Review: Volbeat – Servant Of The Mind
Vertigo Berlin (November 29th 2021)
Reviewer: Chris O’Connor
Okay, so cards on the table time, I unashamedly love Danish heroes Volbeat, Michael Poulsen’s merry men tick all my boxes musically, melding genuine power to classy melodies, while being lyrically intelligent, and this eighth studio outing is arguably their most cohesive and coherent to date, I’ve been playing it repeatedly since receiving it. The line-up remains stable, with Mr Poulsen (vocals/guitars) being superbly aided and abetted by Rob Caggiano (guitars), Kaspar Boye Larson (bass guitars), and Jon Larsen (drums), and the band has never sounded fresher or more focussed.
Fairly erupting out of the starting blocks with ‘Temple Of Ekur’, the sound is huge, and the song has a wonderful chorus which fairly soars. The verse has a lovely crunching guitar and drives along at a furious pace. ‘Wait A Minute My Girl’ is a feelgood sub three-minute rock ‘n’ roll romp filled out with a Jerry Lee Lewis piano accompaniment and a suitably rasping sax, it’s simply a fun number.
‘The Sacred Stones’ is an absolute piledriver of a number, churning with malevolent intent, and a riff Metallica would have been proud of. This is thunderous stuff, crunching viciously acerbic, weirdly the chorus is oddly melodic in comparison to the verse, but works cleverly. Following this is the heavy punching ‘Shotgun Blues’, another riff heavy number with a stomping verse and a rousing chorus – something Volbeat excels at.
‘The Devil Rages On’ evokes memories of The Cramps and Michael’s love of Psychobilly in general. The guitars have that jangling, graveyard/retro, semi-acoustic sound so beloved of the Psychobilly genre. The song features another huge chorus guaranteed to have audiences singing along deafeningly, I don’t know how Poulsen and co keep writing such anthems, but they are the masters of their craft. Following this is another song with another strong Metallica bent, the pulsing ‘Say No More’, this could easily have come off the Metallica’s ‘Black Album’, in fact Hetfield would kill to still be able to come up with songs as powerful as this, the servants have become the masters you might say.
‘Heaven’s Descent’ follows at a blistering pace, racing along at breakneck speed, it’s classic Volbeat, melding raw power with sublime melody, and is an absolute gem of a number. ‘Dagen Før’ (featuring Stine Bramsen of Danish Pop act Alphabeat) is a lovely melodic number, where the two singer’s voices meld effortlessly, it’s almost like late era Thin Lizzy in a curious way and is absolutely joyous in every respect. ‘The Passenger’ pays a respectful nod to Lemmy and Motorhead, with a furious verse entirely reminiscent of the late God’s band, and then another massive chorus – and a crunching mid-section that will have necks snapping everywhere.
‘Step Into Light’ hits the Psychobilly feel again with it’s ringing guitar sound, and again has a massive chorus – this strange combination really shouldn’t work, and it’s a massive testament to the band that they make it sound so natural. ‘Becoming’ is another maniacal Thrash number, Caggiano and Poulsen’s guitars raging furiously, again leading to one of the band’s patented anthemic chorus, and a blistering lead guitar from Mr Caggiano.
‘Mindlock’ is another foot stamping mid-paced rocker, with a crushing guitar attack and a wonderful chorus – they make it sound so effortless, when any other band would struggle. Following up next is the truly epic ‘Lasse’s Birgitta’ a towering eight-minute number, that almost serves as the centrepiece of the album. The rhythm section powers the song along with furious intensity, while the guitarists create spiralling and furious riffs, over which Poulsen’s voice soars masterfully atop it all.
‘Domino’ is another Psychobilly romp, the band simply having fun with some old school Rawk ‘n’ Roll, it’s another short sharp shock of a number, but great fun with it. My copy of the album features three bonus tracks. First is an alternate version of ‘Shotgun Blues’, this time featuring a guest vocal by Dave Matrise (of Death Metallers Jungle Rot), whose ‘cookie monster’ attack shows a different side to the song – showing Michael looking back to his Death Metal roots in Dominus. Next is a second take of ‘Dagen Før’ this time with Michael’s voice only. Finally, is Volbeat’s take of Metallica’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ – originally heard on the ‘Metallica Blacklist’ tribute album released earlier this year.
‘Servant Of The Mind’ is a huge album I every respect, which shows the band maturing and growing yet again, they really are nothing short of world beating now! This is easily amongst my albums of 2021. Brilliant!