Album Review – Volbeat / Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie (2016)

Seal the deal and let’s boogie to the classy and flammable music by Denmark’s best Rock N’ Roll band of all time.

Rating4

volbeat_seal the deal & lets boogieAfter the release of the highly acclaimed Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies in 2013, which entered the Billboard 200 in the United States at number nine, topped the charts in Austria, Canada, Denmark and Germany, among others, receiving immediate gold and platinum status in those countries, as well as being nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, many fans started to wonder where Danish Rock N’ Roll rebels Volbeat could go after achieving such a great success. Fortunately for all admirers of good old Rock N’ Roll music, those rockers from the stunning city of Copenhagen are still on top form, strong and sparkling with excitement, releasing now their action-packed sixth full-length album entitled Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie.

The album is their first not to feature longtime bassist Anders Kjølholm, who left in November 2015 after being responsible for Volbeat’s rumbling tones since the band’s inception in 2001. Despite that significant change in the lineup, all other ingredients we love in the music by Volbeat are present in the entire album, including obviously their thrilling heavy riffs and the inebriate (and sometimes even hard to understand) vocals by frontman Michael Polsen. Add to that the classy contribution of two very special guests, these being singer Johan Olsen (from Danish rock group Magtens Korridorer) and Canada’s own Danko Jones, and the final result is exactly what every fan of Volbeat could expect from such an accomplished band.

The initial riff in the opening track, the hit single The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, is the purest form of Volbeat you can find on earth, as well as pretty much all vocal lines by Michael Poulsen. Born to be a radio hit, this is the type of song that has all aspects necessary to be successful, such as a catchy chorus, electrified guitars and headbanging beats, which can also be found in the next track, Marie Laveau, another classic Volbeat tune, offering the listener some smooth Rock N’ Roll with a nice melody, not to mention the excellent job done by Rob Caggiano with his always fiery solos. For Evigt (which means “Forever” in Danish), is the song to feature Johan Olsen on guest vocals, being the second collaboration between Olsen and Volbeat following “The Garden’s Tale”. It’s definitely not as amazing as their 2007 classic, but still fresh and exciting, with its guitar riffs and solos, together with the Danish parts of the lyrics, becoming the top moments of this solid Rock N’ Roll song.

I never thought I would see Volbeat singing about a topic usually explored by traditional Heavy Metal bands like what we see in the awesome The Gates of Babylon (“Awakening a goddess in the dark / On a stake she’s been hanging like a doll / Tried to reach for the underworld / Had to pass through the seven gates of hell”), a beautiful composition that adds a lot of harmony and groove to the album and consequently to the band’s portfolio, with even the guitar lines sounding more “Babylonic” than usual. And they do not get tired of firing good rock music, this time entitled Let It Burn, a song that all fans of Volbeat will have a good time listening while on the road, with highlights to Michael’s performance with his Johnny Cash-like vocals enhanced by Rob’s powerful guitar lines.

volbeat 2016Black Rose, featuring Danko Jones, is an awesome Hard Rock hymn perfect for being played on the radio as well, where our guest rocker made in Canada adds a lot of stamina to the song with his heavier and deeper voice; whereas the average Rebound,  a cover version for a generic song by American Punk Rock band Teenage Bottlerocket, brings nothing special to the album. Well, maybe if they turned the electricity up a bit the final result would have been a lot better, because it gets really tiring even having only two and a half minutes. Anyway, girls named Mary Jane will definitely fall in love with the power semi-ballad Mary Jane Kelly, very tuneful and pleasant like most of the songs in the album. Furthermore, Jon Larsen might not be the fastest or most technical drummer in the world, but he knows what to do to make Volbeat’s music thrive. On the other hand, Goodbye Forever is by far the worst of all songs, not because of its rhythm or lyrics, but it’s those horrible choir-like backing vocals that join Michael after three minutes that truly annoy me, being too “churchy” for my taste.

At least that boredom doesn’t last long, as Volbeat blast one of the most electrifying of all songs, the Rock N’ Roll hymn Seal the Deal, with its thrilling rhythm, the blazing solos by Rob, and a first-rate old school Volbeat chorus (“I get groovy / Now turn it on and fight / Seal the deal and let’s boogie for a while / Let’s get groovy / Burning out with rage / Seal the deal and let’s do it all again”). In other words, this is surely one of their best new songs to be added to their live concerts. The second cover of the album, Battleship Chains by American Southern Rock group The Georgia Satellites, sounds a lot better, an old rock classic with a southern sonority nicely played by Volbeat, while You Will Know, the second to last song of the regular version of the album, brings forward more melodic rock crafted in Denmark showcasing passionate performances by all members, with Rob stealing the show once again thanks to his amazing solos. And lastly, the heavy and metallic The Loa’s Crossroad offers the listener a more aggressive side of the band, with its resonant bass guitar and especially its bag pipes adding more violence and epicness to the musicality displayed. Additionally, if you buy the deluxe edition of the album, you’ll also get four awesome bonus tracks that live up to Volbeat’s tradition: a one-minute devastation named Slaytan, the North American version of “For Evigt” entitled The Bliss (where the Danish chorus sung by Johan is replaced by Michael singing it in English), a version of Black Rose without Danko Jones, and a live version of The Devil’s Bleeding Crown recorded in Denmark in 2015.

It might take time for some fans to get used to Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, mainly because a few of the songs presented in the album sound too “commercial” compared to their old classics, but after a few listens you’ll realize there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the album, it’s simply the Volbeat we all enjoy. Of course, as a huge fan of extreme music, I would love to see Volbeat getting heavier and darker than what they really are in some of their compositions, but it’s undeniable they remain loyal to their roots no matter what, and I respect that a lot. As long as they keep delivering their unique Rock N’ Roll to the world, with Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie being a very good example of that, I’ll continue to be a happy rocker.

Best moments of the album: The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, The Gates of Babylon and Seal the Deal.

Worst moments of the album: Rebound and Goodbye Forever.

Released in 2016 Vertigo/Republic/Universal

Track listing
1. The Devil’s Bleeding Crown 3:56
2. Marie Laveau 3:13
3. For Evigt (feat. Johan Olsen) 4:44
4. The Gates of Babylon 4:34
5. Let It Burn 3:39
6. Black Rose (feat. Danko Jones) 3:55
7. Rebound (Teenage Bottlerocket cover) 2:29
8. Mary Jane Kelly 5:39
9. Goodbye Forever 4:30
10. Seal the Deal 4:09
11. Battleship Chains (Georgia Satellites cover) 3:21
12. You Will Know 4:31
13. The Loa’s Crossroad 4:21

Deluxe edition bonus tracks
14. Slaytan 0:58
15. The Bliss 4:42
16. Black Rose 3:57
17. The Devil’s Bleeding Crown (Live at Tusindårsskoven, Odense 2015) 4:04

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar, bass guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar (live)
Jon Larsen – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Johan Olsen – additional vocals on “For Evigt”
Danko Jones – additional vocals on “Black Rose”

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