Every time us Yanks think we've got the market cornered on strangeness, along come those darn Europeans to show us how much we still have to learn. It's most entertaining when they do it by re-interpreting classic American concepts such as gangsters, country music and punk rock as interpreted by '80s Southern California bands like Bad Religion and Social Distortion.
That's what Denmark's Volbeat, a Copenhagen four-piece formed in 2001, does on third album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
(Mascot Records), with the added kick of serious orchestral strings ("Light a Way") and blistering heavy metal ("Wild Rover of Hell") that makes Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" sound like the band dug Williams out of the ground and poured Lemmy's whiskey down his gullet until he started breathing fire. "Find That Soul" and "Hallelujah Goat" slam just about as hard.
Even better, Guitar Gangsters
is a fucking rock opera - or a continuation of the narrative established in previous albums The Strength/The Sound/The Songs
and Rock the Rebal/Metal the Devil
, anyway - about the inhabitants of and visitors to the fictional "10 House City," a twisted take on 1950s America featuring ghostlike strangers driving black Cadillacs, stripper-obsessed stalkers and barflies who muse "Well the music seems to cover, and the liquid do the colours."
Plus, the artwork looks like Dick Tracy
as reimagined by Spawn
's Todd McFarlane. It's too bad more American bands can't come up with spins on their own culture as wacky and fist-pumping as this.
With Nightwish, 8 p.m. tonight at Warehouse Live (Ballroom), 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or www.warehouselive.com.