Welsh metalcore band Bullet For My Valentine was once upon a time one of the biggest up-and-coming metal bands in the world. While it wouldn’t be a stretch at all to say they’ve cooled off a bit in the past decade after some up and down album releases, they are back with their seventh and self-titled album, showing off some of the heaviness and aggression that made them popular in the first place. I LOVE this band, they were the first to truly get me into metal alongside Slipknot, and while they lost me a little along the way with the lighter albums this one is sounding like it could be awesome, so I’m excited to review it!
The intro the band has tacked onto the front of opening track ‘Parasite’ is really interesting, the sound of a radio in the distance flicking through snippets of all of the band’s hits. It was a really cool way of either starting a new chapter or (hopefully not, at least) calling an end to things. I was a little confused why it wasn’t a track in of itself though, an intro as opposed to an extra minute or so tacked on the front of the album version of one of the singles. As soon as the actual track bursts in though the heaviness of old Bullet is back. Matt’s scream has clearly changed since the last time the band went this hard on Venom, hence probably why they took it a little easier on Gravity, but I like the change. It’s a heavier scream and fits in with their modern metalcore style perfectly. Matt’s scream of the track name gives way to a lightning-quick, almost thrash riff through a heavy verse, the track not letting up at all so far. The call and response vocals during the choruses (both being screamed, by the way) add a layer of catchiness in there with the hardcore. It’s something a crowd can easily get behind too, just screaming ‘I’ over and over. The vocals clean up as we head into a bridge, Matt’s cleans sounding just as great and powerful as ever. It doesn’t last too long before we head into a great build-up part with more chanted-style screams, and then launching into a typical blisteringly good guitar solo from Paige. He hasn’t lost a step since the band began and is another of the most underrated guitarists around today. We head out of that into a quick verse and then an extended clean-vocalled part, it being just as catchy as the chorus. Then a heavy chorus and riff take us home. This was awesome, a big improvement on anything on the previous album, and easily makes the playlist!
Another single ‘Knives’, is up next. It keeps the heaviness going with a HUGE drumbeat and some great guitar riffing behind it. It then breaks into somehow an even better, heavier riff from the instruments. The guitars drop out for the vocal-filled parts of the verse, a fun dynamic that also makes any time the instruments are back that much heavier. Speaking of the vocals, they were a great mix of clean and harsh here, a route I hope Matt takes more throughout this album! The chorus half-times the song and the screams are back, and it’s all awesome. It’s somehow still massively catchy and radio-friendly while also being VERY heavy and full of screams. A great drumbeat takes us through a building bridge after the second chorus, it leading to a heavy, chuggy breakdown riff, Matt’s vocals being perfect over the top yet again. I honestly can’t get over how fantastic his new technique and style sounds. It then leads to another verse, chorus, and massive riff to take us home. Another amazing track and yet another that makes the playlist immediately.
‘My Reverie’ starts a little slower and quieter than the previous two, a clean guitar riff that reminds me a lot of ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. The distortion and huge sound soon come in over the top with an awesome riff to build on it, but it still stays at a steadier pace. It dropping down to simple drums, clean vocals and a groove-driven verse was awesome and fit the tone of the song very well. The build-up through the odd word or two of screaming between lines was also great. My only slight criticism is that it doesn’t explode into the chorus at all, it transitions smooth enough that I didn’t even realise the heavy riff was back yet to back the chorus vocals. It was a catchy chorus but yeah, it could have done with a bigger impact heading into it. The heavy second chorus leads to another fantastic solo from Paige, one of my favourites from him in years! Said solo leads to a dropped-down chorus part, just clean vocals, and clean guitar before it finally explodes into another big final chorus to end things. This was another good song, though I can see why it wasn’t a single like the others.
‘No Happy Ever After’ opens on a great drumroll and a great guitar riff that again shows off the band’s heavy thrash inspiration. It’s awesome! The pace and riffs keep up through the verses and choruses, the only change being the harsh or clean vocals over the top of them. The verses are awesome and somehow even catchier than the chorus thanks to the backing vocals and Jamie Mathias’ scream adding so much to it all. That’s not to say the chorus isn’t great too, it’s just got Matt’s clean vocals in instead and feels like it lacks a little bit of the impact and depth that the verses do. The breakdown riff coming out of the second chorus is heavy and fast, Jason working crazy fast on his kick pedal and it sounds awesome. It then explodes out of nowhere into another crazy Paige solo, quick and technical, before a typical final chorus and riff end the track. This was another awesome song, and I would say an improvement on the previous track.
I cannot get over the bass tone at the start of ‘Can’t Escape the Waves’, I’m so glad we got just that as an intro as it showcased just how awesome Jamie is, something that a lot of fans may not have heard much of if they’d tuned out after Jay left. The track is more of a typical Bullet slower song, think ‘Venom’ or ‘Bittersweet Memories’. I definitely understand its place on the album as I get far too bored personally if a whole album is all at one level, but I didn’t think this was up there with the same quality as the tracks I mentioned previously. It was alright, but I already know there is a better slower track on the album later on as it was a single so this just felt a tad meh outside of the bass. Heck, ‘Bastards’ sounded like it was on its way to being a better track, but the verses lost and bored me. The chorus is pretty catchy and will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day, but there isn’t a great deal to the track outside of the chorus, it’s all pretty mid-tempo and basic. The breakdown isn’t the worst either, but it’s been done better on other tracks on the album. It’s a shame because there are good elements to both songs, but something didn’t quite click for me with both.
Next up is the slower track I hinted at earlier, ‘Rainbow Veins’. This is how you do a slower metalcore track right. The verse is quiet and stripped-back yet still interesting and fun while the chorus explodes into a great, heavy guitar riff with some catchy as hell vocals over the top. A good ‘woh’ will always be catchy and it worked really well here for the backing vocals. Also, the heavy triplet bit with the drums and guitar during the second verse was AMAZING and surprisingly subtle. The breakdown is also awesome, the first time the screams come in and it’s so effective and adds to the heaviness. We still follow a similar, radio-friendly structure as all the others, a final chorus following to end the track, but I’m more than okay with it as it was so damn entertaining. Playlisted!
The final single on the album, ‘Shatter’, is the second with an extended album intro, yet this one felt wholly unnecessary. It was just a minute of building-up feedback and ‘oh’s. It’s more than okay to have this kind of thing at the start of the album, but it feels odd midway through. It also follows the same formula as the opening track (probably why I have been getting them mixed up before now), by having Matt scream the main chorus line over the top before a heavy riff comes in. It’s a good structure to use, don’t get me wrong, but when done twice for two singles and BOTH have intros that are longer on the album… meh. That riff though, DAMN is it good! The verses strip back pretty far, building to huge, heavy, scream-filled choruses. It’s another great song but damn if I don’t get a feeling that I’ve just heard this before but a little better.
‘Paralysed’ opens on an awesome, heavy riff that runs through the verse as well, another thrash-esque song with Matt screaming over the top. It builds nicely into a cleaner chorus, the vocals catchy while the track stays pretty heavy in general. This, along with the final track, ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’, were two tracks I really wanted to like. However, I just couldn’t get into them, it was just too much of the same. I’d most likely love these tracks, and the others I was a little iffy on, had I listened to them on their own, or even just not listened to the album with such an analytical mindset on, but right now they don’t do a great deal for me. Heck, maybe I’d feel the same about their older albums if I went back and didn’t have nostalgia towards them. Maybe I’m finally reaching my limit with Bullet? Or, more likely, it’s a good album but a lot of the same and I’m just being overly critical due to how much I love the band! Either way, as I said, good songs but similar to a lot of the album!
Overall: I think I really liked this. Yes, I have said some negative stuff about a few of the tracks, but when I have gushed over half of the album and then said even the stuff I didn’t love was still good, I’d say it’s a good album overall. While not quite at the same level of quality as their first three albums, the band has definitely recaptured a bit of that fire and specialness that they had in the beginning, even if it may take another album to truly shine through. The best album they have done since 2010 and one that should hopefully re-establish the band as major players in the metal scene once more!
The Score: 8/10
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