The saying goes that while we may be through with the past, the past is never really through with us. For their seventh album, Rewind, Replay, Rebound, the multi-platinum selling Danish rock band Volbeat—Michael Poulsen (guitars/vocals), Rob Caggiano (guitars), Kaspar Boye Larsen (bass), and Jon Larsen (drums) —have built upon the DNA-distinct, psychobilly punk ‘n’ roll sound they are known for. They have made their sound fresh for themselves andfor their diehard legion of fans by distilling from and paying homage to rock ‘n’ roll’s rich, storied past. The end result finds the band reaching a creative summit.
With their own nearly 20-year history, which includes tours with Metallica, Motorhead Slipknot and beyond, over one and a half billion streams, a 2014 Best Metal Performance Grammy nomination for “Room 24” from Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, and multiple Danish Music Award wins, Volbeat return with an album that, when all is said and done, will help usher in the rock ‘n’ roll resurgence that is both long overdue and inevitable. It also aims to bring rock back to the forefront.
“The whole point for us, and a lot of other bands, going into the studio, is because you still have something to prove —not just for the fans, but mostly for yourself,” says Poulsen. “You are still eager and have that desire when it comes to music and lyrics. As long as you are inspired and you are satisfied with what you come up with... I will say this is our best work because it has to be our best work until the next records comes. But we would not be able to do this record if it wasn’t for the work we have done in the past. No matter how old the band gets or how many records we do, there is always going to be that signature sound.”
The stakes are not only professionally higher for Volbeat and Poulsen. They are elevated personally, as well. The frontman became a father two years ago, and in order to be away from his family by making music and touring, he has been firing on all musical cylinders and playing music he and the fans love.
To keep things interesting and in order to remain true to their sonic identity, Poulsen and his bandmates knew they had to dare to try other things and to introduce “new elements that haven’t really been touched upon on previous albums. The balance and challenge was to incorporate these new ideas into what is typical Volbeat,” and that meant mining their own personal pasts and that of the genre they traffic in. All of those elements and contrasts combined are ultimately the connective tissue that will bind the album to its listeners.
“There is a side of it where people will go, ‘Oh, wow, we didn’t know you could sing like that,’” Poulsen says with a laugh. “Yeah, me either!’ The album has a hint of going back in time to your childhood. If you listen to the lyrics, the listener can go back in time and think of his or her own childhood. Whether it’s a certain smell, a color, a location, a feeling, or something that happened in the summer that made you feel good, or when you were really struggling, but you found your way through to the other side and continued being inspired by life and the challenges therein. The songs are personal but they are relatable.”
With the album, everything is cyclical. “With the lyrics, you go back in time to your own childhood and fly away to what you did as a kid,” Poulsen continues. “When you do that, you replay that when you grow up. If you’ve been going through something and you have been down, and then rise up and get stronger, that’s the rebound. But it also references the music. Some songs could easily be on our first two or three records —that is where we rewind. Now, in 2019, we replay it, and we even become stronger.”
On Rewind, Replay, Rebound, the band invited several guests tp appear and give the record a thick and varied rock ‘n’ roll vibe. In addition to working with backing vocalist Mia Maja on several tracks, Volbeat once again recruited the Harlem Gospel Choir, who appeared on the song “Goodbye Forever” on a prior album, to feature on three songs, including the single “Last Day Under the Sun.” Weaving the choir into the Volbeat sound was a seamless process, with Poulsen saying, “I didn’t have to think about it. I knew they would fit. They are on three songs when they could have easily been on more.”
Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon is featured on “Die to Live,” the result of touring together and a love for the singer’s gruff and powerful style. Raynir Jacob Jacildo (piano) and Doug Corocran (sax) of JD McPherson’s band also appear on the song. Poulsen explains, “I wanted that Jerry Lee Lewis-like piano playing. We knew these guys would be able to do it, with the sax on top, with a sort of a Little Richard feeling. They nailed it.” Exodus and Slayer guitarist Gary Holt also performs on “Cheapside Sloggers,” with Poulsen explaining, “I wanted to add something new and not typical, so why not bring in Gary Holt? He is a great guitar player, and the solo sounds great.”
While the songs are riff-driven and room-filling, the topics Poulsen tackles lyrically give the album additional depth and dimension. “Last Day Under the Sun” was inspired by Johnny Cash. “When I read his book, he went through tough times with alcohol and drugs... He walked into a cave to lay down to die. But he wakes up and feels like he has been given a second chance, and becomes a believer of God. You can hear it in his music —something very strong happened to him in that cave when he came out. That’s something every one of us goes through in life —we struggle with depression and demons. Every one of us steps into that cave and comes out a new person with a new mindset or new hope or new meaning.”
“Pelvis on Fire,” with its cheeky title, nods to the fun and frivolous rock of yore. “It’s a pure rock ‘n’ roller,” according to Poulsen. “When you hear songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and read the lyrics, they are not that deep. What the fuck is ‘Tutti Frutti, oh Rudy?’ [laughs]. That doesn’t make sense. But it sounds great. It is a feeling. It’s a movement. It’s sexuality. It’s emotional and that thing we feel when we hear good rock ‘n’ roll.”
“Rewind the Exit” and “Die to Live” both explore how the pursuit of perfection can be a hollow goal. About the track, Poulsen muses, “Perfection, if you ask me, doesn’t exist, and it fucks up a lot of people to think that they need to be perfect to have a good life. What would you do with perfection if you reach it? What’s left? If you don’t have something in front of you, where will you go? If you stay on the top, how boring would it be to walk backwards?”
“When We Were Kids” finds Volbeat ruminating on the immortality and innocence we all naively experience in our youth “when you think you can live forever and had your whole life ahead of you,” while “Leviathan” revisits the childhood fable about the wonder of a little boy who thinks he can fix the world’s problems by communicating with a sea monster.
“Sorry Sack of Bones” wanders into less serious territory and gives itself over to multiple interpretations. “It’s like when you have the worst hangover, and you feel like a sorry sack of bones,” Poulsen explains. “But there is another side of it, like a horror script,” where you wake up in the woods and feel your body deformed, crushed, and you have a flashlight and there are tons of bags of body parts, and you are left to wonder how you got there. “Cloud 9” explores the idea of keeping the memories of loved ones alive and close, while “Maybe I Believe” is about learning to trust in yourself and others to achieve great things. “Parasite,” which was penned in a few minutes, looks at those people whose sole function is a parasitic existence.
“The Awakening of Bonnie Parker” is the band’s take on the classic Bonnie & Clydetale. “Bonnie had a great desire to be a movie star and she wrote tons of letters to the movie studios, who would always write back saying they couldn’t use her. Clyde was also a saxophone player who carried around a sax in the back seat of the car while they were robbing banks. In our story, Bonnie wakes up from the dead and is convinced that Columbia Pictures has been calling and she is the next big thing. She picks up Clyde’s saxophone and brings it to his grave and tries to convince him to join her on her trip to Hollywood, but he is content and has found peace in his coffin.”
“The Everlasting” is an ode to that fire that burns upon cremation and can take you anywhere you want to go before the last farewell, while “7:24” is an autobiographical celebration of becoming a father and references the exact time of the birth of Poulsen’s daughter. He finished performing on a North American Metallica date and flew home to Copenhagen to welcome his newborn child. He then hopped a flight back to the U.S. for the next show.
The deluxe edition of Rewind, Replay, Rebound features unheard demos from the album’s pre-production, an alternate version of “Die To Live,” and two new songs. The first, “Under The Influence,” Poulsen says “is a song for my girlfriend. It’s about me being high on love for her and becoming a fan of her personality.” The second, “Immortal But Destructible,” “ is about being a young kid where you have all the time in the world in front of you and feeling immortal but at the same time fragile.”
Ultimately, Volbeat have not lost the musical fire in their veins or their passion to create and progress. They strive to outdo themselves and their previous output. It’sthatwhich keeps them hungry —and musically honest —on Rewind, Replay, Rebound.