Wide influences and creativity merit Volbeat a listen

Each year, each day even, it becomes more difficult to make unique music. The Internet has oversaturated the marketplace and iTunes is a sea of bands that share a similar sound. That doesn’t mean these groups aren’t good bands that don’t make good music – they are and they do, but it’s easy to fall in line with the sheep.

Along comes a band like Denmark’s Volbeat, equal parts Metallica, Hank Williams Jr. and Social Distortion. Not your typical medley of groups to borrow influences from, but these guys have melding metal, punk, and western country down to a science on their fifth record, “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies.”

If you haven’t heard of these guys, check out “Lola Montez” from the new album to get a prime example of their genre-blending mastery. No wonder Metallica fancies them so much. Perhaps they’ll take a tip next time when trying to meld genres (see last year’s disastrous “Lulu” record by Metallica and Lou Reed).

At their core, Volbeat is a metal band. Unlike many rock ‘n’ roll bands that are exposed to many different genres and don’t implement much to diversify their sound, Volbeat shows off their contributing influences without abandon and pull it off with grandeur like they own it, which they in fact do at this point. They’re one of the few metal bands that really have their own distinct flow.

They take the best pieces and smash them all together. Slick, well-polished vocals from singer/guitarist Michael Poulsen go from metal growls to quick scat phrasing reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s vocal style. Drummer Jon Larsen can go from double-bass pounding beats to quick rockabilly grooves at the switch of a track. The overdrive crunch, telltale narratives of American western cowboys – it’s a combination that doesn’t really sound good on paper, but the Danish rockers make it their craft.

“Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies” is not their best album, but it’s still a decent listen with a lot of range. “Room 24” features legendary metal-vocalist King Diamond, performing his signature high-pitched growl behind a romping gloom metal soundscape. “Lonesome Rider” is a twangy surf rock track with Canadian artist Sarah Blackwood sharing vocal duties. The guys even perform faithful cover songs, such as Young the Giant’s 2011 hit “My Body”.

These rarities in the metal scene are what outcasts the band from many standpoints. A lot of pure metalists don’t give it a chance due to so many outer elements seeping in. Alternative fans and indie scenesters get turned off by the heaviness at the heart of the group. It would be easy to view Volbeat as a gimmick, if not for the fact they’ve been doing this for 12 years strong.

Is “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies” an album of the year contender? Definitely not. Will Volbeat become a household identity? Maybe in Northern Europe. If you’ve got a wide musical palette, give these guys a listen. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s nice to hear something that you can’t mistake for 700 other bands.