Welsh mob Bullet For My Valentine are one of those bands who polarise opinions within the heavy metal world. The haters accuse them of being contrived, overly image-conscious and somehow lacking credibility; yet sales of debut album The Poison recently hit seven figures – a remarkable feat of unit-shifting given that BFMV have not exactly “broken” the States.
On reflection, this schism is unsurprising. BFMV’s main strength is their song construction, which means structured products with discrete moods and deliberate instrumentation. The cool brigade think this lacks sophistication but, in truth, it takes skill to craft heavy music that is immediately memorable yet not limp-wristed.
The title track, Eye Of The Storm and Waking The Demon may have titles that betray their musical nature a little too obviously, but frankly it’s refreshing to listen to metal with all the elements requisite to bang thy head in pleasure: chunk-mungous guitar riffage, a turbo-charged rhythm section, strong choruses, impressive and judiciously used guitar solos, stomp-along sections etc. And all done with an evident love of the past masters – Maiden, Megadeth and Metallica – yet without sinking into lazy retrospective rehashing.
Another case in point is Take It Out On Me. Featuring the curiously Mike Patton-esque vocal strains of Skindred‘s Benji Webbe, it is simultaneously heavy, catchy, uptempo yet with expansive instrumental breaks. Good work.
If BFMV have a weakness it is their tendency to stray occasionally into territory that only the most hardened of cheese tolerators could stomach. Hearts Burst Into Fire has a classic rock guitar intro but fast descends into an ’80s hair metal sing-along. Meanwhile, closing number – the tautologically titled Forever And Always – follows a similar route but wins absolutely no applause for throwing hand claps into its overly elongated outro.
The other small complaint regards the production of Matt Tuck’s vocals, which have had all manner of studio effects applied to them and are often submerged within layers of backing vocals. Perhaps this is due to the well-documented medical problems Matt Tuck has had with his throat. Let’s hope otherwise and instead that it’s just a rare faux pas by über producer Colin Richardson.
Like The Poison then, Scream Aim Fire is a success – mostly. If they were movies, said albums would never be classified as highbrow or arthouse, but neither are they comedy nor farce. Instead, Bullet For My Valentine have produced a solid action flick with a sequel strong enough to ensure the franchise should continue for a fair while yet.