Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Multi-platinum selling Danish rockers Volbeat return on 3rd December with their eighth studio album Servant of the Mind and mighty fine it is too!
On this album, Volbeat effortlessly combine a dazzling array of influences to create another unique and high-quality piece of work.
Within the colossal grooves of this album you’ll find the band paying homage to, amongst others, classic Metallica, Dio-era Sabbath and Elvis Presley, all the while retaining their very own signature sound.
It’s a compelling and authoritative sound that once again manages to combine plenty of muscular Heavy Metal riffery with punk attitude, rockabilly twang and highly melodic vocal hooks.
Lyrically, guitarist/vocalist Michael Poulsen stretches his song-writing muscle with themes as diverse as encountering ghostly forces in a new home, burning witches in Medieval Sweden, the Devil taking human form and tales of ancient temples. It’s a long way from the standard rock n roll lyrical format and is all the better for it.
Highlights are many and varied. Opener ‘Temple of Ekur’ has a monumental Metallica-esque riff and a classic 80s Metal vibe as the guitars chug their way through the mystical lyrics before a ridiculously catchy chorus roars out of the speakers. A brilliant opening track for sure!
‘Wait A Minute My Girl’ cunningly combines a pop-punk chorus with honky-tonk piano and saxophones. This should never work, but in Volbeat’s more than capable hands, it sounds like the most natural thing in the world and this probably explains it reaching number 1 in the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart back in the summer.
The Metallica vibe returns on ‘The Sacred Stones’ which starts off as 80s Metal as you can get (there’s a definite Black Sabbath ‘Heaven and Hell’ vibe in the verses here and Poulsen really channels Ronnie Dio’s phrasing at times, though never to the point of being a clone) before the requisite melodic chorus kicks in.
The 80s Thrash Metal chug and shredding guitar solo in this one will have you headbanging like it’s 1983 all over again, but it still sounds current.
The 80s Thrash Metal influence returns on current single ‘Shotgun Blues’. The guitars chug like a buzzsaw while Poulsen regales us with tales of ghostly goings on. The combination of infectious melody and Metal riffery is at its furious best in this track which features some more stunning lead guitar, cool time changes and even a death grunt! Absolutely brilliant!
‘The Devil Rages On’ is completely different. With a vocal that sounds like a psycho Elvis Presley and twanging punk-o-billy guitars, the track lurches to its glorious conclusion in a haze of debauchery as The Devil himself takes human form, probably clad in old leather, swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels and surrounded by a harem of drug-hazed ladies of the street. It’s dirty, nasty and absolutely brilliant!
‘Heaven’s Descent’ takes a bit of a break from the 80s Metal riffery and instead offers us a rather more punky affair. Fast, driving and more infectious than the flu, this would also make a great track to send to radio. ‘The Passenger’ has a slightly similar feel to it albeit with a bit of Metal in the instrumental mid-section. I love the way that Volbeat do this – effortlessly combining different styles within the same song and making it sound totally natural.
‘Dagen Før’ is another left-turn, and is an utterly monumental piece of Pop-Rock featuring Stine Bramsen (Alphabeat), whose voice blends perfectly with Poulsen’s throughout. Honestly, if the chorus of this one doesn’t have you singing along by third listen, then you’re probably dead inside. Quite different from the rest of the album, it is nonetheless a real standout track.
‘Step Into Light’ has that Psychobilly vibe we saw earlier in ‘The Devil Rages On’ but this time it’s cleverly balanced by a stunning Pop-Rock chorus – yet another example of Volbeat cleverly mashing their influences into a sound that is uniquely and beautifully their own.
They do this again in ‘Becoming’ which has probably the heaviest riff on the album complete with Thrash/Speed Metal drums on the introduction, and then explodes into the most infuriatingly catchy Pop-Rock chorus before a slightly Arabian-sounding lead guitar figure, chugging Metallica style riff and shredding solo brings us back to Metal territory. Utterly brilliant!
‘Mindlock’ and ‘Lasse’s Birgitta’ close out the main album and continue the themes we’ve already explored. The former is a fantastic piece of melodic mayhem and the latter a full-on Metal romp through a salutary tale of burning witches in 15th century Sweden. It’s a great way to close an excellent album.
The deluxe version of the album contains four extra tracks – a cover of Wolfbrigade’s ‘Return To None’ and Roy Orbison’s/The Cramps’ ‘Domino’ as well as alternate versions of ‘Dagen Før’ and ‘Shotgun Blues’. ‘Return To None’ is a huge 80’s Thrash Metal influenced piece of mayhem with some cool death grunts and a shouty chorus. ‘
Domino’, as you’d expect given the fact that the Cramps covered it, is a dark and twanging piece of punky Psychobilly. Both covers add to the original album’s content and would definitely make it worth buying or streaming the deluxe version of the album.
In Servants of the Mind, Volbeat have an absolute belter of an album on their hands. The combination of influences works stunningly well and, although it’s easy to spot them, this in no way makes the band sound derivative.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite! I confess that I’m not familiar with a lot of Volbeat’s previous work so I’m coming to this with no pre-conceptions and I have to say that I absolutely love what I’m hearing. The combination of melody and huge riffs is extremely addictive and Volbeat might just have gained themselves a new fan here!
Buy, stream, download….whatever you do just make sure that you get to hear this! It’s very, very good indeed!
SERVANT OF THE MIND [DELUXE]
- Temple of Ekur
- Wait A Minute My Girl
- The Sacred Stones
- Shotgun Blues
- The Devil Rages On
- Say No More
- Heaven’s Descent
- Dagen Før (feat. Stine Bramsen)
- The Passenger
- Step Into Light
- Lasse’s Birgitta
- Return To None (Wolfbrigade cover)
- Domino (The Cramps/Roy Orbison cover)
- Shotgun Blues (feat. Dave Matrise from Jungle Rot)
- Dagen Før (Michael Vox Version)