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VOLBEAT - CD
SERVANT OF THE MIND 

Sony Music International Japan

Two years since the last album, pandemic, etc, what can Volbeat come up with?

One cracking album, that ‘s wot! Right from the opening barrage of drums we have a succession of songs that just rock, thump, pump, smash and thunder along with very little rest throughout. Frontman Michael Poulsen wrote this album during lockdown and whatever happened to him in that time has taken the band another step forward to the point where they are undoubtedly one of the best on the planet. There is their trademark Punk/Metal/Rockabilly stuff but then something like The Sacred Stones pops up and we are in Black Sabbath Heaven and Hell territory and – and I write this apprehensively knowing I may be treading on your sacred ground –it’s as good as that Dio incarnation of one of my favourite bands. Each song delivers the best playing and interaction between Poulsen and guitarist Rob Caggiano to date; on tracks like The Devil Rages On, the rhythm section drive you in in imaginary Cadillac down a dusty road to oblivion in some crazed Robert Rodriguez film. Then the album flips again with a gorgeous piece of Pop and a guest vocal from Alpabeat’s Stine Bramsen and all this, all these genre’s and sounds somehow fuse together into a coherent album. For the final song on the album, they have written an epic in song if not in length (although it is longer than their usual songs) that any classic Rock/Metal band would have been proud to have scribed; you’ll spot influences. As for the production and mix, they are faultless. The vocals are audible and powerful, the instrumentation beautifully separated sonically but blended as a unit to deliver the music and the solos and choruses take a step forward when they come.

 

When it comes to Japanese releases, if you are already a Volbeat fan, you are going to want to add this one to you collection as it contains all four of the tracks released on the European deluxe edition and one more, exclusively for Japan, the latter being a dynamite cover of the 1960s hit for Dusty Springfield, I Only Want To Be With You. This really is my sacred ground now as Dusty and that song are in my Top 10 all-time’s but I’m glad to write that Volbeat keep the spirit of both – I think Dusty would have liked it. This edition also includes the 20-page English booklet and a 16-page Japanese one.

 

This album is Volbeat’s eighth studio album and in all honesty, I think their best  but even if you disagree with me on that, I think we can agree that on the strength of this album, they are going to be around for a long time yet.

 

Track List

Temple Of Ekur

Wait A Minute My Girl

The Sacred Stones

Shotgun Blues

The Devil Rages On

Say No More

Heaven’s Descent

Dagen FØr

The Passenger

Step Into Light

Becoming

Mindlock

Lasse’s Birgitta

Return To None*

Domino*

Shotgun Blues*

Dagen FØr (Michael Vox version)*

I Only Want To Be With You (Live in Hamburg)*

 

*Bonus tracks for Japanese edition

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DAVE BAINBRIDGE
TO THE FAR AWAY

Open Sky

It takes a very organic type of guitarist to be able to put the right feeling and expression into Celtic melodies. Technique is obviously needed, an understanding of the history of the music, an absolute must and along with both of those, liberal helpings of flair, aptitude and virtuosity. One such man is Dave Bainbridge, a musician’s musician, you may know him from the Celtic Prog Rock band Iona or straight Prog Rockers Lifesigns but he is also currently in Strawbs and that alone speaks volumes about him. This is his fourth solo outing to date and it has quite frankly, been blowing my cotton socks off daily for the last two weeks; music comes equally as good in other genres but does not come better than this in the Celtic world and its sub-categories.

 

It would be easy to get whimsical, mystical and poetical about this album but I want to express that this is so much more than just a jaunt through Scottish Highlands of yesteryear. For a start, it was written through lockdown when Dave was separated from his fiancé just a few days before he was due to fly to the USA and marry her so there is a genuine love story in the words and music which gives the album an overall continuity and an extra dimension. Whatever Dave was feeling when he committed these pieces to tape (or the digital equivalent) comes through and really does add to the enjoyment of the album.

 

You would expect given Dave’s other work, a rich tapestry of melodies and instruments and he does not disappoint. Of course, his guitar work stands out first and foremost and he deserves to mentioned in the same breath as Steve Hackett and Dave Gilmour for his ability to evoke emotion through his sustain. He also proves himself adept at every other instrument he plays but defers to his peers often to perform other parts, most notably the vocals which are handled by his longstanding friend and collaborator Sally Minnear and Iain Hornall (10CC’s and ELO’s touring bands). They are wise choices, beautifully matched to suit the songs, adding an air of grace, dignity and longing to the melodies which I should stress are not dejected and crestfallen but buoyant and optimistic; this is album is full of hope, not despair.

 

As for the sounds, when the awards for ‘Best Produced album of 2021’ are announced, it will be criminal if To The Far Away is not nominated. It is an aural delight on both headphones and full-fledged Hi-fi with every note crystal clear from the wispy ocean that open and close it (I had the album on ‘repeat’ mode and got lost in it as there seems to be no start or ending) through the multi-faceted, Ghost Light and the guitar workout on Fells Point, the latter of which the coda will have you Highland Flinging around your living room in double-time.

 

Mr Bainbridge, stand up and take a bow. You have created a masterpiece.

 

Track List

1. Sea Gazer
2. Girl and the Magical Sky
3. Rain and Sun
4. Clear Skies
5. Ghost Light
6. Cathedral Thinkers
7. To Gain the Ocean
8. As Night Falls
9. Infinitude (Region of the Stars)
10. To the Far Away
11. Speed Your Journey
12. Fells Point
13. Something Astonishing