Bullet For My Valentine had already made it by the time they started piecing together the tracks that would eventually become their second album, Scream Aim Fire. With just a few EPs and one album, The Poison, under their belts, they had already toured with Guns N’ Roses, played coveted slots on the main stages of Download and Reading/Leeds and headlined a sold-out Brixton Academy. They were living the dream.
The band had released both their EP and debut on Visible Noise, an indie, UK-focused label who had, at that point, also signed a small band called Bring Me The Horizon. But the success of The Poison had caught everyone off-guard. “No one expected it to do what it did,” says frontman Matt Tuck, recalling the impact of the album. “It just blew up everywhere and the label were like, ‘Oh shit!’” The band’s rapid rise had caught the ears of Sony BMG, and it wasn’t long until the big boys waded in and signed them up.
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But before all this, they needed to get the formula for their second album – and especially its lead single – right. The first songs for Scream Aim Fire were written and demoed in 2006. By then, metalcore had become big business. Killswitch Engage had got pulses racing with 2002’s Alive Or Just Breathing but their 2004 follow-up, The End Of Heartache, had really changed the game. In 2005 – the same year Bullet dropped The Poison – Trivium were claiming to be the new Metallica after unleashing Ascendancy, while Avenged Sevenfold released City Of Evil to a huge fanfare. Fans were ensnared by the combination of Gothenburg-inspired guitar melodies, intense riffery, effervescent energy and huge hooks, and Bullet were leading the UK contingent.
“That moment in time was, looking back now, super-special, very vibrant, competitive and healthy. I didn’t realise it at the time but looking back it was an amazing time to be in a metal band,” remembers Matt. “There were many bands doing a slightly similar thing and we had massive respect for them. We loved their albums and whenever we’d meet up they loved our stuff, so it was competitive, but friendly and fierce at the same time. We wanted to outdo everyone in terms of intensity and technical ability. We wanted to be the best. It was a glorious era for the genre.”
In September 2006, the band headed to The Dairy, a residential studio in Brixton, London, for a writing session with renowned metal producer Colin Richardson, who had also helmed The Poison. In the first batch of songs written, one stood out immediately – Scream Aim Fire which would go onto be the first single and title track for the album.
“We were going for the old-school, super-fast, thrashy metal vibe,” remembers Matt. “I remember busting out some riffs after having some beers and wine and just rocking out with [guitarist] Padge. The song, instrumentally, sounded like a big call-to-arms for me. It was powerful, it was heavy, it felt like a musical battlefield. I think it’s one of those songs that doesn’t sound like any of those other bands that were around at the time.”
With the initial idea in the bag, the track came to life quickly in just a few days. The band had set out to write a song in thrall to their heroes: Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, something they felt was lacking on The Poison. Immediately they knew they had a banger on their hands.
“Once the demo was finished, Colin did a little mix of it in the studio and his basic rough mixes are better than most people’s records,” laughs Matt. “It just sounded incredible! It’s one of those songs that’s so frantic and energetic. If you’re a guitar player in a metal band, it’s a great song to play; the fingers are all over the place for the whole song, they do not stop!
“We got all our management and label down and we said, ‘OK, this is what we think is going to be the lead track’”, he continues. “Five minutes had passed and everyone’s jaws were just on the floor. They didn’t expect something so intense, so technical but yet so catchy and anthemic. It hit the nail on the head. I remember CJ, our manager, just rubbing his hands together like a little boy at Christmas going, ‘It’s a fucking call to arms, a fucking call to arms! It’s fucking amazing!’”
Hype around Bullet’s second album was sky-high, but Bullet were about to hit a massive roadblock. Three years of solid touring had taken its toll and Matt’s voice was wrecked. “I didn’t warm up or warm down before any show ever before Scream Aim Fire. Looking back now I can laugh, like, ‘Oh, it was crazy!’, but it was so stupid at the same time.”
On June 21, 2007, eight months before the band headed to Sonic Ranch studios in El Paso to record Scream Aim Fire, it was announced that he had had an emergency tonsillectomy. The operation had thrown the band’s plan into disarray, most notably having to pull out of a gig supporting Metallica at Wembley Stadium. When they arrived in Texas, Matt was still struggling with his voice and was feeling the pressure.
“I was very much aware I couldn’t do what I needed to do,” he says. “It really became clear to everyone that what was coming out wasn’t what it should be, but the wheels were in motion and we needed to get it done. It was so bad at one point that we used some of the vocals from the demos on [the album], because they were pre-op and they were better. I felt so inadequate.” He does add that no such drastic measures were necessary for the title track as “there’s no real screaming, it’s more quick, melodic shouting. But that album, for me… I don’t think I’ve ever played it since the day it was finished recording. I can’t listen to it because I know it should have been a million times better.”
When the band’s second effort was released, Hammer concurred, writing with disappointment that it fell short of lofty expectations, but it didn’t matter. The fans ate it up, propelling Bullet to the next level. They became the first UK metal band in ages to make a real splash over in America, while back in Europe the shows were getting bigger and bigger. And there’s no doubt that that first single still sounds as masterful today as it did when we heard it more than 10 years ago. Since then, Scream Aim Fire has been a fundamental part of their set – something that Matt insists will never change.
“Thankfully people could see through its imperfections and for a lot of people that’s what makes a song raw and intense,” he says. “It’s the roughness of it that gives it its vibe. It’s got the same reaction every night for the last 10 years – it just goes off. There are always key songs on every album that add to the story. Scream Aim Fire, Waking The Demon and Hearts Burst Into Fire are the ones from that record that come to mind that did massive things for us. I think it’s a great song, it’s stood the test of time.”
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