Ah, Volbeat. That band too metal to be rock but too rock to be metal and their touring activities are a great reflection of that – not looking out of place on either a rock or metal billing. And indeed, their back catalogue only serves to defend that. Their first four albums were far heavier but still tinged with rock to make them accessible to non-metal fans. Meanwhile the last couple saw them take the opposite tack – upping the rock and dialling back the metal and with the more commercial and radio-friendly sound, saw them explode in popularity in recent years. And because of the shift, they remained as hard as ever to categorise.
Rewind, Replay, Rebound sees them return to the naming convention of those older, heavier albums and I thought it’d be a reflection of them looking back at those grittier times. One listen of this new album completely shattered those expectations. This album is taking the saccharine incarnation of Volbeat and watering it down further. Here, they don’t have one foot in each camp with unequal weighting, depending which era you’re listening to. This is Volbeat making a full-on rock album and if that’s the album they wanted to make, more power to them but it’s going to alienate a portion of their fanbase (on the other hand, they’ll likely gain as many new fans with a safer approach).
Whilst the formula for a Volbeat song hasn’t changed much from the first album to this, their seventh, they’ve still toyed with what a Volbeat song can be here. Something which has long been a strength is one of the album’s stumbling blocks. Opener “Last Day Under the Sun” is their attempt at stadium rock but comes across more as the bastard child of Bon Jovi and Volbeat. Elsewhere, “Parasite” barely crosses the half-minute mark and feels shoved in to show they can do something like that. Meanwhile, closer “7:24” sonically feels like a bonus track you’d get if you bought an expanded version or from a specific shop (there is a two disc version knocking around with extra tracks) and an anti-climactic end where previous song, “The Everlasting”, one of the album’s better tracks, would have been a stronger finish.
Indeed, it faces this issue as well on “Die to Live” with saxophone and piano added in a ham-fisted fashion that it feels completely out of place and disjointed. However, the track does feature the guest vocals of Neil Fallon and adds to the furious nature of the track; his inclusion tips the scales back to make this one of the better tracks of the album and if it wasn’t for the added instrumentation, this would be one of the best songs of their career. However, if you ever wondered what another booming vocalist fronting Volbeat sounded like, wonder no more. “The Awakening of Bonnie Parker” revisits the idea of throwing things in for the sake of it but here, it’s a spoken word monologue which breaks the chugging momentum of the song.
Then, there’s “Cheapside Sloggers” which features the guitar talents of Gary Holt. It’s the only other real highlight of the album. Even then, it’s not the track as a whole but his solo which breaks away from the dullness of the song and grabs your attention and make you want to break out the air guitar. And this is the biggest problem with the album, failed experimentation aside. Nothing jumps out as being a great song other than some guests to bring those respective moments to life. There’s nothing with that anthemic quality here, there’s not a “Sad Man’s Tongue”, “Still Counting”, “Heaven Nor Hell”, “16 Dollars”, “A Warrior’s Call” or “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”. It just feels like a by-the-numbers album, lacking soul with everything blending into one another and re-treading some familiar ground with “Pelvis on Fire” sounding like “Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza” and “Maybe I Believe” virtually a carbon copy of “Cape of Our Hero”.
If you’re a Volbeat fan, you know what’s on offer. They’ve not shown much growth or development over their career, they know what their sound is and for the most part, stick to it because it works – chugging punk-tinged riffs, bulky vocals and a Motörhead-esque rhythm section duking it out in a three-way bar brawl. Sure, they’ve toned it down to appeal to a larger audience but they’ve now gone too far in that direction. Even in that guise, Volbeat have always been a fun band to listen to. On Rewind, Replay, Rebound, not so much; it sounds more of an exercise and it’s a slog to get to the, frankly welcome, end.
Whilst previous efforts have danced on the line of what a Volbeat song can be and it’s worked, here, less so and nothing has the heft behind that you’d expect. The production itself and the performances can’t be faulted and, along with the guest appearances, is the album’s saving grace. If you’re looking for that hulking, snarling beast of those earlier albums, it’s gone, with not even a hint of it. You’ll just need to listen to those and make do.
Rewind, Replay, Rebound is released on 2nd August