If you are acquainted with the previous seven studio albums from Volbeat, then you’ll know the basic score: they mix metal, punk, psychobilly and melody with a heady yet disciplined abandon.
However, after perhaps treading water on occasion during the previous two or three albums, with this latest one they’ve been a little more adventurous. You can hear this on the slinky yet sinister The Devil Rages On, as vocalist Michael Poulsen tells of how Satan came to Earth and took human form to wreak havoc. Hardly a ground-breaking subject, but Volbeat handle it all with their customary individuality.
Shotgun Blues, which is a true story of Poulsen’s encounter with ghosts, allows guitarist Rob Caggiano to dig deep into his love for Metallica and deliver some neatly viscous riffs.
And the closing epic Lasse’s Birgita tackles the detail of Sweden’s first witch burnings in 1471. This is done without having to take the doomy musical approach that many may have expected, but that’s not in Volbeat’s mentality. They prefer to give off an uneasy atmosphere through the toning down of their usual approach, and once more Caggiano rises to the occasion with some stunning work across the near-eight-minute track.
Naturally, there are moments that are more typically Volbeat, and in this vein Wait A Minute Girl is bright, breezy and summery, inspired to a large extent by Jerry Lee Lewis, while opener Temple Of The Ekur takes its mantra from the sort of ancient themes the band have successfully explored several times previously.
The whole album shines and flows with a real sense of purpose, and you know that not only did they have fun putting this all together, but also they achieved it with the attention to detail that marks it out as a firm step forward for the band.
The best tracks here are Step Into The Light and The Passenger. The former has touches of psychedelia, but these are never allowed to become obtrusive, and are used to add colour and shade to the overall texture. The latter (not an Iggy Pop cover) is the band channelling their Lemmy adoration, and doing it very impressively.
Like others, Volbeat have used the recent global travails to reset their musical clock. The result is not only their best album in a while, but also one that opens up an exciting future.