Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy Review

2021 sees the release of the seventh full-length studio album from the horror and sci-fi obsessed industrial tinged larger than life rock icon Rob Zombie. Cumbersomely named; “The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy” sees Rob Zombie continued his tradition of excessively titled albums, but perhaps not topping his most OTT choice from a decade ago with his fourth record “Hellbilly Deluxe II: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls And The Systematic Dehumanization Of Cool.”

It was released on Nuclear Blast and follows up the very well received “The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser” album from 2016, which the general consensus around reckoned was one of Zombie’s best albums to date, but for me it was actually a bit of a let-down after my favourite album to date, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor from 2013. Warlock had its highlights for sure, and I appreciated the attempt to be lean, succinct and have a big personality, but fell a bit flat a times in the song writing department of the deeper tracks.  

As such, I approached this new album with a bit of trepidation, but luckily ‘Kool Aid really knocked it out of the park in my opinion, as it seems to fuse the best elements from ‘Venomous (Catchiness, hooks, better song-writing) and ‘Warlock (immediacy, character, eccentricity).

This is the second album to be produced by Christopher “Zeuss” Harris. It doesn’t have as clean nor big a sound as the old Scott Humphrey produced albums of yore, but it does has a lot of energy and seems to be going for a bit of a slightly punkier vibe than a typically industrial or even stadium sound.

The band line-up is also the same as last time around. Former Marilyn Manson member turned solo virtuoso John 5 has been in the band for years and years now, but his influence is particularly notable on this record, with all the little funk asides and effects laden guitar parts. I feel like he has been allowed to shine much more than say Educated Horses for example. I would argue that in terms of sheer guitar playing fun, this is definitely one of the most colourful Rob Zombie records to date. Its also the third studio with former Marilyn Manson drummer Ginger Fish on board. Now that Manson’s career is looking to be fast going downhill, its great to see some of the members from the iconic Holywood line-up are still out there making an impact.

There are a lot of damn fine songs to be found here. From the single “The Triumph Of King Freak” and “The Eternal Struggles Of The Howling Man” to the much talked about country tinged “18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks and a One-Way Ticket on the Ghost Train.” The real highlights for me personally are the stompy “The Satanic Rites of Blacula” and the groovy “Shadow of the Cemetery Man” as well as “The Ballad of Sleazy Rider.” I’d already rank it higher in the discography than Hellbilly Deluxe 2 or Educated Horses and in fact there is certainly a much higher hit to miss ratio than ‘Warlock on the deeper cuts. It hasn’t been out that long so its probably too early to tell, but already I’d estimate that this is in at least the top half of his discography.

Its not all glory though. There are 17 tracks here, totalling 42 mins, but there is a bit of fat that could be trimmed. Six of the Seventeen tracks here are effectively intros or interludes and this cumulatively makes up a full five minutes of the record. Zombie has never been a stranger to intros and interludes, the classic debut Hellbilly Deluxe certainly has its fair share, and the platinum selling follow up The Sinister Urge had a couple, and while I appreciate that one or two can add flavour and break things up, I think this record has perhaps the most extracurricular activity outside the main songs, which may affect the flow a little bit (its not a deal breaker or anything, but I’ll probably find myself skipping them a lot in the future).  

To summarise; it has a silly name and a lot of interludes, it doesn’t sound as huge as the early records sonically, but it is consistently chocked full of strong and memorable songs, has some variety and in terms of quality it is even better than its much hyped predecessor. Well worth checking out.

Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror EP Review

Bring Me The Horizon have had an interesting career. They started off as a very uncommercial, noisy, sloppy Deathcore band with screams, screeches and murderous lyrics. People covering that sort of music at the time basically laughed them out of the room though. It wasn’t pretty.

Then they evolved into one of the best British Metalcore bands in the scene for several years, releasing well crafted and memorable albums like Suicide Season, There Is A Hell’ and Sempiternal. Their audiences got bigger and bigger, but so did the backlash, the internet and magazines were awash with anti-BMTH sentiment. All the negativity, critical bashing and internet comment-section abuse eventually alienated the band from the Metal community, and they seemed to decided if they’re going to be called sell-outs or “not metal” anyway, they may as well go with it and seek a more mainstream radio audience.

Their next two albums, That’s The Spirit and Amo were much more commercial, pop-music-infused, modern, melodic, and autotuned. It definitely turned off some of their early audience, but it gained them a whole new audience and mainstream approval, allowing them to go on TV shows Metal fans scoff at, play festivals Metal fans scoff at, get play on radio stations Metal bands can only dream of and get covered in magazines Metal fans scoff at (or in reality allow them not to have to speak to Metal Journalists who rudely dismiss them and focus on more mainstream publications. Some fans call this selling-out too, but if I got that much abuse from the Metal community, I’d do the same thing!).  

Even if the music slowly moved away from what I liked about the band on their 2nd and 3rd albums, they always put out great sounding and interesting albums that were objectively quite good and I’ve enjoyed their musical evolution.

Their last release, last year’s Music To Listen To‘ EP was their bigest departure yet; an experimental, chill out affair and not really what I’d consider a canonical release. Now in late 2020, they’ve released another EP, but this time of proper Rock/Metal songs. Its 9 tracks and about half an hour long, but it does feel like a canonical release and you can imagine these songs being included in future live sets and best-ofs unlike material from the previous EP.

Some of the tracks have been released already, such as ‘Parasite Eve’ and ‘Ludens’ on various soundtracks, and ‘Obey’ (featuring a colab with the singer Yungblud) was dropped as a single earlier this year, with a music video reminiscent of ‘Intergalactic’ by The Beastie Boys. All these (at the time) non-album singles were fairly well received and got people’s hopes up that the band were “going heavy again” as there was a lot more guitar and bigger grooves than the last two albums, and got several lapsed fans excited for the next effort.   

Post Human: Surival Horror opens strongly with the heaviest song in years. It would have been a good bridge between Sempiternal and That’s The Spirit. That’s not to say the whole EP is a return to old formulas. There’s still a lot of the pop/electronic focus of the last few albums, there’s vocal lines that would’ve never fit on older albums, but it does have a crunch and bounce that was in short supply on Amo. In fact that had a song called “Heavy Metal” basically calling out Metal fans for all the comment-section hate.

On the other side of the coin; the collaboration with Babymetal ‘Kingslayer’ is a colourful neon explosion that sounds exactly like what you’d imagine when you hear “BMTH collaboration with Babymetal 2020.” That’s also preceded by one and a half minute intro of the same nature. New single (is it the lead single when they released the other 3 singles separately before the EP was even announced?) ‘Teardrops’ is a nice melodic modern radio-rock single and the natural evolution of what they’ve been doing on the last two albums.

There’s also 1×1 which is a very faithful recreation of the style of Linkin Park’s first two albums. The band have never made any secret of their appreciation for Nu Metal’s biggest selling band, but this is their most influence-on-sleeve track to date.  The EP closes with the annoyingly titled “One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death” which is a slow electronic half-ballad, with a guest appearance from Evanescence’s Amy Lee, that will suit fans of material like “And The Snakes Start To Sing” or “Memorial” from previous efforts.

Overall, stylistically this EP is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s no easy tag. Its not the band going heavy again. Its not their poppiest album to date. It is a mish mash of their past 3 records, plus new ideas, and multiple collaborations as usual. You’ll probably never find an objective review of this highly controversial and much discussed band, but throwing my biased two cents in, I think this is a worthwhile EP and fans of the band who haven’t jumped ship yet have nothing to fear, fans of the band who’ve only been here a short time have nothing to fear, save maybe the opener. All in all, I think they’re going for a best-of-both-world’s thing here and they’ve almost nailed it. If they ever release a new full-length album (which is uncertain as they’ve talked about giving up on that format in today’s modern Spotify world) then I imagine further practice at this compromise will yield even better results and hopefully their most well rounded album in years.

Riverside – Love, Fear And The Time Machine Review.

Progressive Poles Riverside have such a fine track record when it comes to top quality, album-of-the-year level studio albums. Their fourth album Anno Dommini High Definition for example, is arguably one of my favourite albums by any band, ever.

2015’s Love, Fear And The Time Machine; their third consecutive gold album and final output with guitarist Piotr Grundizinski (before his untimely passing), is no exception.

Their early works were dark and interesting, they then hit a phase of being bombastic, colourful and Deep Purple influenced. I saw them live during this period and it was such a rocking good time, you didn’t expect such good fun from a morbid bunch of proggers who usually released concept albums about psychiatric hospitals.

This sixth full-length studio record sees yet another evolution of their sound. It is cleaner, softer, with more prominent classic-‘70s-prog moments and a bit more of an unexpected The Cure influence. (That’s not to say it doesn’t rock out when it wants to, “Saturate Me” hits a delicious Tool-influenced groove in the middle, for example).

I regret, I have been sleeping on this album for a few years, I was hoping to time buying it for just before my next Riverside live show for maximum excitement overlap, but in 2020 with all the concerts dried up, its gotten a bit “well, what are you waiting for?” so I’ve finally taken the plunge, and I’m beyond glad I did. In hindsight, I don’t know how I ever coped without “Afloat” in my life, (a chilling tune, which out -Judgements Anathema).

Its hard to chose highlights, but if I was to introduce the band to a stranger, the number one pick of introductory track would be “Discard Your Fear.” If you like my wet trousered praise of this album, that would probably be the first track you should investigate to see if you’ll like the album as much as I do. It doesn’t really sound at all like typical Riverside fare, but as a singular one-off song, it just rubs me up in all the right ways. If you already like the band but have been sleeping on their later works as I had been, try out “Time Travellers” to see just how well Mariusz’s vocals have developed.

There is rarely such a thing as a flawless album, but I feel confident in saying that this beautiful, exciting, mellow, peaceful, energetic, diverse, interesting, tasteful bag of contradictions is a completely magical masterpiece.

Ps. [If you are unfamilair with the band but like bands such as Haken, Dream Theater, Opeth, Pain Of Salvation or even The Mars Volta then I highly recommend you check them out.]

Motorhead – Overnight Sensation Review

Thirteen is an unlucky number for some; but not for Lemmy and co, on 1996’s ironically titled Overnight Sensation record. The record was released on Steamhammer and sees the band returning to a trio line-up after 2nd guitarist Wurzel left the group.

It was produced by Howard Benson, who also did the previous two records and sounds top notch, crunchy, metallic, but still rock n’ roll enough for the band’s claims not to be a metal band to sort of be understandable (that’s a whole other can of worms though).

Tracks like the speedy opening 1-2 punch of ‘Civil War’ and ‘Crazy Like A Fox’ really slam, and the catchy ‘Love Can’t Buy You Money’ is very memorable. ‘Them Not Me’ features some brilliant drum work and ‘Listen To Your Heart’ finishes the album out with some acoustic guitar work. At 41 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and there are no real weak link tracks or filler.

As with almost all Motorhead albums (with the exception of maybe On Parole and March Or Die) it is fast, hard, blunt and greasy. They know what the audience want and how to give it to them. Some people will tell you only Motorhead with Fast Eddie and Philthy’ Phil are worth listening to, but this is an album that blows that viewpoint out of the water.  

Volbeat – The Strength/The Sound/The Songs Review

2005’s The Strength, The Sound, The Songs is the debut album by the unique Danish Rock/Metal band Volbeat. Released long before their international breakthrough and before former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano joined the band.

This is arguably the heaviest and least eclectic Volbeat album in the catalogue, and probably the least commercial too. Its also probably the only one in their catalogue without a guest appearance from an outside musician. In several ways it stands out from the rest of the catalogue.

That all being said, it is still sounds unarguably Volbeat through and through. For example; Michael Poulsen’s unmistakable Danzig meets Johnny Cash meets James Hetfield meets Elvis Presley voice came out of the gates fully formed. Catchy sing-alongs are still the order of the day. Basically; Apart from the more radio-hard rock moments which would appear with increasing frequency in future releases, much of the band’s trademark blend of styles are still present and accounted for.

Highlights include concert favourite ‘Pool Of Booze, Booze, Booza’ which rumbles along with stoner rock riffs and groove metal chug and highlights the band’s more metallic side, as well as the cover of Dusty Spingfield’s 1963 debut single ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’ which highlight’s the band’s fun side, and ‘Always, Wu’ which showcases the band’s Misfits loving, catchy, Woah-Woah filled Punk influenced side. (Try saying that three times fast).

Maybe not their best-selling, or most famous record, but a very strong debut, a sign of things to come, and heavier and more consistent record from start to finish than you may expect. Overall, If you like Volbeat, it’s a must have.

Ghost – Prequelle Review

Ghost are one of those bands, where you can say any of their albums is your favourite, and I would totally get it. The first one has the raw charm, the second one has the diversity, the third one has the heaviness and this fourth one has the fun factor.

2018’s Prequelle is probably my own personal favourite Ghost album to date. While it is very close between this and its heavier predecessor, Meliora, this one over time has just pipped it to the post.

It starts out, after the plague-themed intro, with the lead single ‘Rats’ which has the catchiness and driving power of Queensryche’s ‘Walk In The Shadows’ but with Ghost’s trademark camp, pomp and flair. There’s also ‘Faith’ which is one of the heavier tracks, a mid paced stomper, with verses that wouldn’t be too out of place on Metallica’s Black Album, but all of the keyboards, stop/start patterns and religious themes make it distinctly Ghost.

Along the way you’ll find numerous excellent tunes, with catchy choruses, succinct and memorable structures infused with the sounds of ‘70s prog, ‘80s pop and late ‘60s proto metal mashed up with Queen style showmanship. They wrap all of this up in a loose, ‘lets reflect on death’ theme, disguised as a Black Death era concept.

For me best song on the record, (and contender for a place in the top-5 Ghost songs ever), is ‘Pro Memoria.’ It is a jaunty, Songs From The Wood-through-to-Stormwatch-era Jethro Tull influenced, tempo shifting, joy of a song. The main lyric ‘Don’t you forget about dying, don’t you forget about your friend death, don’t you forget that you will die to’ pretty much summarizes the whole memento mori vibe of the entire record.

Other highlights include the superb instrumentals ‘Miasma’ & ‘Helvetesfonster’ which are injected with the sounds of Camel and Wind And Wuthering-era Genesis, the former of which also boasts a ridiculously catchy sax solo.

When I first heard of Ghost, it took me a long time to accept that although Papa Emeritus looked like a demonic zombie pope and all the lyrics and artwork were based on horror movies and religion, this wasn’t a black metal band. There was a mental disconnect and cognitive dissonance that took a while to get over. Once I got the band’s retro sounds converted into catchy perfectly formed pop rock formula however, I was totally in love.  

This album is another fine addition to the Ghost back catalogue and while not their heaviest effort, more than makes up for it with ear pleasing melodies, jaunty rhythms and heaps & heaps of good old-fashioned fun.

Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man Review

Released to no inconsiderable amount of hype, 2020’s Ordinary Man is Ozzy Osbourne’s 12th full-length studio album.

There’s been a veritable whirlwind of press about it, which you’ve probably read already, but the salient facts are these: It’s a star studded affair full of collaborations, it was written and recorded really quickly during a period of ill-health, and it is better than anyone expected. (Also; anyone reviewing it seems to be legally required to state that Ozzy is not an ordinary man and act like saying so was very original).

The most relevant guest appearances to rock fans are Guns N’ Roses’ Slash and Duff, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morrello, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Chad Smith and of course, Elton John. However, read the Wikipedia article if you want a Chinese Democracy’s worth of further participants.

It was produced by Andrew Watt (remember him, from California Breed, the Black Country Communion spin-off ?) who has since gone on to all sorts of success in the mainstream music world. Watt also contributes much of the lead guitar, as neither Gus G nor Zakk Wylde were involved in the record.

Stylistically, the album doesn’t feel like a continuation of the previous albums Scream (2010) or Black Rain (2007) but rather, its feels like a strange midway point between No More Tears (1991) and Ozzmosis (1995). Well, for the most part at least, its also really diverse and a little unfocused and not really any one thing.

There’s a few ballads, one or two mid paced rockers, a big album centrepiece in the varied ‘Under The Graveyard’ and then the weird punky closer ‘It’s A Raid’ which also has a guest appearance from rapper de jour, Post Malone.  

Interestingly, this album ends with the line ‘Fuck You All’ which contrasts Scream, which ended with ‘I Love You All.’  This makes the album end on a less soppy note, which it easily could have, as the title track and a few others definitely bare the hallmarks of being written during a health scare and having the ‘this is my last album’ vibe to them. Luckily Ozzy has since stated that he intends to make another record.

The general consensus among fans, critics and the general public has been that this album is way better than anyone expected. Some people have started throwing around ‘’best album since…’’ statements.

I would have to agree with this consensus, but also preach caution on the ‘’sinces.’’ Don’t buy into the unrealistically positive hype. It doesn’t live up to that high bar. Randy Rhodes hasn’t come back from the dead and Ozzy hasn’t hand delivered the vaccine for the corona-virus with every CD. There are flaws (the lyrics for one, and the production for another). This probably won’t turn out to still be many people’s favourite Ozzy album 10 years from now.

It is however, a brief, refreshing and entertaining hodge-podge of loose, sometimes ‘90s-sounding Ozzy and a few ‘’fuck it, lets just have fun’’ moments. In summary; Its simultaneously better than you’d expect, but realistically not as good as people say it is.

[Ps. You can get a version with a bonus track, ‘Take What You Want’ which isn’t an Ozzy song, but in fact actually the rapper Post Malone’s song, which features Ozzy. It’s a bizarre choice. I can’t recall another example of someone putting someone else’s song on their album.  The song isn’t to my taste, but I guess it will help with sales/streaming, and may hopefully convert some new fans to the world of Rock and Metal]


 

Bring Me The Horizon – Amo Review

Bring Me The Horizon are a very weird band. They have early albums with blast beats and death growls and their latest album is basically a pop music album with barely any guitars. That’s a pretty diverse discography, and if you bought and liked one and then picked up the other without any prior knowledge, you would be understandably confused, and possibly distressed. There was a very natural evolution over time, with different fans getting on and getting off the train at different points, but still.There’s a song on this album called ‘Heavy Metal’ which cleverly calls this out, and the chorus is basically variations on ‘’this shit aint heavy metal …and that’s alright.’’ – This very much sums up my feelings.

Now; my favourite BMTH album is probably the heavy, exciting and savage sophomore album, Suicide Season. The sound of that record is much closer to death metal and metalcore than pop music. However, with each new album the band have broadened their horizons and changed their focus so much that when they dropped the controversial Amo in January 2019, it made sense.

There are a few nuggets of the band’s older energy, such as the lead singles ‘’Wonderful Life’’ and ‘’Mantra’’ (the former of which has a guest vocal from Dani Filth!) as well as ‘Sugar, Honey, Ice & Tea’. However, where the album really shines is when they go full on radio pop.

My favourite song on the album for example is ‘Medicine’ which feels like something you’d hear in a clothes shop nowadays, and other highlights include ‘Nihilist Blues’ which sounds like something they’d play in a nightclub scene in a sci-fi videogame and ‘Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down?’ which sounds like an advertisement for some trendy car-chase movie. It gives me a peak into musical worlds I normally have no exposure to or interest in and as such, is nice for the unique place it has in my music collection.

I don’t think I would have gotten into this band at all if this was the sort of music they’d always played. If I heard almost any song off this record and it was a new band, I don’t think I would explore any further, but since I’ve been following the band for years and years, it was nice to unexpectedly end up here. I don’t own any other music that sounds like ‘Fresh Bruises’ outside some electronic tinged remix bonus tracks from singles and digipaks in the Nu Metal era.

I guess it may sound a bit bizarre next to tracks from Count Your Blessings or Suicide Season in a playlist, but there’s no denying it is catchy. Maybe watching too much Teen Mum UK with my wife has exposed me to too much contemporary pop music, but ‘Mother Tongue’ is one of the catchiest new releases from any band I like in 2019.

As I, and I’m sure many other reviewers as cliched as me will have already said, (it really is low hanging fruit), Amo ‘aint heavy metal, but that’s alright.

Marilyn Manson – Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) review

I remember doing school projects about Marilyn Manson when I was in high school. I remember countless discussions about him with friends. I remember staying up late to see him when he would be on TV. I remember almost having the chance to see him, but missing out due to work (I only finally saw him last year). I remember reading his autobiography at least three times a year, every year, from about age 12 to age 25. When I think of the albums that have had the biggest impact on my taste, that I have loved for the longest, that have held up the most over the years; Marilyn Manson’s 4th full-length official studio album, 2001’s Holy Wood In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death (…or just ”Holywood” for short) is never far from the top of the list.

He is a very diverse and eclectic artist, that has covered a lot of diferent ground over the years, but I would instantly blurt out ‘’Holywood!’’ before you had even finished asking me what my favourite album of his is. It was a real high point in his career artistically, even if commercially the previous two albums were bigger and this one was hindered by all that Columbine witch hunt nonsense. I don’t want to talk about that unfortunate business too much, but you can’t skim over it entirely. It certainly informed the tone of the album. The key phrase that really defines the whole album is ‘‘Guns, God and Government.’’ Its biting and acerbic lyrics cleverly dissect American political, religious and pop culture values in a really insightful way. I have to say, of all his albums, this one hands down has the best lyrics, the sharpest pen, the best blend of venom and wisdom behind it.

Its also a prog-esque masterpiece. The prequel to a conceptual trilogy (the triptych) beginning with his breakthrough record Antichrist Superstar and retroactively ending with the one that came before this, Mechanical Albums.

That’s just the lyrics. Where to even begin with the music…? The album contains two of the man/band’s best ever singles in ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘Disposable Teens’ which are beyond catchy, with incredibly memorable vocals, riffs and drums.  Equally memorable high energy moments are the utterly furious ‘Burning Flag’ which is one of Manson’s fastest and nastiest songs ever, or ‘Born Again’ which is one of the bounciest and catchiest songs any artist has ever written without releasing it as a single. Equally ‘The Love Song’ and ‘The Death Song’ are unforgettable gems that would be a lesser band’s biggest hit and proud concert finisher, yet here they are just two more songs among ninteen.

Its not all high energy though. Its 19 songs crossing numerous subgenres. A very wide range of moods and tones, speeds and directions all on display. The album can be incredibly dark and bleak, ‘Count To Six And Die’ literally ends with someone shooting themselves to death with a revolver. That’s a pretty ballsy move to make after just having been falsely accused of inspiring a mass shooting. ‘Coma Black’ is a dark sister song to the previous hit single Coma White, and the industrial-meets-prog ‘Cruci-fiction In Space’ sounds like some Bizarre mixture of Rammstein meets Rush at their darker moments. It was so cool how on live shows from this era it would tie into the theatrics (as seen on the excellent Guns God And Government Live In LA blu ray). I won’t even bother to describe it, I wouldn’t do it justic, just go and see for yourself.

Everything about this album is so interesting. Even the cover artwork is so iconic. Manson crucified with his jaw removed so he can’t tell his side of thestory. So his message is censored. It would be on the nose if it wasn’t so apros pos. Even the artwork on the inside of the booklet creates such a perfect aesthetic that runs through all the advertisements and music videos and single artwork. All that zodiac and tarrot imagery with creepy folk and religious imagery conjures up a scary vibe to terrify those who were already afraid of him. There was a really strong visual identity for this whole era, and it perfectly suited the music.

Thank god (and guns, and the government) that Manson got into this headspace at this point in time, with this band backing him. I know that some of it is nostalgia about a moment in time, but even when trying to look at it objectively, there is just something so special about this album. The music, the lyrics, the artwork. Its just such a perfectly formed and perfectly realised vision from beginning to end. He balances so many things, so well. This record is such an interesting journey. Its somehow instantaneous and a slow burn at the same time. Its somehow fun and horrendously austere at the same time. It feels somehow simultaneously like a misunderstood gem, and an obvious magnum opus. Cut the album in half with a certain mix of songs and it would feel like a dancefloor greatest hits set. Cut the album another way and it is a sombre and murky journey through the grimey underbelly of the complex country that rejected Manson so hatefully. He spits that hate back tenfold and sounds good doing it.

Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound review.

I am not the oldest Volbeat fan, I only discovered them last year at Download Festival 2018, but I have been listening to them absolutely non-stop ever since.

Volbeat cds for birthday and Christmas, Volbeat t-shirts under my work clothes pretty often, Volbeat on the car stereo during every road trip to visit relatives, Volbeat in the car ride to work almost every work day. Overall; I’ve listened to over 2,900 times in the past year. Something that few other bands can boast. Since records began in 2011 (when I started tracking it via LastFm), they are my 9th most listened-to artist. So basically; I’ve listened to them more in one year than I have some of my favourite ever bands, almost any other band in fact, in the last 8 years.

So you could say, that coming into this new album, which is the first new one to be released in my time as a fan (not counting the amazing live album, Let’s Boogie! Live from Telia Parken), that I was more than a little excited.

…So imagine my surprise when the first time I listened to it, I didn’t really care for it. At all.

Now, that was partially my own fault, first of all I was lifting weights on a red hot Summer’s day, with a noisy fan on while I did so, so maybe it wasn’t really hearing it in the best conditions. Additionally; I was beyond hyped, so I wasn’t really going in with realistic expectations.

Having listened to it a good few more times, some of them while driving, some while exercising and some just sitting there in a quiet room paying close attention, it has definitely grown on me more.

There are some stand out tracks that I am really happy to have in my Volbeat collection and which I would be excited to see live. ‘Die To Live’ is probably the best of them. I mean, how could it not be, featuring as it does guest vocals from the mighty Neil Fallon from Clutch. It is a jaunty up tempo rock n’ roller with tinkly piano reminiscent of Illusion era GnR and fun saxophone reminiscent of the Boomtown Rats but a basic bouncy pop punk structure for the rest of the song that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid period Green Day or Rancid album. Real fun tune.

There is also the singles ‘Parasite’ which is a 40 second punk statement with punctuated vocals and oodles of energy, and ‘Leviathan’ which is just an absolute sing-along anthem up there with previous gems like ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ or ‘Thanks’ or ‘Lola Montez’ in the Volbeat-sound-like-fun stakes. The band are always great when Jon gets pounding on the floor toms. It is the kind of smile-inducing big stadium shouter that makes you remember how fun Rock Music is when you are 13 years old.

Another great thing about the album is the lead guitar work, Michael and Rob’s lead guitar lines and solos are utterly majestic at times (think the Guitar solo from Anthrax’s ‘Safe Home’ and you’ll know what I mean)… the kind of magical guitar solo that transports you to another place.

That said. I don’t think I would be out of place in saying this is the band’s worst album. Well, if not worst, then, least good. The first point against it in my book is really subjective, but it is just not heavy enough. There’s maybe two Metal songs on it. ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ (with guest guitar from Exodus’ Gary Holt!) are the heaviest tunes, but they stand sort of alone in that front… and even ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ is only Metal in the second half once the guitar solo section kicks it up a notch.

The second thing against it is they re-use a lot of things from previous albums. Single ‘Pelvis On Fire’ for example will be real good fun if it is the first Volbeat song you ever hear but it is exactly halfway between ‘Devil Or The Blue Cats Song’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and you kind of feel they are ripping themselves off a little bit. Haven’t I heard that vocal melody before? Hasn’t he done an Elvis voice before? That slow down speed up thing sounds familiar.

The third thing, again subjective, is that they do too much of the overly earnest big American radio rock style. On the previous album they did it a bit on tracks like ‘Goodbye Forever’ or on the album previous to that, with ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ but they did it really, really well and in small doses. Here they do it so much it kind of overwhelms the album. They do inject Volbeatness into those songs, but just not enough for my tastes. It makes the album sound a bit bland. Usually a Volbeat album is a rollercoaster going from sounding Psychobilly, to Pop Punk to Groove Metal to Stoner Metal to 1950s Rock N’ Roll to Metallica-Worship and back again, all in a seamless package where it all flows together and you don’t even realise its weird that bagpipes have entered the mix.

On this album it feels like a radio rock album with a few detours. Initially at least. The more I listen to it the more I get into it. I also feel like me saying they do too many radio songs is a bit like Millicent Stone in the TV show Bunheads telling the ballet dancers they are doing too much of a certain step (when she herself has no knowledge of dancing). And saying there isn’t enough metal is a bit silly when the tracks I have said where the best songs, ‘Die To Live,’ ‘Parasite’ and ‘Leviathan’ are in no way metal and are still brilliant. And some of my all time favourite Volbeat songs from across the discography like ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and ‘Still Counting’ aren’t metal either.

That’s perhaps a conflicted mess of a review. To summarise I would sum it up thusly, the gut reaction was negative but its a grower and although I would certainly not make it your first Volbeat album unless you love earnest radio rock, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disappointment and it has at least 5 or 6 songs I am really happy with and will be happy to include on future playlists, and would be happy to see live. However; if all you liked about Volbeat was the heavier side of them, like ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza,’ ‘Slaytan’ and ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ …then maybe this album might not be an instant hit with you either.