Are these guys still hungry? Fuck yes!
Review by Sophie Maughan
Release date: 14 August 2015
Despite the “one for all and all for one” image that the metal community is supposed to embody, it has to be said that metalheads have a tendency to be somewhat elitist. We preach this idea of togetherness, yet many are quick to dismiss an artist for not being ‘metal’ enough. Bridgend’s Bullet For My Valentine are one of these bands.
In the ten years since 2005’s beautifully visceral The Poison, the Welsh quartet have toured the world, smashed the festival circuits and played to a sold-out Wembley to name but a few accolades. That said I’ve lost count of the eyebrows raised at me in disbelief when voicing my support for this so called ‘false metal’. Admittedly, my own faith was tested upon the release of the utter shambles that was Temper Temper and along with countless others I yearned for these “huge Pantera style riffs” that frontman Matt Tuck had promised were forthcoming. Fast forward two years and Bullet are back (with new member Jamie Mathias) and ready to unleash fifth studio album Venom (reuniting them with producer Colin Richardson) upon the masses. The big question is will its bite be strong enough to inject new life into an already stagnated genre.
Intro ‘V’ is not so much a song as 96 seconds of eardrum rattling noise. Unsettling and disjointed, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a horror flick. The immediate feeling is that its inclusion serves to encapsulate and depict that very adolescent angst and frustration on which this album is built upon. Despite having heard lead single ‘No Way Out’ approximately one million times up to now, it still manages to smash me around the grinning face with those duelling guitars, thundering breakdowns and jarring grooves. I’m equally enamoured with thrash drenched ‘Broken’ which is packing more meat than a butcher’s shop, whilst the rabid chug of ‘Pariah’ is classic Bullet and just one example of the fine guitar work employed by Matt and Michael ‘Padge’ Paget throughout. There’s also no denying that Tuck knows how to write a fist-pumping chorus and this is perfectly illustrated on tracks like ‘Army Of Noise’ and Worthless’ – expect writhing pits and bellows of “I don’t wanna hear that you’re sorry / Your words are worthless to ME!” to ring out across packed fields come next Summer.
Unfortunately, the wave of nostalgia that I’ve been happily riding on begins to dissipate during the latter half of the album. That raw aggression and unashamed fury (reminiscent of fan favourites ‘Four Words to Choke Upon’ and ‘All These Things I Hate’) begins to be overshadowed by the lyrical content. Whilst I can appreciate how difficult it must have been to pen a dozen plus tracks which all connect with the listener on an emotional level, there are occasions where we veer dangerously into cliché territory. From the wailing group chants (“We will not take this anymore / these words will never be ignored”) on ‘You Want a Battle (Here’s a War)’ to some overly earnest angel references (‘In Loving Memory’) I find myself cringing despite my best efforts. Thankfully, some welcome dashes of ferocity manage to permeate the aforementioned saccharine in the form of ‘Skin’ and bonus track ‘Raising Hell’ – both of which combine earworm solos and the juxtaposed harsh / clean vocals so synonymous with the BFMV sound.
Although Bullet For My Valentine haven’t strayed far from the proverbial metalcore path with this offering, it is reassuring to hear these guys revisiting their thrash influenced roots. The hope now is that the band can focus more on their sound rather than being fixated on the lyrics and what they convey. Are these guys still hungry? Fuck yes. It’s just a shame that this venom lacks the sonic bite of the original poison.
7 out of 10
- No Way Out
- Army of Noise
- You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War)
- The Harder the Heart (The Harder it Breaks)
- Hell or High Water
- Playing God
- Run for your Life
- In Loving Memory
- Raising Hell