August 27, 2015 Bullet For My Valentine – Venom (Album Review)
Welsh rockers Bullet For My Valentine have been delivering the heaviness since 1998 when they first went under the name Jeff Killed John performing a mix of Metallica and Nirvana covers in their first incarnation. The band has established a reputation of being a Heavy Metal band with good grooves and serious sonic stability. Their sound is a meld of Heavy Metal riffs blended with elegantly designed melodies. In honor of their band name, as Bullet For My Valentine, the band released their debut album The Poison on Valentine’s Day 2006 where it debuted at #128 on the Billboard 200 chart and was later RIAA certified Gold. From there, the band only continued to raise their status as they tackled Download Fest in the UK, a tour with Rob Zombie, and had their next two albums, Scream Aim Fire in 2008 and Fever in 2010, debut at #4 and #3, respectively. Now comprised of Matt Tuck (vocals, rhythm guitar), Michael Paget (lead guitar, backing vocals), Michael Thomas (drums), and newly added Jamie Mathias (bass, vocals), Bullet For My Valentine has now released their fifth studio album, Venom, and with it, new hopes for what lies ahead. The question is: does Venom measure up to the quality of sound fans have come to expect from these UK metallers?
“V” is a non-instrumental soft opening of ambient sounds that grows from a lull to the stinging of guitars tuning and the buzz of feedback hum and eventually disjointed, altered scream effects before rolling into “No Way Out.” As the first musical track on the album, “No Way Out” evokes an almost Trivium feel from the pace and meter of the song to the dynamics of Tuck’s vocals paired with the guitar sound. It is an easy enough song to follow and flows almost effortless through its peaks and falls sonically with little disjointedness. “Army Of Noise” follows up and wastes no time taking a running start right at you as the drums crash through with prominence and sweeps you away in a Thrash Metal fashion. Tuck’s vocals pierce through the din with sharp assertiveness and are blended out into a more controlled bridge and chorus. The guitar solo electrifies as the sound of dueling axes shred and rip to the forefront of the listener’s attention.
“Worthless” brings a slower pace than its predecessors, but a more serious tone in its delivery. The message is also strikingly clear and its intentions apparent as the lyrics have Tuck singing about the worthlessness of empty words and apologies. Opening with a chorus of singers a capella, “You Want A Battle (Here’s A War)” is a battlecry anthem with somber and balanced verses that lead into the swells of the chorus. It reaches the ears and incites the feelings of self-defense against those who would judge or oppress. It hits universal notes of pride, aggression, and finally standing up for yourself as it exits, not with a whisper, but with a scream.
Shrieking to the forefront comes “Broken” with its jagged riffs and ferocious screams. This track hits on the feelings that come from needing self-discovery and to self-heal without outside interference. Sometimes the best way to get over something is to work through it, no matter how painful that might be, and that is what Tuck is lamenting in this song. Title track “Venom” is the stand out on the album with its slowed pace and somber tone, which is accented by the stringwork of Paget and Tuck as the chords sing and dance across the track in an evocative and entrancing sonic swirl. The feeling of being suffocated, trapped, and needing to escape a toxic situation makes this track more relatable as its easy to self-identify as the person trying to avoid a “venomous” relationship. This is followed with the aptly named “The Harder The Heart (The Harder It Breaks)” that continues with the theme of cutting ties and moving on. It touches on the difficulty of making that transition away from the things or people that are hazardous for you and the emotional turmoil that comes with that decision. It is heavier than “Venom” but carries similar heft, just in a different tone and key.
“Skin” zings into place with a classic Metal riff that permeates the opening before Tuck’s vocals commence. It speaks to the secrets that lie beneath the surface that often go unspoken but can cause ruin. Its electrifying guitar sound lights up the bridge of the song as the drums roll fast, freely, and rhythmically. Rounding out the end of the album comes “Hell or High Water” and “Pariah.” Blending more gradient melodies with simpler construction and sonic development, “Hell or High Water” has an almost Avenged Sevenfold sentiment with the way it winds and coils and incorporates different musical elements. The faster pace of the drums and broken riffs make it a moderate and easy-going headbanger without threatening neck safety. “Pariah” finishes off Venom with what feels like an ode to Metallica with the Hetfield-esque string work in the opening chords of the song whose effects are carried in the undercurrent of the song. The Thrash-like undercurrent of this song is what makes it intriguing to listen to while managing to not overtake the song with its intensity. It is like a jog up and down hill with moments of windedness followed by a fullness in the lungs.
Bullet For My Valentine has managed to carry over the soul they began crafting on Fever when they released songs like their lead single “Your Betrayal,” but now have established a new balance. The balance between the harmonies and the heaviness gives Venom not only a heart, but a fist as well. While the emotional valuation is unquestionable, it is the diligence and intention with which it is executed that makes it really shine and packs the most punch. Although there are some places where the melodies overshadow the composition and overly soften the effects, overall, Venom is a solid work that is likely to appeal to current fans while not being so cult-ish or marginalized that it could not attract new ones. CrypticRock gives Venom 4 out of 5 stars.