Bullet For My Valentine switched gears on sixth album Gravity. Swapping out supercharged ferocity for a more slickly produced, mainstream-baiting affair, it melded catchy grooves with gleaming pop-hook anthemia. Vocalist Matt Tuck predicted that fans would be “surprised” by the record; it did, after all, have one defining – and arguably un-Bullet-like in terms of their previous sonic output – characteristic in its complete omission of guitar solos across its 11 tracks. Depending on what side of the fence you were sat on, it was either fearlessly brave or decidedly foolish given the technical arsenal the guys had at their disposal.
Fast forward three years, however, and on paper the gamble appears to have paid dividends for the Welsh juggernauts, having now racked up a billion US streams of their catalogue and reinvigorating those increasingly apathetic audiences by playing their biggest shows to date, including London’s Alexandra Palace. But with Matt Tuck now chucking out bold epithets like “This is the beginning of Bullet 2.0”, and a press release teasing “a back to basics” approach, are the boys from Bridgend finally ready to prove that they’re impervious to time’s cruel hands?
As a glitchy melange of singles past starts to slowly crackle then fade out, it’s certainly impossible to deny yourself that warming frisson of anticipation that opener Parasite provides. It’s both warranted and duly rewarded as the track builds tantalisingly then lights up like a grenade, exploding in a rabid melee of crashing drums, maniacal screams and arguably the kind of battering-ram strength riffs not heard since Her Voice Resides et al first grabbed listeners by the throat.
Shifting seamlessly between gut-punching roars and heady cleans, vocalist Matt sounds better than ever, his vitriolic cries of ‘I hope you choke!’ serving as a defiant proclamation for anyone who ever derided them as “false metal” pretenders. And make no mistake: the solos are back and back with a vengeance. Covering similar ground, Knives and My Reverie revel in rhythmic grooves, irrepressible melodies and huge choruses that will doubtless please those who crave the quartet at their heaviest and lodge themselves firmly in your cranium, while Paralysed’s visceral clatter was designed to make you lose your shit in the pit.
So for the record to then lull and dip into much safer territory following the wanton savagery that just burst forth from your speakers is somewhat frustrating. The gang chants of the emo-on-steroids hybrid Bastards misses the mark in terms of the chest-thumping bonhomie it’s meant to stir. Elsewhere, Matt’s lyrics on Rainbow Veins fail to bring it to the level of emotional catharsis it seeks, the song’s introspective balladry proving too generic to achieve any lasting impact.
Ultimately, this self-titled seventh offering is a decent, all-box-ticking Bullet album that will enamour fans of all eras. And granted, while it doesn’t surpass the full-throttle glory of 2006 breakthrough The Poison, it’s hard to see it delaying what seems like a determined charge back to metal’s summits.
Bullet For My Valentine is released on October 22 via Spinefarm Records