There was a time not that long ago when we thought that Bullet For My Valentine were going to kick on to become one of the most important rock bands on the planet. Described variously as hard rock, heavy metal or metal core, this was a band who were Kerrang’s best British Band three times and who won the best live band award in 2010. Their 2008 album Scream Aim Fire was an absolute monster of an album, 2010’s Fever didn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor.
Then what happened? Well frankly Bullet For My Valentine lost focus, drifted into side projects and in 2013 pushed out Temper Temper an album that even die-hard fans would accept was at best mediocre. Fast forward to 2015 and Bullet For My Valentine are back with a new offering – Venom. The question is does Venom mark a return to form or is this the poison that will send them to the hidden hell of rock obscurity?
The Guardian, that well known bastion of quality writing on the metal genre, damns Venom with faint praise. Dom Lawson says that Venom “does at least suggest that frontman Matt Tuck has embraced heavy metal in its bombastic entirety again.” Lawson continues “where Venom does succeed is in the ferocity of its heavier moments, which while seldom straying from entry-level metalcore and thrash cliches, do at least sound like the work of a band who like metal enough to stop ruining it.”
Lawson does have a point. Check out “Pariah” the guitar wok is exemplary, heavy pulsing and threatening but you can barely hear the bass guitar in the mix and the lyrics rend towards the cliched. Check out the video for “You Want A Battle” it shows huge promise, heavy guitar and Tuck’s screamed lyrics suggest some real energy and Venom, but what’s with the schoolboy choir? Seriously!
The Evening Standard, like the Guardian sees Venom as a mixed bag. John Aizlewood that Bullet For My Valentine “sound rejuvenated: howling, super-fast, riff-laden guitars thrash it out with Matthew Tuck’s hollered vocals and his emotionally repressed lyrics. It packs a punch, although Tuck’s bizarre insistence that anything resembling melody be removed is predictably self-defeating.”
Venom does mark something of a return to form for Bullet For My Valentine. There are moments of real promise, ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Broken’ pack serious punch, they are heavy, meaty and aggressive, played with both energy and pace. I really liked the album but I must say that it does have something of the feel of a band desperately trying to recover past glories rather than moving forward.
I will be seeing Bullet For My Valentine live in a small venue in October. I will be interested to see how the new songs translate to the live arena. Perhaps by then Venom will have ingrained itself more deeply into my psyche, we shall see.