Chris Loomis

Volbeat @ City National Grove of Anaheim – 7/10/2012

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On Tuesday evening, The City National Grove in Anaheim was invaded by metal fans, no it was rockabilly fans or was it country music fans, wait it was punk rock fans . . . actually it was all of the above as Volbeat, the unique rockers from Denmark who brought their Live From Beyond Hell / Above Heaven 2012 summer tour to Orange County.  Joining Volbeat on this tour are heavy metal super group HellYeah in direct support alongside progressive metal legends Iced Earth. Each one of these bands can easily headline their own tour making this one of the “must see” live shows of the summer.

The mighty Iced Earth who hit the stage at 8:15pm opened their 45 minute set with Dystopia, the title track off their latest album. As the crowd was still filtering in singer Stu Block belted out eight classic Iced Earth masterpieces in fine fashion. Block does a fantastic job using his voice to emulate former singers Tim “Ripper” Owens and Matt Barlow as well as infusing his own style. Block reminds you a bit of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson as he runs and jumps around the stage while delivering his vocals. Iced Earth founder and guitarist Jon Schaffer delivered his trademark guitar galloping rhythms through each song with little effort. Iced Earth ended their set to an enthusiastic audience with the classic number with the same title as the band’s name – Iced Earth.

With a now three quarter packed venue the beer drinking, hell raisers known as HellYeah were ready to hit the stage at The Grove. This band, consisting of Mudvayne members Chad Gray on vocals and Greg Tribbett on guitar, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, Damageplan bass player Bob Zilla and former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul is a fierce music machine with a groove equaling the combined sounds of their respective primary bands.  HellYeah stormed the stage and kicked off a 60 minute party of in-your-face heavy rock and roll with a southern vibe. Gray belted out each song with an amazing energetic passion that few can compare to while he moved around the stage like a panther stalking its prey. Paul’s thunderous drumming keeps the music heavy reminding us that he was one element of what made the Pantera crunch so thick. The band played a mixture of songs from their first two albums as well as two songs, War in Me and Band of Brothers from their newest record “Band of Brothers” to be released on July 17.

At about 10:30pm to what appeared to be an almost full house; Volbeat took the stage and opened the show with The Human Instrument. The capacity audience lost their minds and it was clear that the majority of the fans in attendance were indeed at this show to witness the musical fusion of Volbeat. The first thing you will observe at a Volbeat show is how passionate and enthusiastic the crowd is and second is the amazing vitality and intensity the band possesses in its delivery of each song. Singer and guitarist Michael Poulsen is what you would end up with if you combined Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, James Hetfield and Mike Ness all into one person. You can’t help but pump your fist and bob your head as you watch Poulsen move around the stage alternating between the three microphone stands across the front of the stage as he wails on his Gibson six string.

Touring with the band in place of departed guitarist Thomas Bredahl is heavy metal guitarist Hank Shermann from the band Mercyful Fate (fronted by fellow Danish frontman King Diamond). Shermann brings a touch of evil to the bands live sound and he is an extraordinary guitarist who fits well with the live presentation of Volbeat. Bass player Anders Kjølholm and drummer Jon Larsen provide a tight rhythm section that easily adapts to the varying song structures whether it is heavy metal, punk or rockabilly. The bands heavy metal influence is heard throughout their show as a few songs into the set the band played the first 90 seconds of Motorheads Ace of Spades as Poulsen did his best Lemmy impression.  Poulsen also has his Elvis impression down to a tee as he treated the crowd to a brief bit of Elvis.

An interesting sight to witness during a Volbeat show (due to the diverse musical structures of some songs) is square dancing/folk style dancing alongside a full blown circle mosh pit. Every fan at the show is singing every word to every song creating energy equal to that which the band is delivering to the crowd.  The band left the stage after 90 minutes of an amazing show and returned to deliver an encore consisting of four songs which included one Poulsen dedicated to his wife, Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want to be with You and then Volbeat  gave the crowd a treat by inviting Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer onstage to jam the rocker Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza then ended the night with Still Counting off their latest CD “Beyond Hell / Above Heaven” which concluded with the stage lights turning red and the band jamming about 90 seconds of the Slayer classic Reign in Blood.

The night finished at about 12:30 after a pummeling 2hr set by Volbeat. The bands unique fusion of country, punk, heavy metal and rockabilly is no doubt what drives their popularity and large fan base. This group absolutely needs to be seen live to experience the maximum power of their music – it’s guaranteed you will the leave the show a sweaty mess with no voice and immediately wondering when you will get to see them live again. Volbeat, HellYeah, Iced Earth . . . it was one Hell of a good time!!!

This North American tour continues until July 19 where it concludes in Baltimore, MD at Ram’s Head Live. Volbeat then heads over to Wacken Germany to play the legendary Wacken Open Air Festival alongside Testament, The Scorpions, Dimmu Borgir, Ministry, machine Head and many others.

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