There are two ways of approaching Temper Temper – the fourth studio effort from Welsh metallers Bullet For My Valentine. On one hand, it stands as a feckless, riotously fun collection of tracks that spits out lines like “Are you ready, it’s time for war / we’ll break down these fucking doors” and leaves you to lap them up as it steamrollers onward. But equally, it’s those very same lyrics that serve as its greatest detriment, dragging the record kicking and screaming into a squalid pit of mediocrity when really, coming from a band of Bullet’s calibre, it should be so very much better.
They are a band that exist now on the A list of Radio 1. Each of their previous albums has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the US. Bullet For My Valentine are a box office band. But like any box office smash, as sequel after sequel finds itself onto the silver screen, there invariably follows the accusations of watering down, a sacrifice of critical value in a never ending search for bigger commercial success. But in the case of Temper Temper, that’s not the problem – the discernible drop in quality doesn’t feel intentional; worse even, it feels accidental – like the band slipped down a side-street of achingly simple songcraft one afternoon, and followed it to its natural conclusion: a disappointingly simple album.
Album-opener Breaking Point is symptomic of the problems – meaty slabs of guitar fuelling a chorus that meanders through a kind of aimless anger that’s quickly burnt itself out into a charred carcass of a song. The melancholia of Dead To The World hints more to the Bullet of old – a more considered record, one where the guitar textures actually come alive – where they emerge organically – not out of some kind of mechanistic auto-pilot. Erupting halfway through into a juddering, explosive volley of riffs, it displays a dynamism sadly lacking elsewhere in the album – the crisp, focused energy the band were exhibiting as recently as 2010’s Fever.
Dirty Little Secrets packs a certain heft too, and feels like an obvious future single choice, twitching with a bottled-up insistency begging to be let loose. Leech, on the other hand, is an unashamed guilty pleasure – boasting the album’s biggest chorus and a frothing cry of “run motherfucker, it’s time to hide / go bury yourself in a grave of lies.” It’s beyond ridiculous, but whereas Riot and the album’s title track feel brutishly heavy-handed, Leech succeeds at least in tapping into a more vital kind of OTT playfulness. But even so, as the album progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to forgive the kid-like lyricisms – a relentless bludgeoning of brute-force angst that fast becomes unmanageable.
Livin Life (On The Edge Of A Knife) offers the most complete portrait of how good the album could have been if it had followed a more systematic, measured gestation process. It’s glimpses like these that present the sound of the world-conquering giants Bullet currently stand as. If sound should fit stature, then sadly, Temper Temper – as an album – only half fits.
2013 sees contemporaries like Bring Me The Horizon in the ascendency – each album of theirs continuing to improve on the sound of the last, building toward some kind of paradigm of excellence. In Bullet’s latest effort, we have a step backward – or perhaps more apt, a kind of tripping into a pothole. On a sheer face value level, Temper Temper delivers; as the band always have done, satisfying on all the most base levels. And for all its flaws, it remains a tremendously fun record. But artistically speaking, it’s woefully weak – and when even the group’s staunchest fans start lamenting the material, you know it’s time for a serious rethink.