfully – with several cuts on their last album). It’s hard to imagine why this one wasn’t selected to be part of the main album. The self-contained track “Return to None” (a cover of a song by Swedish punk band Wofbrigade) is strong enough, but the alternative versions of two songs that previously appeared on this same album really add nothing. The absolute final encore, a cover of Metallica’s “Don’t Tread on Me”, almost seems like an effort to use a famous American Revolution slogan in the hopes of attracting American listeners. So, far, it hasn’t worked: as of this writing, the album hasn’t charted in the US (despite two of their previous ones going Top 10 here). In the end, Servant of the Mind serves its purpose, but not much else.