Danish band Volbeat has taken the world by storm in just a few short years. Their fourth album, Beyond Hell / Above Heaven (2010), reached number one in numerous countries, including Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, and reached #3 in Germany and #8 on the European charts. For the Copenhagen four-piece, the quick rise to success has been surprising, but it did come with a lot of hard work. Since their inception during the early part of the millennium, they have fought against the norm.
Singer Michael Poulsen started off in the talons of death metal with the band Dominus. After struggling for a year in that scene, Poulsen eased off the death vocals, rediscovered his love of Elvis and Johnny Cash, and went about developing a sound more akin to rockabilly metal with a close network of friends. The group found their name in the third Dominus record, Vol.Beat (Volume Beat), recorded a demo Beat The Meat, and after selling 1,000 copies, signed to Rebel Monster Records, a sub-label of Mascot Records.
“I think people respond to our music because it’s the best of what they are familiar with,” says band drummer Jon Larsen. “We grew up loving American music, bands from the ‘60s and ‘70s. We each have our own tastes in music, but we all come from a similar background.” Poulsen, Larsen, bassist Ander Kjølholm, and original guitarist Franz Gottschalk all came from the Danish metal scene. As they developed, the band took on an interesting cross-pollination of country, rock ‘n’ roll, metal, punk, and rockabilly, mixed with shades of left-over death metal.
The band’s first album, The Strength / The Sound / The Songs (2005), established not only their sound but their creative branding. “I think all our albums sound similar because they are all an extension of what we initially wanted this group to sound like,” continues Larsen. “We deliver a high level of quality rock. We’re, hopefully, better musicians now than when we started, but we’ve always put the music first.”
Though the Volbeat sound has stayed basically the same, the production has improved. From their first album, The Strength / The Sound / The Songs, through Rock the Rebel / Metal the Devil (2007) to Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood (2009), the sonic edge to their music had become a galvanizing force. “We were fortunate enough to be praised by the critics right from the start,” says the drummer. “Our mission was always to write great music that could also go over well with an audience. We toured all over Europe doing these big festivals, including Roskilde.”
Volbeat's life changed forever when they were invited to open for Metallica on their home turf in Denmark. “Lars is from Denmark, so that really helped get our name out there,” says Larsen. “People really took interest after that. We put on a really good live show, and that’s what Metallic like. They’re not afraid to be challenged every night by an opening band.” For the World Magnetic tour, Metallica took Volbeat on the road through North America. “Michael and James (Hetfield) are good friends and exchange email all the time,” continues Larsen. “They recently asked if we could play the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco with them, August 10-12, 2012.”
Volbeat is currently touring behind their fourth album, Beyond Hell / Above Heaven (2010). Though the record is two years old, this is the first opportunity the band has had to tour