It doesn’t seem five minutes since Volbeat released fourth album “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven”, but that was back in 2010 and three years between albums can lose some bands a little momentum. Perhaps it’s due to their seemingly unending touring schedule that they don’t seem to have been out of the public consciousness since then but new music from them is always welcome, and their heady mix of Metallica’s muscle, Misfits’ melodies and a dark heart of pure 50’s rock n’ roll rebellion rarely fails to hit the spot.
Possibly their heaviest album so far, “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies” opens with ‘Let’s Shake Some Dust’, a short, acoustic-guitar-and-harmonica piece that sets the tone and theme suggested by the album’s title, that being a theme of Wild West deserts, saloon bars and dastardly characters. ‘Pearl Hart’ proves that the band haven’t lost their knack for a catchy vocal melody and guitar hook but a gear change around fourth track ‘Dead But Rising’ pushes the thick guitar sounds up to those Metallica-esque levels, with singer/guitarist Michael Poulsen even ending the chorus with a Hetfield-style “Dead but Risiiiing-ah!”.
Guests have always played an important part on Volbeat albums and there’s no exception here. His Satanic Majesty King Diamond shows up on the spooky ‘Room 24’, where the band flex their metal muscles and do their best Mercyful Fate, giving new guitarist Rob Caggiano (ex-Anthrax) a showcase for his melodic soloing. Walk off the Earth’s Sarah Blackwood appears on the rockabilly-influenced ‘Lonesome Rider’, one of the album’s most diverse yet immediately catchy moments, and the collision of hers and Poulsen’s voices gives the album a much-needed shift in dynamics.
Volbeat are a band who have found a formula and are sticking with it. That may sound a little derogatory but it’s worked for AC/DC and Motörhead, so why not? They do tinker with a few small things here and there but the core sound is decidedly Volbeat and when it produces albums as consistently listenable as this then long may they continue to stay just as they are.