Volbeat’s Michael Poulsen on Servant of the Mind, Tour with Ghost, and Metallica’s Black Album

The Danish rockers are back with their eighth studio album

Volbeat’s Michael Poulsen, photo by Johnny Perilla
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Danish rockers Volbeat are back with their eighth studio album, Servant of the Mind, just released via Republic Records. Musically, the album hearkens back to the band’s earlier, heavier days, with relentless riffing and punching rhythms, while also representing how far they’ve come as a group.

“You can definitely hear a band that sounds very young, but at the same time, a band that has a lot of experience with the style we started so many years ago,” frontman Michael Poulsen tells Heavy Consequence.

In addition to releasing the new album, Volbeat are prepping for a highly anticipated co-headlining US arena tour with Swedish metal masters Ghost. The outing kicks off January 25th in Reno, Nevada, and runs through a March 3rd show in Anaheim, California. Tickets are available now via Ticketmaster.

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Poulsen sat down with Heavy Consequence for a conversation about the new album, Volbeat’s evolution as a band, the upcoming tour with Ghost, and the group’s involvement with Metallica’s Blacklist album. Read the interview below, followed by a full stream of the new album.

On Servant of the Mind being Volbeat’s eighth studio album and the band’s staying power

We’re very happy that we’re still here, going strong, perhaps stronger than ever, if you take away the pandemic. We were at our peak at the time the pandemic was raging, so we’re very satisfied with our career. The great thing is we still have the hunger and desire to continue making records. I think if you ask the Volbeat fans, I think they’ll also agree that our albums keep on being relevant. I’m pretty sure this new album will be another great chapter in the Volbeat history.

On how writing and recording Servant of the Mind was different from previous Volbeat albums

I don’t remember the last time we were so fast about everything. It was probably around the first two or three Volbeat albums when we didn’t use much time in the studio, because the budget wasn’t there, so we had to work with what was available. But, it’s not like budgets are an issue for us these days, but for some reason, I wrote the whole album in three months, and we ended up being in the studio for just two and a half weeks, and everything was done. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, and it’s definitely that the material is a little bit more like it was back when we started playing. This album shows the heavy side of Volbeat a little bit more. The heavy stuff is in our DNA, and it’s something that’s easy for us to get back to. You have to feel it, and it has to come naturally.

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On how Volbeat like to mix things up from album to album

We like to challenge ourselves for each album, so we don’t make the same record over and over again. There’s no point in that. This time around, after the lockdown it felt like starting all over again. How do we want the new Volbeat album to sound? It felt like the first Volbeat album coming out of lockdown, and I think the combination of us bringing back some of those heavy riffs from the beginning and the experience we have as songwriters and musicians comes through.

On being in a happy place when writing Servant of the Mind

I always feel like I’m in a happy place when I’m writing, and sometimes it’s okay to not be in a happy place, because material comes out of that, too. With this album, I think suddenly there was nothing else to do. We were not busy on the road and didn’t have to think about going back home and writing. The lockdown gave us nothing else to do, and I didn’t know what was going to happen when I picked up the guitar. I think after doing lots of interviews about how I started doing death metal and then started Volbeat — I think that inspired me to pick up the heavy stuff again, and it felt really fun.

Sometimes when you’re on album cycles, it feels like you already know your schedule ahead of everything. Like, now it’s time to start writing an album and go out on tour, whereas this was more spontaneous, because it came out of nowhere. I think the spontaneous side of the material is a little bit more loose and has a lot of inspiration. Of course, the pandemic is and was a really sad thing and very serious, and I totally understand that, too. I think we all got sad and were afraid of losing family members and friends and didn’t know what was going to happen. But, this record came out of that. It’s a record that we’re very proud of.

On the album’s first single, “Wait a Minute My Girl”

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That song felt like one of those kinds of songs from the ’60s that has that Little Richard or Elvis Presley feeling with a little Ramones on top of it. It’s a pure rock ‘n’ roll song and a love song, and it felt right to release it early and during the summer. People needed some positive energy, and I think that track has a lot of positive energy. I know I’m smiling when I rehearse songs like that.

On playing the songs off Servant of the Mind live

Songs make so much more sense when you’re out on the stage and playing them for fans. It takes a lot of time before you become completely aware of the material, because certain songs just change over time. I know that I’m very proud of these albums, because I feel it’s such a strong combination of what we’ve done in the past, but we’re still bringing new elements into the music and our experience as songwriters, too. But for me to fully figure out how it feels is going to take some time. I know I’m very proud of it as a songwriter.

On Volbeat’s upcoming US tour with Ghost

I think it’s a very solid package. It’s great that two big Scandinavian bands can make such a strong package and go to America and play these big shows. I think it’s great that two Scandinavian bands can actually sell a lot of tickets together in America. We’re both very unique. We appreciate that the American audience has already bought so many tickets to those shows, so we’re very proud of the whole thing. We’re proud of the career that we have in America, and it really means something to the American music fans out there. I can’t wait. I think Ghost is a very interesting band and have a really bright future ahead of them.

On Volbeat’s cover of “Don’t Tread on Me” for The Metallica Blacklist compilation

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We were kindly asked if we wanted to be part of the anniversary album, and we just went, of course. But, afterwards we were a little more skeptical, because it’s such an iconic album, and the band is so great and powerful, so we didn’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it. We are huge Metallica fans and good friends with the guys, and we have so much respect for them, so we wanted to pick a song that we could turn into our own song rather than do it like Metallica does it. So, we didn’t want to touch any of the hits, because I just want to hear Metallica play the hits. When we found “Don’t Tread on Me,” I said, this is the one. It’s a song we can turn into a Volbeat song while paying tribute to the Metallica version, and I think we got the blessing from James and Lars. They really like the version. But, the most important thing was the Metallica fans were really into it, because it’s not easy to cover people’s favorite band, but I think we got away with it.

On the influence of Metallica’s Black Album

At the time when the Black Album was released, I think everybody was surprised about the material, but at the same time, really blown away. Metallica has, since day one, been an amazing band and a great thrash metal band, and suddenly, they turned into this really heavy rock monster, but it’s also heavy because of the production of the album. Some Metallica fans didn’t know how to cope with it, but most of the world did, because it’s one of the best-selling albums of all time. They also proved and showed how strong of songwriters they were on it. It wasn’t all about being thrash-y and fast and heavy. It really shows a bright talent, and as you can see, there were a lot of metal fans trying to follow in their footsteps and trying to make their Black Album afterwards. But, you can’t just decide when to make your classic album or that big Black Album. It happened with a combination of a lot of things, from the timing of the record to Bob Rock’s production and his talent to push Metallica into those amazing musicians they are. I think they knew they had a hit record ahead of them, but I don’t think any of them knew it was going to be one of the biggest records of all time.

On what’s ahead for Volbeat

We have a lot of touring ahead. If the world allows us to tour everywhere, that’s what we’re going to do. Because the record is coming out now, it’s all about touring and getting back to what we used to do. I can’t wait.

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Volbeat’s new album, Servant of the Mind, is available here, while tickets to their upcoming tour with Ghost can be picked up at this location. Stream the entire new album below.