Welsh metal-core band, Bullet For My Valentine exploded on to the metal scene with their debut album ‘The Poison’ in 2006 and have continued to climb further up the ladder with every release since. 2008’s ‘Scream, Aim, Fire’, 2010’s ‘Fever’ and ‘Temper, Temper’ in 2013 were all excellent reasons for their ever growing army of Bullet fans to justly celebrate. This summer the band return with their latest release, the highly anticipated ‘Venom’ an album which rightly gives Bullet fans even more cause to celebrate.
‘Venom’ eases you in with the dark and haunting “V”, a brief journey through a portal to hell where eerie layers of haunting sounds marry vocals mimicking the flicker of a snake’s tongue. Just as it all becomes a bit too unsettling, the albums first full length track, “No Way Out” lunges forward without warning,attacking like an angry cobra. And it bites. Hard. When it comes to album openers, plenty get it wrong. Luckily for Bullet fans, this is an area Bullet are masters of. From its brutal intro, suspenseful verses, masterfully placed pre-choruses and a chorus that will make you fall in love with the band all over again, “No Way Out” demonstrates brilliantly how to kick off an album.
With”Army of Noise” Bullet show they continue to grow, and excel, at songwriting. Vocal harmonies, song parts where the music is stripped back, as opposed to the wall of sound that fills a lot of contemporary metal albums, and of course, duel solos between guitarist Michael Paget and singer Matt Tuck, “Army of Noise” shows great progression for fans following the band from the beginning.The undoubtedly single worthy “Worthless,” destined to become a fan favourite,shows this is not a one off thing. A powerful opening riff, vocal layering executed brilliantly, a bridge featuring a brief section of light synth sounds and a quick cut off, stripped back to clean guitar and vocals, make it perfect for a live singalong before a huge ending. Would it be too bold to say that “Worthless”could be this decades “Tears Don’t Fall” for Bullet? Let’s wait and see.Following this is the made for stage “You Want a Battle (Here’s a War).” 80’s gang chants, big guitars and big chorus’s, this is another track guaranteed to be included in every set list for the foreseeable future.
With great songs, great vocals and great energy, Bullet for My Valentine have an often neglected and underrated rhythm section. New bass player, Jamie Mathias and long term drummer, Michael Thomas prove this with “Broken.” Vocals and guitars are on point and there is a lot of interesting stuff going on, particularly with single note ring outs in the verses. But listen a little deeper and it is the rhythm section, who may not be doing anything incredibly difficult technically, who really make this track. Switching tempos perfectly, knowing when to pull back and punch forward, they create a strong, tight foundation which enables this track to be the heavy hitter it is.
Title track “Venom” is also a heavy hitter, but not in the vicious ordeal way fans may have been expecting. It is actually much, much more than that.”Venom” is the best example of how Bullet have matured as song writers. The track is not explosive. There are not eight different riffs with ten different time signatures. The opening notes offer a somber picking, riff echo through the track that allows the lyrics and vocals to really take hold. It is rich in content, vocally emotive and a radio friendly track that creates a comfortable sway in its tone. In contrast, “The Harder the Heart (The Harder it Breaks)” by no means a step backward, is reminiscent of material from the band’s first two albums, opening with just a hint of Rainbow’s classic “Kill The King” from their 1978 classic album “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”but ending as classic Bullet.
Entering the final stretch of the album, “Skin” is a last minute stand out track. A flesh tearing solo to open, we’re introduced to an honest, yet malicious, set of lyrics unlike anything Bullet have done before. The track grows in strength from start to finish and there isn’t a dull moment to be found. With “Hell or High Water,” we have another track where its strength lies in the rhythm section, with a chorus that is just killer. Though not quite the stand out track its predecessor is, it is far from album filler. Similarly with album closer”Pariah,”which, if unlikely to rocket to the top of Bullet’s top ten most memorable, is a strong enough to bring the album home.
It has been nearly a decade since Bullet for My Valentine tore onto the scene and on the evidence of Venom they have little intention of slowing down. Three albums no more than two years apart, the band quickly cemented themselves amongst the best of the contemporary metal acts. If there were some concerns regarding the questionable ‘Temper, Temper’ in 2013, these worries have been laid to rest. Clearly the guys have taken notes over the years and the maturity shows. With Venom, Bullet deliver an impeccable album, powerful, addictive and indeed so very, very infectious! The best kind of poison there is.
Carl O’ Rourke
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