Sound — 6
Volbeat is a band of many genres and musical tastes, seen even just from a slight glance at their Wikipedia page. This can be seen on previous albums and even slightly on this one. Recently, Volbeat has added ex-Anthrax guitarist, Rob Caggiano, as their lead guitarist after only having had a lead guitarist for one, brief, early point in their career. In Caggiano's debut, Volbeat decidedly takes a turn towards hard rock and metal. And while this might be able to be inferred, this brand of hard rock is like neither alternative rock like that of Trapt nor the hard rock of blues-driven bands like KISS and AC/DC. When I hear the thrash-like chugging, I can relate to it more than some of the oddball songs that I can't imagine Caggiano actually played on. Songs like "Pearl Hart" or "Lola Montez" fit this odd mold. The songs aren't even that odd; they just seem odd compared to the overall vibe of the album, especially considering the role and background of Caggiano. While most of the album feels pretty bland, the more I listen to it, there are definitely moments that remind me of other popular bands. For example, in "Black Bart", there is a metal section that would fit perfectly in an Iron Maiden song, with a matching solo to boot. "Lola Montez", which is quickly becoming my pet peeve on the album, feels like a worse version of '80s bands like Poison that palm mute their chords (they might just be a single note) and use predictable chord progressions to appeal to wider audiences. To add to this, the first riff in "Dead But Rising" reminds me of the riff for the song "Black Sabbath". The one concession I can make is that Caggiano's melodic solos always add a nice touch to the songs. Of course, the problem remains that the songs are nothing special. Another positive about the album is that towards the end of it, the songs become fairly differentiated, though still nothing special or unique for the most part. Of the few bright spots on the album, "Doc Holliday" is my favorite because it blends the present genres in a more balanced manner; the non-metal parts weren't limited to the intro. In addition, the metal riff was catchy in its own right and the vocals were the best on the album here, reminding me of Pearl Jam's "Even Flow" for some reason. The bridge (I think) after the second verse when the mandolin returns provides a very druidic feeling. I don't even know how to fully explain that, but I got the same feeling as when I read about Druids or see documentaries about them on TV. As a side note, the punk drumbeat on "Black Bart" makes the song infective and enjoyable where it would scarcely be otherwise except for the vocals. Back to describing the blandness, most of the album sounds overused and old. What I mean by that is that the music isn't bad; it's just stuff that has been done hundreds of times already. The album doesn't possess the kind of star power uniqueness that good albums have. It sounds OK, just not good enough to the point that I would want to buy the album. Even the solos are compromised in this way. They actually sound really good, it's just that in the context of the whole album I am reminded how recycled the phrases really are. The only real time that the songs show songs of superior uniqueness is at the beginning of each song. Sometimes there is an acoustic opening only to be stifled by more metal. Considering what I know Volbeat for, this was surprising and disheartening, in my opinion. This was, I guess, one of the downsides to adding Rob Caggiano as a lead guitarist.
Lyrics — 6
Michael Poulsen's vocal performance on "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies" can be summed up with the rest of the music; above average, yet bland. Poulsen consistently delivers a vocal punch on this album; it's just eerily consistent. His vocal approach and delivery seldom change while the songs legitimately do. Again, the vocals sound good, it's just that with fourteen tracks and the reputation of Volbeat, I expected a little bit more. Don't get me wrong, his vocal performance is powerful. I've just heard it before. This, combined with his lack of change in delivery, leads me to rate it as bland.
Overall Impression — 4
When the opening instrumental, "Let's Shake Some Dust" played for the first time, the album artwork was justified and set into motion and I thought I knew what to expect from the rest of the album. I was wrong. With "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies", Volbeat has less swung and missed than taken ball one. The Danes' addition of Rob Caggiano has added a new dynamic to their sound that thoroughly dominates this new album. The problem is that it lacks the star power uniqueness that could make this album, like any, great. This album can somewhat be described as a mash-up of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Anthrax. The problem is that many albums can be summed up like this. Yes, the riffs are heavy and yes, the vocals are powerful and yes, the songs are differentiated, but this album feels too generic anyway and fell short of my expectations. I believe that Volbeat's talent has existed in its ability to utilize other genres outside of the heavy metal that makes up the majority of this album. When these talents abound, like on "Black Bart", "Doc Holliday", and "The Hangman's Body Count", Volbeat sounds special. I don't believe that Caggiano was the wrong person for the band; I just think that his influence should be subtler than on here. To put the total conclusion in the fairest terms, I wouldn't say, "Oh, this is horrible", when asked about "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies", I just wouldn't outright recommend it to a friend. As I said, this album is like taking ball one. I expect them to come back with something stronger; a double or a home run. This album didn't always work for me, but, since you're already here with links to the album right below this sentence, give it a listen, it might just be your home run.