Any band worth its salt divides opinion, and nowhere is that truer than the metal world’s gleefully cannibalistic relationship with its most successful progeny. Self-release an EP and play an empty warehouse? Well done, pilgrim, you may stand among us. Sell out stadiums and flog a million records? Well, let’s just say it’ll open the flood-gates of scrutiny, and any hint of pandering to the mainstream, or of relinquishing the art-for-art’s-sake integrity that’s sustained the cast-iron albeit modest success of so many bands, is like blood in the water.
Only it isn’t that simple when the frontman of the band in question announces a red-blooded, four-on-the-floor side-project and admits there’s no way in hell he’d confuse it with his day job. When Matt Tuck remarked in these very pages that Axewound – his riff-flinging side-project with Liam Cormier of Cancer Bats – was a flight of fancy, and that “doing this in Bullet would be commercial suicide”, he pulled the same Jedi mindtrick that’s worked for Gene Simmons for decades: he told the truth. You’re doing this for the money? Yep. So what? OK, fair enough, but you’d better have a guaranteed-to-stand-the-test-of-time classic or two under your belt.
Regardless, few bands have weathered the gauntlet of commercial success unscathed, and precisely zero have done so with the unanimous support of their fans. When it comes to Bridgend’s most famous export, the chances are you’ll have made up your mind before reading this review or hearing their fourth, enigmatically titled album. That’s because BFMV represent a crucial point of departure for heavy music.
On the one hand, their achievements are gargantuan, and they are undeniably one of the UK’s most significant exports in a generation. On the other, they suffer from failing to conjure the misty-eyed nostalgia because they’re simply not of that era, and their aspirations clearly lie elsewhere. That’s a shame because whatever your preconceptions, Temper Temper is worth a listen, if only to make up your own mind.
It begins with promise – Breaking Point, a showcase for six-stringer Michael Paget’s facility for crushing riffage, is a thunderous salvo that, if anything, proves that BFMV suffer no shortage in the heavy department, and follow-up Truth Hurts is as much an homage to the tuneful ferocity of In Flames or Killswitch at their harpooning peak, but – as with the title-track – the moment Matt’s vocals kick in you realise that you already know precisely what’ll happen next: that’s right, a big, fuck off, come-at-me-world chorus that you’ve probably heard before.
Solid? Yes. Heavy? Undeniably. Daring? Nope, and songs like Dead To The World – a mid-tempo, Fade To Black-conjuring paean to depression – or the infectious, swaying balladry of P.O.W. only confirm the notion that these Welsh songsmiths aren’t writing to please the beard-stroking metal intelligentsia, but then you knew that already. Riot: lyrically twee. Saint & Sinners: all-too-predictable.
No, if BFMV suffer from anything it’s the lack of conviction to defy expectations, because there’s nothing on Temper Temper to offend or inspire, and any band worth its salt does more. Maybe next time.