Remember Going For Gold – that dodgy daytime quiz show hosted by Henry Kelly that was supposed to be pan-European but had odds blatantly stacked in favour of anyone for whom English was their first language?
It had a round where Kelly would ask, “Who am I?” and before the contestants had time to answer “You’re a w**ker!” (as comedians David Baddiel and Rob Newman once did on national television), he’d start describing a person or band that had to be guessed for such generous prizes as, well, nothing (unless you won the whole series).
In the same spirit (i.e. no prizes), let’s play:
“Who are we? We are a band. We come from the valleys of South Wales. We’re into our styling and like lots of hair gel. We’re on the Visible Noise record label.”
“No. Incorrect. Now, eff off back to Sweden.”
What “Henry” should have said was: “No. Incorrect. The answer is Bullet For My Valentine and praise the Lord above that they sound nothing like those musical incompetents who pretend to rock!”
In fact, Bullet For My Valentine are being touted as the saviours of British heavy metal (or something) and while: a) British heavy metal doesn’t particularly need “saving”; and b) if it did, they’re not good enough yet anyway; there’s no questioning that The Poison is a confident and impressive-sounding debut.
After a haunting intro courtesy of a cello arrangement by Finnish maestros Apocalyptica and some …And Justice For All-era Metallica-style guitar picking, things turn predictably heavy.
It’s how heavy that is the surprise, however, with Her Voice Resides fair hurtling out of the blocks in a maelstrom of double bass pedals and thrashing guitar riffs. There’s even a guitar solo and it all gives the impression that Bullet For My Valentine wish to be the Cymru version of current magazine cover boys Trivium.
Thankfully, that’s not the case, with 4 Words (To Choke Upon) Engag-ing its Killswitch (if you know what I mean) before the first really good track appears in the shape of Tears Don’t Fall, which wins by taking its foot off the pedal and saving the speed metal for after a number of soaring, anthemic choruses.
In fact, Bullet For My Valentine are at their best when they’re not trying the hackneyed formula of go-for-the-throat verses and cleanly sung choruses and are secure enough just to give us a monumental tune.
For instance, Hit The Floor (complete with grungey riff that recalls The Almighty‘s Addiction); All These Things I Hate (which rocks hugely and memorably after an ill-advised acoustic first verse); and Room 409 (exceedingly heavy yet tuneful and chant-along-a-tastic); all demonstrate that it is possible for reality to outwit hype sometimes.
Having said that, there is still work to be done. The likes of the title track, 10 Years Today and Spit You Out veer into fairly anonymous and inconsequential metal territory, while some of the lyrics are painfully bad (“The bed we f**ked in smells the same but now the stench is fading” from The End being one of the worst offenders).
Still, with their obvious musical skill, liking for a meaty riff and more memorable songs than most bands achieve on an album, it shouldn’t be long before Bullet For My Valentine are, well, “going for gold” across Europe and beyond.