The Strength/The Sound/The Songs - VOLBEAT

It is my distinct pleasure to present to you another pleasant rock and roll surprise. Ladies and gentlemen, from Copenhagen, Denmark, VOLBEAT! "The Strength/The Sound/The Songs" is the result of former DOMINUS mainman Michael Poulsen's scheme to bring together heavy guitar rock (with a pinch of metal), '60s tunefulness, and a whole lotta Elvis Presley worship. And I'll be a damned if the combo doesn't work like a charm. The album is an auspicious debut for Mascot Records imprint Rebel Monster Records.

Through 15 songs, singer/guitarist Poulsen sports a croon that combines either Elvis Presley or Glenn Danzig (depending on the song and your point of view) with a latter-day James Hetfield approach. Initially irksome, once I settled into the album's groove, the often over-the-top singing style, coupled with decent songwriting, works rather well. Much of the material relies on chunky riffs and hard-charging rhythms (occasionally given an extra kick in the ass with double bass overdrive — i.e. "Another Day, Another Way"), and there's always a hook. As heavy, and even thrashy, as tunes like "Fire Song" and "Danny & Lucy (11 pm)" can be, the focus on melody is never lost. Other tracks put more emphasis on a delightfully sappy tunefulness (check out the harmonies on "Always, Wu" and "Soulweeper"), the cover "I Only Wanna Be With You" the one case where the '60s influence takes center stage. The Elvis bit is taken to extremes on "Caroline #1", in part due to the musical debt owed, but mainly because the entire lyric set is made up of Presley song titles; and it's awfully amusing.

Loud guitars, a nice collection of hooks, and an endearingly oddball vocal performance make "The Strength/The Sound/The Songs" a worthwhile spin. It sure as hell stands apart from anything in my CD collection.

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