Having Metallica praise your band is worth more than a hundred pages of record label raves and blather. That's what happened to the Copenhagen based Volbeat who promoted their third album, "Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood," by opening for Metallica on their fall '09 North American trek. That was likely the first time Americans became aware of the group.
The story goes back to the beginning of the decade, '01 to be precise. And like so many others, it starts with an end; namely Michael Poulsen's band Dominus. They had recorded an album titled "Vol. Beat." Vol. being an abbreviation for 'volume'. For his next group, Poulsen further compressed the name.
Joining Poulsen was ex-Dominus guitarist Franz "Hellboss" Gottschalk. But he moved on quickly and was replaced by Teddy Vang. In '04, Vang was gone and Gottschalk returned. His stay was longer this time around making it to the group's debut album, "The Strength/The Sound/The Songs." The '05 set charted in the group's native Denmark and went on to win Best Album in the Danish Metal Musik Awards.
The following year though, Gottschalk left again with Thomas Bredahl stepping in.
Volbeat's second album "Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil" (great title) went to #1 in Denmark and achieved gold status in Denmark and Finland. And the Metallica connection was first forged when the groups crossed paths at Copenhagen's Roskilde Festival.
'08 saw the release of Volbeat's third album, "Guitar, Gangsters & Cadillac Blood." It topped the Finnish chart. That album's success led to the slot on Metallica's World Magnetic Tour.
"We have fast, slow and mid-tempo songs," said Poulsen of "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven." "We still blend different styles of Punk, Rock 'n' Roll, Rockabilly, Metal, Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Country - we still keep it very open, it's just music!"
As for the album's theme, Poulsen added, "Heaven and Hell is something we create in our minds and personal self-created demons come out of that." "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven" continued the group's European winning streak going double platinum in Denmark, platinum in Finland and Germany, and gold in Sweden and Austria.
Bredahl, who missed some '10 U.S. tour dates because he was unable to secure a work visa (due to an arrest record from a barroom brawl), was out of the group in '11.
"Being in a band is in many ways similar to a marriage with ups and downs," read the group's statement announcing Bredahl's departure. "At times you can work it out and sometimes you need to go separate ways... We want to thank him for the work he has put in for Volbeat and we wish him all the best in the future."
Volbeat continued to tour as a trio - or with backing musicians.
One group's loss is another's gain. Guitarist Rob Caggiano announced his departure from Anthrax in early '13. He had been with the band from '01 to '05 and from '07 to '13. Caggiano said he wanted to focus his energies on music production. He and producer Jacob Hansen were already working Volbeat's next album.
In addition to production work, Caggiano was asked to contribute solos and worked closely with Poulsen. There appeared to be great chemistry between the guitarists.
As a result, just a month after Caggiano's split from Anthrax, news hit that he had joined Volbeat.
"The collaboration with Rob in the studio was so inspiring and in good spirit that we the decided to keep him," said an enthused Poulsen. "Basically we went into the studio as a three piece and came out as a whole band!"
"Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies," produced by Caggiano and Hansen (who had produced and mixed the group's last four efforts - from '05's The Strength/The Sound /The Songs" to '10's "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven"), dropped in '13.
The set debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 but went to #1 in Canada, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. "This is amazing and something we almost can't believe," said Poulsen.
Three years later, Volbeat released their sixth full-length album, "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie," in '16. The set contained "The Devil's Bleeding Crown."
2005 The Strength/The Sound /The Songs
2007 Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil
2008 Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
2010 Beyond Hell/Above Heaven
2013 Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
2016 Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie
Metal bands outside the U.S. or U.K. have a particular problem. They get the drama, power and the glory, but not the delivery.
Case in point is Volbeat's debut. "The Strength/The Sound/The Songs," standard issue Metal, suffers from misdirection or no direction. Poulsen's guttural vocals are a bit of a challenge as the group takes a stab at every Metal sub-genre. Obviously, this approach proved popular in Denmark (and Finland) but it's hard to imagine it really working anywhere else.
Whether it can be attributed to a change of guitarists or Poulsen backing off his vocal roar, "Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil" is a vast improvement.
If there is one song that defines Volbeat it's the title track from "Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood." The group's Speed Metal finds a potent groove and Poulsen drives the lyrics without running over them.
With Caggiano in the line-up, "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies" mines '70's Classic Rock and pretty much nail it.