Volbeat - Beyond Hell / Above Heaven
Vertigo / Universal
Groove Metal
13 songs (50:58)
Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Kyle

When it comes to a band with such a simple (yet effective) formula as Volbeat, originality is bound to run out sooner rather than later. With their latest album, Beyond Hell / Above Heaven, this has finally happened. This is still the same Volbeat that fans know and love - a groovy, punky, thrashy, twangy slice of modern mainstream metal that is highly infectious and easy to sing-along with – but things don’t work quite as well for these Danish wonders this time around. Songs more often than not feel like a rehash of past Volbeat tracks, and while most are enjoyable, one can’t help but get the feeling that they’ve heard all this before.

However, there are a few key things different about this Volbeat album as compared to past ones. On a whole, Beyond Hell / Above Heaven is a much more mainstream-oriented album than previous releases, and rockabilly influence isn’t nearly as prominent here. You do have a handful of guest appearances from well known metal musicians though, including Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate, Mille Petrozza of Kreator, and Barney Greenway of Napalm Death (also known as “Barney Motherfucking Greenway”, as my colleague Zadok referred to him upon first hearing Evelyn, the song Greenway is featured on). Both Denner and Petrozza (one of my all-time favorite metal vocalists) guest in the song 7 Shots, the former performing some tastefully NWOBHM-ish lead guitar licks while the latter unleashes his visceral snarl in various places, and in these parts the riffing takes a turn for the darker to accompany his voice. Greenway’s song, Evelyn, on the other hand, is a very strange beast; the parts where he’s performing his recognizable, hellish growl are both catchy and intense, but later on the song becomes poppy. Though Barney thankfully doesn’t growl at this point in the track, the two styles still contrast horribly.

And that’s perhaps the main problem with Beyond Hell / Above Heaven: it doesn’t feel balanced. From the overly poppy songs Heaven Nor Hell and A New Day to the fast-paced melodic punk of A Better Believer and Being 1 to the heaviness of Evelyn and Who They Are, Volbeat covers a wide arrange of styles, as they’ve always done; however, they don’t all gel well when put together on one album, and nothing here approaches the quality of their best songs, such as Wild Rover of Hell or The Garden’s Tale. This doesn’t mean that Beyond Hell / Above Heaven is a bad album, however; The Mirror & the Ripper and A Warrior’s Call are heavy, fist-pump inducing songs, and 16 Dollars and 7 Shots both carry on Volbeat’s tradition of skillfully injecting rockabilly into a few choice tracks. Yes, the quality of the songs is inconsistent, but another fantastic production job by producer Jacob Hansen helps in making even the lesser songs enjoyable; It’d be quite a stretch for me to call any song here a downright bad one.

As I said, though, some material here definitely feels rehashed from past Volbeat songs; the chorus of 16 Dollars sounds almost exactly like that of We, and many various melodies in the riffs and vocals (sung in wonderful warbly fashion yet again by the incomparable Michael Poulsen) are becoming predictable and cliché for the band at this point. In addition, some of the lyrics are downright poor; lines such as “We thank you people / For being around / Supporting Volbeat / With love and Hellfire” are nearly cringe inducting. There’s really no better way to put this, but Beyond Hell / Above Heaven feels like a half-assed album, which is a shame considering the level of passion evident in their music. But while the music isn’t as infectious as Volbeat is capable of and while none of the songs here truly rip, this is still an enjoyable album that most fans of the band probably wouldn’t regret purchasing. But newcomers to the band would be better off sticking with Guitar Gangsters or Rock the Rebel, as a Volbeat newbie wouldn’t be able to understand the level of magic this band is capable of producing by listening to Beyond Hell / Above Heaven. And that is truly a shame.

Killing Songs :
The Mirror & the Ripper, 7 Shots, 16 Dollars
Kyle quoted 68 / 100
Other albums by Volbeat that we have reviewed:
Volbeat - Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies reviewed by Khelek and quoted 90 / 100
Volbeat - Rock the Rebel / Metal the Devil reviewed by Kyle and quoted 85 / 100
Volbeat - Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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