There comes a time within a band’s career where the music speaks for itself, creating hype for any upcoming music and even speculation for what an album “will sound like”. Bullet For My Valentine are common talk for mainstream metal, with four studio records (‘Venom’ will be the band’s fifth) under their belts and a seemingly endless touring schedule, Bullet For My Valentine have made the most out of every opportunity to grow and mature as a band. ‘Venom’ sees the band continue that growth without losing what made this Welsh quartet so popular. Melodious riffs meet up-tempo verses and catchy chorus’ that pull the listener in hook, line and sinker (see what I did there?). ‘Venom’ doesn’t shift the band away from their trademark sound, rather it expands on the capabilities of its members, remembering the live audience in the process. The ‘Venom’ circuit also sees a shift in the band’s roster with Bullet For My Valentine parting ways with long-time bassist Jason (Jay) James. In his place fellow Welsh-man Jamie Mathias entered the band to assist with backing vocals as well as normal bass duties. As for his effects on the record, it’s important to note that Tuck handled the bass in the recording process, showcasing the guitar-hugging qualities of the instrument. It may be a few years before we can see what Mathias can actually do for the band’s song-writing.
The band’s ability to blend straight up metalcore with ballad-esque rock is one of the reasons the group is so commercially viable. With tracks like “Scream Aim Fire’s” Say Goodnight and the two part Tears Don’t Fall (spread over two records) it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t have the following they have today. This year’s effort continues along the same thought processes bringing the album’s title track to the for-front of the listeners’ mind. Venom is sure to be a fan favourite upon the release of the album, mixing emotive verse lines and croons from the back of Tuck’s thought processes. He states:
“It’s a dark love song, which we always love to include on the album. It’s about being in a relationship with someone who’s just a piece of work. Venom is a reference to this individual being poisonous, ugly, dangerous, and just bad for you. You don’t want this relationship anymore. It’s got that edgy element but sung in a melodic and beautiful way. It’s a touchstone of what we do.”
The track itself draws on the “sing along” nature of even vocal phrasing, as well as a singular motif of “never giving up” which most listeners can relate to. It also draws some reference (even if it’s not deliberate) to some of the band’s older tracks, showcasing that the band hasn’t forgotten just what brought them to this point in their career. Thankfully other highlights emerge throughout the record. The band’s leading single No Way Out (embedded at the end of the review) is a fist-pumping energetic screaming start to the album (minus the introductory V). High octane riff work meets dancing drum work from Michael (Moose) Thomas, opting for a thrashier Bullet For My Valentine (often cited on their “Scream Aim Fire” record). The group’s second released single You Want A Battle (Here’s A War) continues this wave of noise, although its place at middle of the album helps supply a well needed contrast level aiding the band’s metalcore/ballad soundscapes, but the intensity lifts further with Broken, whirring guitars intertwine with the typical Bullet For My Valentine sound structures, it’s straight up emotive play for these Welsh musicians screaming their way into listeners hearts. ‘Venom’ is not a trifling album, it draws from past experience, turning the negative experience into something positive.
Overall the same formula Bullet For My Valentine have lived on over the course of all their previous releases keeps resurfacing in their 2015 effort. ‘Venom’ ticks all the right boxes as far as the band’s overall soundscape goes, but does nothing to differ or even innovate modern metal. ‘Venom’ offers a practiced sound, enjoying being built from some solid themes. It’s vocally strong within those themes and even provides enough of an atmosphere to lift both music and lyrics together. Bullet For My Valentine may not be making any old critics of the band change their minds, but with a fan-base as strong as ever, they don’t need to revolutionize their sound. If you like the band’s previous efforts (or even thought ‘Temper Temper’ fell a little flat), there’s a strong chance that this will please. ‘Venom’ returns a ‘The Poison’ vibe, culminating in an altogether strong release.
VENOM track listing: (Please note this review is for the standard edition)
- V (1:26)
- No Way Out (3:53)
- Army of Noise (4:18)
- Worthless (3:18)
- You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War) (4:14)
- Broken (3:39)
- Venom (3:54)
- The Harder the Heart (The Harder It Breaks) (4:00)
- Skin (3:59)
- Hell or High Water (4:36)
- Pariah (3:47)
- Playing God (3:52)
- Run For Your Life (3:34)
- In Loving Memory (Demo Version) (4:02)
- Raising Hell (4:35)