In the simplest terms, Volbeat are a hugely popular and successful Danish rock band that combines the elements of rock, metal and country to create a unique and extremely catchy sound. Their previous album, Beyond Hell/Above Heaven cemented the group as a force to be reckoned with in the rock community; full of catchy hooks, choruses, and the groups knack for combining elements of said genres seamlessly, the album set the bar very high for Volbeat, leaving the question: could they continue their consistent releases and top it with their next album?
Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies sees Volbeat move to a slightly more mainstream rock focus with their music; still full of soaring choruses, the album feels like it was meant to pull in even more fans by making it as catchy as possible with the opportunity for multiple singles to hit the radio-waves. The great thing about Volbeat is that they have always been able to make great music that was both catchy and unique, as seen with their last album. Michael Poulsen still has that unique voice that dredges up memories of both James Hetfield and Elvis, sometimes within seconds in the same song, and the addition of former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano provides the band with something somewhat lacking on their last album; thrashy riffs, technical and frequent solos, and an overall heaviness that, while present on some of their songs, seemed a bit out of place at times and sometimes too forced.
With that, saying the album is more “mainstream” is not meant to imply that the quality has diminished for the sake of more radio play; rather, it simply means the album presents the most accessible Volbeat to date, as most songs could realistically be singles. Furthermore, a great many songs on this album could easily be concert staples for years to come, whether one is looking for heavy metal or country laced rock as has been expected with the band. Look no further than the two collaborations the band take part in here; Room 24 sees the guys team up with metal icon King Diamond, and the song certainly does not disappoint. Rob Caggiano really makes his presence known with some very heavy riffs and rapid fire technical solos thrown in throughout, while Diamond and Poulsen combine for an awesome vocal performance. Though some may say it sounds more like a heavy King Diamond song than Volbeat, it’s very difficult to ignore how great a vocalist Poulsen is, and the song just would not be the same without either guy singing. Though not as heavy as their previous collaboration Evelyn,the quality is still incredible and fans should be anxiously waiting to see Diamond up on stage at future concerts.
Their second collaboration finds itself on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, with Sarah Blackwood joining the group for Lonesome Rider, an extremely up-tempo rockabilly song with an infectious chorus that proves how versatile Volbeat can be. Blackwood has an excellent singing voice, and Poulsen channels his inner Elvis to make this not only one of the most unique songs on the album, but easily one of the best and one of their catchiest.
In addition to the two outstanding collaborations, there are some fantastic “solo” Volbeat songs to be had on the album. Doc Holliday begins with banjo that immediately precedes a menacingly thrashy main riff. Easily the heaviest song outside of Room 24, Doc Holliday is a real treat to listen to, with Poulsen upping the intensity in his vocals and the guitar work, which, when coupled with the banjo during the chorus, remains lodged in the listener’s head long after the song has ended. Black Bart is simply the fastest paced on the album, with Jon Larsen impressively showcasing his skills, with his frenetic pounding truly standing out, despite the impressive guitar-work and vocals.
Though the previous two songs are among the heaviest on the album, the very best song occurs earlier on in the album; Lola Montez may very well be one of the greatest songs that Volbeat has put to record. Telling a story of the real Lola Montez, and featuring an insanely catchy sing-along chorus (that sticks in your head for a long time) and an equally infectious rhythm section, the song sounds the most genuine on the album, as if the guys had an absolute blast recording it. Lola Montez should have been an easy choice for the first single, instead of Cape of our Hero as it demonstrates the very best of what Volbeat has to offer, despite Cape of our Hero being a very solid and emotionally charged song.
While a great many of the songs on the album could be potential singles, there are a few songs that just don’t live up to what Volbeat can do: Dead but Rising features extremely bland lyrics and a virtually non-existent chorus that makes it immediately forgettable, despite a tremendously heavy opening reminiscent of old school Metallica. Along these same lines, The Sinner is You should have been left off of the album entirely, as it contains bland, insipid, and uninspiring music that defines the term “filler.”
Rob Caggiano’s presence really can’t be overstated; numerous songs feature great riffs and solos that could easily be seen on Anthrax albums, and combined with the always outstanding vocals of Michael Poulsen, Volbeat fans should be hungrily awaiting the next album should Mr. Caggiano stick around for that.
Though it may not be as fundamentally consistent as Beyond Hell/Above Heaven was/is, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies is nevertheless an exceptionally solid release from one of the more dependably great rock bands in existence. There is no doubt that Volbeat should acquire even more fans after the release of this album, as it is insanely catchy, the guitar work ups the heaviness a notch, and the whole album still has that everlasting “Volbeat” feel to it. Anyone looking to get into Volbeat is encouraged to pick this album up and then each of their other releases.
- Let’s Shake Some Dust
- Pearl Hart
- The Nameless One
- Dead But Rising
- Cape of Our Hero
- Room 24
- The Hangman’s Body Count
- My Body
- Lola Montez
- Black Bart
- Lonesome Rider
- The Sinner Is You
- Doc Holliday
- Our Loved Ones