With a cover straight from one of those classic fifties American detective films and a title like Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood, Denmark’s Volbeat really know how to create an impression.
When one of Denmark’s leading metal bands Dominus, folded former member Michael Poulsen set about heading up a new band, and formed Volbeat. Their style successfully meshes metallic, melodic, and good old rock ‘n’ roll. They often get called ‘Elvis-metal’. Yes, it confused me too. The only way to make any sense of it all was to listen to Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood.
Their first eponymous album was released in 2002. However it wasn’t until the 2003 Beat The Meat demo, that Volbeat really began to take off. By 2004 they were being nominated for the best live Danish metal band. Their song “Pool Of Booze” was used in the movie Frost. As more and more awards flooded in it was clear that Volbeat were onto something.
In Volbeat founding member, guitarist, and singer Poulsen is joined by drummer Jon Larsen, bass player Anders Kjolholm, and guitarist Thomas Bredahl. Their style is neither straight on metal nor melodic, but a mix that will have you scratching your head trying to pinpoint the sound. It certainly is a unique approach.
I have tried desperately to give a better analysis than this and I am relieved to see that most other reviewers have struggled too. One thing the album does do, is grow on you. Once you stop trying to nail the sound you suddenly find it really works; just as suddenly as the metal, or a wall of a riff, blasts out of the speakers, crashing above the catchy rhythms.
Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood is an album that could divide opinion. If, like me, you liked it on first play, you will grow to love it. Opening with the misleading and brief Americana blues of “End Of The Road”, it leads into the rocking foot stomping, feel good, rollicking, title track , “Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood.” “Back To Prom” keeps you right in that bouncing-around-the-room zone.
“Mary Ann’s Place” surprises you with an injection of well balanced metal undercurrent. Poulsen’s vocals are where the Elvis tag similes emanate from, and it's those vocals that tip this track towards the unique. After all, it is the general odd-ball-ness that makes it so fascinatingly compelling.
The driving “Hallelujah Goat”, is on fire. “Maybelline I Hofteholder” takes us briefly back to the fifties. It leads to the conclusion that they must be a great band to see live. Hear it and just try to resist the urge to dance around like an idiot. “We” takes us fleetingly into country, then rock ‘n’ roll Elvis land. A real highlight is “Still Counting”. Again it suddenly chucks in the metal. It shouldn’t work but it does.
I like bands that are distinctive and that you can identify within a few seconds of needle hitting vinyl, or I-Pod hitting earpiece. Volbeat definitely have that quality. Listen to the 50’s based “Light A Way”, which is followed by a semi-punky and excellent “Wild Rover Of Hell” and then try and pigeon hole it. To confound you even further they include “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry”.
Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood is fun, it’s heavy, it’s downright quirky, and odd. Intrigued? I hope so, it’s well worth dipping your toe into the Volbeat water. Within a track or two you could well find yourself up to your neck in it.