VOLBEAT – Beyond Hell/Above Heaven

Four albums into their career and I can happily report that VOLBEAT are still going strong. Beyond Hell/Above Heaven is more or less “a VOLBEAT record” with it’s distinct blend and balance of thrash, punk, rockabilly, country, and 50/60’s rock n’ roll. There are some subtle nuances here and there but nothing that significantly changes what fans have come to expect from the band.

This time the band don’t start out with an obligatory “intro” of country guitars but instead breaks out of the gates with the heavy “The Mirror and the Ripper.” “Who They Are” is one of the band’s heaviest songs with an intro that sounds like 80’s METALLICA trying to sound like 80’s SLAYER with perhaps a dash of CANNIBAL CORPSE. Lead single, “Fallen,” is a memorable song with a big chorus, showing the pop-ier side to the band. “7 Shots” features the legendary Michael Denner and Mille Petrozza and is the song is 100% metal in spirit as a result. Denner’s guitar solos are absolutely exquisite and add the kind of flavor not found on VOLBEAT’s other songs. Mille’s distinct vocal bite on the song’s chorus sound great.

Like any VOLBEAT album, there are some definite monster songs that stand out from the rest. This time around “A New Day” plays that role to perfection. The song has plenty of soul and hooks. “16 Dollars” gets right down to it with its rockabilly/50’s rock n’ roll stylings complete with upright bass. “Evelyn” may be VOLBEAT’s heaviest song as the majority of the song is grindcore madness featuring NAPALM DEATH’s Barney Greenway. When you compare and contrast vocalist/guitarist Michael Poulsen and Barney’s vocals, Barney completely overpowers Michael’s vocals with his ferocity. Given the band’s commercial success thus far, VOLBEAT take time out to thank their fans via album closer, “Thanks.”

At the end of the day, Beyond Hell/Above Heaven is another high quality, solid offering of fine songs from these Danish gods. (Mascot Records)

NAPALM DEATH: Purveyors of Fine Grind

Godfathers of grindcore, NAPALM DEATH, are still going strong after more than two decades of churning out loud, fast, conscious music. Their latest album, Smear Campaign, is a solid continuation of their perennial effort to unsettle the common individual’s mental indifference through the intensity of their words and music. Barking against the common “enemy” of religion, NAPALM DEATH, rile with the same ferocity in 2008 as they did in 1987. Frontman Barney Greenway took some time off their last U.S. tour to talk to APESHIT about their undying craft, conservatives in metal, the digital future of music, and more.

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