At what point do we (I? Is it just me by now…? in which case, I’ll get with the programme asap!) change our default position that bands twenty years deep into their careers shouldn’t be producing their best stuff in a heavy music arena? Cos it’s bollocks. Our staff voted-for album of the year top 3 picks for this year to prove it. The last ten years of evidence proves it. A whole plethora of written-off bands pushing well into their second, third, even fourth, decade with career best releases prove it. There’s a pervading feeling that age dilutes quality and / or heaviness, yet nothing could be further than the truth. Particularly in the Volbeat camp, because, Servant of the Mind (EMI), their twentieth anniversary and eighth studio release, is their best to date. Form is temporary when class is permanent.
Underpinning it all is a root Misfits-meets-Metallica-meets-Rockabilly core, and everything you want from a Volbeat album is here in spades, with every aspect – the psychobilly, the dirty Danzig moments, the Black album worship (‘Mindlock’), the arena rock choruses (‘Heaven’s Descent’ anyone!?), the big chugging stomps and the Dusk til Dawn satani-vampiric dance of ‘The Devil Rages On’ – all dialled up and all consistently delivering.
One of the Volbeat guarantees is that they will cover a lot of ground within the realms of their style and sound – from the surf rock romp of the breezy ‘Wait A Minute My Girl’ to the next track on the album, the doomy ‘Sacred Stones’, which could easily have sat on any post-Ozzy Sabbath album with pride, to ‘Dagen Før’; from the Entombed (yep!) HM2 powered Death meets Groove Metal of ‘Becoming’ (that builds from hell to a hook to rival ‘Lola Montez’) to the quirky, catchy, Country-tinged duet with Stine Bramsen of Alphabeat – and they will do so with confidence and bluster in a way that means everything on display is defiantly and definitely Volbeat. While checking in at every point of the octogram of styles the band espouses (it is fair to say there isn’t anything stylistically that is particularly new for the band), Servant of the Mind is proof that every arm of the Vol-beast is as muscular as the rest.
And speaking of muscular, the heart of the album is chunky, punchy and pounding guitar chuggery – Rob Caggiano sounds like he’s having an absolute party with advance single ‘Shotgun Blues’ being a particularly evident moment of bottom string stomp, with the track also serving to highlight that Michael Poulson is in the finest of fettles – a smile in the voice, confidently striding atop the band’s stadium-filling sound.
Solitude and focus seems to have suited Poulson and crew, with the album written entirely in lockdown, and the joy of meeting back up and performing together perhaps further enhancing the recording process as this sounds like the band are having the times of their lives. There is an overriding sense of camaraderie and joy emanating from the speakers at every point.
So, a focused writer, a talented experienced collective in top form, and, perhaps, a point to prove after recent albums had been decent though not as widely revered as some of the early-canon material, with 2013’s Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies (Vertigo / Republic) the last time they were near this sort of form: Servant of the Mind out-performs everything that came before and adds a slew of massive songs, ‘Say No More’ and its Mega–tallica chug testament (sic) to the overkill (#SorryNotSorry) of the quality of fresh meat here, to the Volbeat arsenal ahead of their return to touring.
Buy the album here: https://volbeat.lnk.to/SOTM
9 / 10