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?
Venom has been getting a lot of play on my iPod since it’s release and in all honesty I have grown to love it. It is a strong all round album with a selection of great tracks and is undoubtably a return to form for Bullet For My Valentine. The truth, as with any album, is most like to reveal itself in the live arena and the opportunity to catch the band arose last week at Bournemouth’s O2 Academy, a small venue where even from the back you can see the whites of the bands eyes.
The undercard for this Bullet For My Valentine is superb. Admittedly I had not come across Japanese rock band Cold Rain before but they were hugely energetic with their riff laden heavy rock. Judging by the number of Cold Rain T-Shirts that were in evidence by the end of the gig I wasn’t the only one who was impressed.
Next up was Sheffield Metalcore outfit While She Sleeps. I caught their set at Reading Festival back in August so I was looking forward to seeing them again in a more intimate environment. These guys won Kerrang’s “Best Newcomer” award in 2012 and it is not hard to see why. Front-man Lawrence Taylor is a tour-de-force as he snarls and screams his way through their set. He is soon shirtless and crowd surfing and While She Sleeps went down extremely well with both me and the entire audience.
While She Sleeps may have been understudies on this occasion but are surely destined for bigger and better things. I certainly expect to see them at Download festival come June 2016.
So on to the main event Bullet For My Valentine arrived on-stage at 9.30 and played a 16 song set that wrapped up at just before 11pm. Those who read my regular musings will know that I have been getting increasingly pissed off by headline bands who are shortchanging fans by playing a set of barely 60 minutes. Far too many bands are doing this so it was refreshing to see Bullet play for 90 minutes.
Matt Tuck was in great voice throughout the set as he and lead guitarist Mike Paget hammered out riff heavy guitar including some nice solo work from both guitarists. Bass player Jamie has brought a lot to BFMV’s sound, especially vocally. He adds a real edge and depth to lyrics with his “screamo” style. It says a lot about Bullet For My Valentine’s maturity as a band that they played tracks from all of their albums except for the badly received failure that was Temper Temper.
We were treated to a total of five tracks from Venom though my favourite track “Pariah” did not get an outing. The set was well constructed and it was perhaps a sign of the bands growing confidence that the crowd were offered a choice between “The Poison” and “Suffocating Under Words Of Sorrow.”
On this performance it is clear that Venom does mark a return to form for Bullet For My Valentine. “No Way Out” and “You Want A Battle” and “Army Of Noise” pack serious punch live, they are heavy, meaty and aggressive, played with both energy and pace. The crowd clearly enjoyed the show as the mosh pit throbbed with energy and enthusiasm and there were even circle pits forming.
It says something about the ground that Bullet For My Valentine have lost in recent years when an 1,800 capacity venue was not quite sold out. That said BFMV are back on form and with Venom they just might be on the road to fulfilling their undoubted potential.