The current situation with Volbeat is that they should be a lot better than are, but they’re stuck in a hard rock field that rarely accommodates for the innovation they’re capable of bringing. It’s no coincidence that their profile started growing when their rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly influences were shifted aside in favour of straight-laced hard rock, and while that worked to a degree on 2013’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, replicating the formula three years later on Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie resulted in an album that was effectively a carbon copy of its predecessor, from sound and themes all the way down to broad track sequencing. If nothing else, at least, Rewind, Replay, Rebound looks to be breaking away from such a religiously-followed template, but with the baffling decision for the lead song released to be Parasite, a 37-second-long throwaway cut that would be seen as a fragment for the cutting room floor for virtually anyone else, it’s easy to go in skeptically and wonder whether Volbeat actually know what they’re doing here.
But in reality, a lot of those worries prove to be largely unfounded, as Rewind, Replay, Rebound brings back the significant fun factor that’s been missing from Volbeat’s music for a while now, but remaining firmly lodged into the hard rock foundations. The difference is the degree with which the sense of levity matches with a core desire to be as anthemic as possible, and when that sweet spot is hit (which, for the record, is much more often than it isn’t), there’s a handful of really standout moments on here that might even be among Volbeats highest risers to date. Even with the usual flaws and less-than-desirable trappings of a Volbeat album still on show, it says a lot about how thoroughly the band have found their feet once again; as the title suggests, this is most definitely a rebound for them.
It definitely feels like the decreased rigidity has had a lot to do with that as well, as this really isn’t that different sonically from a lot of Volbeat’s other work. They still know their way around a chunky hard rock riff with the sort of production that’s very classically minded in capturing a burnished, rough-around-the-edges style to match Michael Poulsen’s gigantic, charismatic bellow. The big new twist is the return of more decisive rockabilly elements which, though used sparingly, do give a nice sense of rollick to the hot-under-the-collar swagger of Pelvis On Fire and the sweltering saxophone lines and Neil Fallon bringing all the bug-eyed mania usually found on a Clutch song on Die To Live. On the whole though, its return isn’t as imperative to Rewind, Replay, Rebound’s success as some maybe would have predicted, but the looser vibe of it all can definitely be felt in the way things progress at a pretty decent clip throughout. Because this is a Volbeat album, it’s too long and in desperate need of some slimming down, but this is probably the one that’s hindered the least by it, mostly because there’s at least a solid hook or rich multi-layering that keeps it afloat. Granted, the lyrics aren’t all that special and stay fairly centralised around a radio-ready hard rock framework (albeit not as egregiously as some of the band’s trend-hopping contemporaries), but the likes of Last Day Under The Sun and Cloud 9 have the inflated gusto to carry them far, while When We Were Kids and 7:24, while not being able to hit the greatest heights the album has at its disposal, bring a weathered, emotional sense of nostalgia in their slower pace and acoustic accents that’s at least appreciated. There’s definitely a limit to how much this works though, and with the likes of Maybe I Believe and The Everlasting (and of course, Parasite) being prime candidates for a pruning, it’s not like Volbeat have quite mastered how to get the best results yet, but they’re definitely getting close, and a relative lack of outright bad songs shows just how comfortable they’ve become within this bigger hard rock ecosystem.
But what’s crucial is that ‘comfort’ isn’t a synonym for ‘complacent’, or at least not to the degree that their last album felt, and the fact that Rewind, Replay, Rebound is a noticeable step up shows that Volbeat are indeed moving forward where it once felt like they’d only continue to stagnate. They’ve not reached a point of greatness like the once threatened to, but they’re in a headspace now where that seems much more likely soon than it once did, and with a handful of songs on here that feel as revitalised as they do, there’s definitely an air of confidence running through this album that’s encouraging to see. It’s not exactly a classic album or among the best of the year, but it’s a change that can’t be ignored, and when that change is for the better, that’s always good to see.
For fans of: Danko Jones, Stone Sour, Metallica
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’ by Volbeat is out now on Vertigo Records.