Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Second Opinion: Volbeat - Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie

* Note: My colleague D.M gave his opinion on this newest Volbeat record, but since this is one of the few times we agree on a record, but not quite an opinion, I am throwing in my own two cents.

I wasn't there at the very beginning with Volbeat, but not long thereafter. I found them just after the released their second album, and wasn't sure what to make of their Metallica meets Johnny Cash sound. It was so unique, and so captivating, that I could sense immediately that they were going to be one of the few rock/metal bands that could break through and garner real mainstream attention. They had a hook that few other bands did. When "Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood" came out, it reaffirmed all of this, and turned Volbeat into one of the best bands in the world (yes, really). Unfortunately, that proved to be their undoing, as the following albums saw them shedding their identity in an effort to keep getting bigger and bigger. Those albums are a blur to me, and I was all but ready to write Volbeat off as a case of what was, and what could have been.

But with an open mind, I went into this album hoping for a return to form. That wasn't the case, but the album was as great as I was hoping, just in a different way.

"Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie" marks Volbeat finally finding the sound they have been searching for. While they don't sound like the band that caught everyone's attention, they have just enough of their former selves in here to remember who we're listening to, but Michael Poulsen and company have mastered the art of radio rock. It's unfortunate that their growing pains had to play out in public, but now that they've arrived, it was all worth it.

There are those moments that still hearken back to the old days. "The Devil's Bleeding" crown has the groovy swagger of Volbeat's past, and "The Loa's Crossroad" is full of pumped-up metal riffing, but those are the exceptions to the rule. For the most part, this is an album that embraces and super-sizes the melodies, with sing-alongs that last for days. If a metal audience can sing along with "Master Of Puppets", imagine what they can do with these songs.

It might sound like heresy, but at it's heart this is a pop record. You can't listen to "Black Rose" without hearing 50s doo-wop in that sticky chorus, nor can you deny that "Goodbye Forever" would be a modern classic if Dave Grohl attached his name to it. By shutting out the expectations of what a Volbeat record is supposed to be, Poulsen has figured out what a Volbeat record is supposed to be. Years pass by, we all age, and with that comes a different perspective. Volbeat is no longer the band that made those early records, and asking them to stay in that form forever misses the point. Songwriters evolve, and sometimes we have to trust that they will find a new golden age. That is what has happened here.

In fact, I would say that the only thing holding this record back from being perfect is the inclusion of the two cover songs. Neither is bad, but Volbeat's identity is so singular that you can easily tell they came from someone else.

Otherwise, and I can't believe I'm saying this, "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie" has already proven itself to me as Volbeat's best album yet. I didn't think they had it in them, but this album has made me a believer again. Volbeat is back, and they've made what will wind up as one of the best records of the year.

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