OUTLAW GENTLEMEN AND SHADY LADIES
Many times over the past five years, I've proclaimed Volbeat as the lone exciting new band out there today. Their sound is definitely one that you either love or hate, and there's no middle ground whatsoever with them. That said, their growth in popularity has not been the most healthy for this band creatively. They have seemingly started to play to the masses a little bit. It started showing itself with "Fallen", and now there are plenty of moments on their latest that seem to grow from that. I'm not sure if they are just churning out music a bit too fast to capitalize on their popularity growth or if they have just come up a little bit flat this time around, but OUTLAW GENTLEMEN AND SHADY LADIES simply isn't as good as what Volbeat has been producing since most of us first heard them with "Sad Man's Tongue". While it doesn't suck by any means, OUTLAW GENTLEMEN AND SHADY LADIES is a bit of a letdown.
For me as a listener, it's remarkably easy to figure out what went wrong with OUTLAW GENTLEMEN. What made Volbeat special from the onset was their ability to fuse many styles together within their songs. Songs like "Sad Man's Tongue" or "Still Counting" took various styles that generally don't mix (rockabilly and metal or reggae and metal) and found a way to fuse them seamlessly. On their latest release, virtually every song is singular in style. Maybe it's growth in the band, but it's growth that takes away from the sound if that's the case. This is not to say that what they've come up with is bad. Songs like "My Body" are toe tappers that will force you to hit repeat on them several times on your iPod. Other songs like "Lola Montez" feel perfectly at home when played next to anything in the back catalog of the band. The problem though is that lack of diversity leaves almost the entire album without a single takeaway moment. What's also frustrating is the deliberate attempts to write songs for radio. The first single, "Cape Of Our Hero" is, quite frankly, not very good at all. It's almost like Volbeat trying to sound like Volbeat, and just lacks the dynamic that gave past singles like "Warrior's Call" their bite.
To be clear though, this is not a bad album at all. As stated, "My Body" is a very cool song. Vocalist Michael Poulsen's voice is as strong as ever, which literally carries this band from album to album. Guitarist Rob Caggliano defected from Anthrax to join this band, and yet the overall style and sound of the guitars is right in the pocket of what we've heard in the past. He does bring a heavier element to songs like "Room 24" (which features a menacing vocal duet with the legendary King Diamond), but overall he picks up where they left off previously. Bassist Anders Kjolholm and drummer Jon Larsen are solid laying down the bottom end which Caggliano and Poulsen rock over. The band are solid on tunes like "The Sinner Is You" or the release's best track, "The Hangman's Body Count".
PITRIFF RATING - 80/100 - Definitely the worst release from Volbeat to date, but that said, their worst is far better than most of the good stuff being released today. OUTLAW GENTLEMEN AND SHADY LADIES is decent, but not quite as dynamic as these guys have been in the past. Listenable, but will probably just lead you back to listening to past releases.