A first listen to Danish "metal rockers" Volbeat's Beyond Hell/Above Heaven, reveals how completely they've consolidated all the elements they've experimented with since 2007's Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil: punk, roots rock & roll, rockabilly, heavy metal, death metal, country, and '70s hard rock. Power chords, hooky melodies, chanted choruses, ...
A first listen to Danish "metal rockers" Volbeat's Beyond Hell/Above Heaven, reveals how completely they've consolidated all the elements they've experimented with since 2007's Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil: punk, roots rock & roll, rockabilly, heavy metal, death metal, country, and '70s hard rock. Power chords, hooky melodies, chanted choruses, lyric themes obsessed with the no-man's land that exists between -- and beyond -- good and evil, and the sense of hard partying recklessness simultaneously reflect influences as wide as Social Distortion, the Misfits, AC/DC, and Metallica, Judas Priest, and Exodus. Once more recorded and engineered by Jacob Hansen, Beyond Hell/Above Heaven extends the narrative that began on Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood with two more chapters in the saga via the tracks "7 Shots," and opener "The Mirror and the Ripper." The former is a perfect aural illustration of Volbeat's ability to integrate seemingly disparate elements by including banjos (courtesy of Rod Sinclair), bluesman Anders Pederson's slide guitar work, and the heavy metal axe chugging of Kreator's Mille Petrozza and Mercyful Fate-King Diamond six-string pyrotechnician Michael Denner. "Heaven and Hell" is pure AC/DC power riffage sent dimensionally askew by Henrik Hall's killer bluesy harmonica work that transforms the tune melodically into something that balances the Phil Spector-esque side of Glenn Danzig's melodic sensibilities (on the earliest Misfits singles) and late-'70s metal. This cut is followed immediately by the harder, darker, death metal of "Who They Are" that nonetheless carries within it an irresistible, nearly anthemic chorus. Likewise "A Warrior's Call," with its furious doom-and-gloom intro that gives way to a big, bad, strutting rock & roll stomper. "Fallen" recalls the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" in approach, yet is heavier still. The thrash end happens on "Evelyn," with guest vocals by Napalm Death's Mark "Barney" Greenway on the verses before Michael Poulsen adds his trademark lyricism in the chorus. (And this is to say little of the skittering punk-country of "Being 1," an irrepressible love song with teeth.) Any way you slice it, Volbeat, a skillful repository of so many lineage sounds, are their own thing: a band apart who are sophisticated, accessible, and utterly entertaining as songwriters and performers. Nowhere is this more true than on Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. [The album was also released with a bonus track, "Still Counting."] ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi