Thursday, 10 January 2013

Review: Black Veil Brides - Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones

Well, it's about time I started writing album reviews again since every release under the sun for the start of the year came out two days ago. I would have done some reviews then and there, but then, why don't you try studying for a media law exam?? I'm done.

Guess what? That time has come around again for all spiteful internet trolls to get their knickers in a twist and for obsessive fans to, pretty much do the same. The Black Veil Brides are back to show us that they never really put much faith in the concept that less is more.

Where are we even at with the Hollywood quintet that everyone knows the name of these days? This time last year, they could not be ignored, especially from a negative point of view. The really tragic thing about it is that the criticism didn't even come in the form of some sharp NME type that displayed their cynicism with sophistication, just more like a splattering of of words referring to genital body parts and casual homophobia virtually vomited out onto comment boards and forums across the web, while the real fans insisted on needing to defend their beloved band which resulted in using phrases like "haters" and "hating on", both of which are a spread of cancer upon English grammar. Truth be told, I really have come to enjoy their first two albums, two friends of mine are in that latter category of devoted BVB Army members so I got quite the exposure, but all of this, the fact that it's become this all out war of those who love and those who despise the band stops me from wanting to make myself a massive fan.

Thus, the matter of how much I enjoy them has always been down to the music rather than immense love or hatred to spawn from other matters regarding them, and yes, their looking like weird kids that came last place in a dress-like-KISS-competition has always been a massive elephant in the room in this context. And with their third album, their long planned out "rock opera concept album" Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, the music does the talking. And it talks big.

Sometimes it's easy to deliver mockery when someone takes themselves a little too seriously, but in the case of the performance the band puts on for this album, you can't really avoid it. You just have to hear the unrelenting venomous tones that Andy Biersack unleashes as he opens with I Am Bulletproof. It's the sound of a man that has become fiercer, sharper and willing to deliver his spite upon a world that has shown him nothing but contempt. And as the sound of threat in his voice shows no sign of letting up through the song's grandly constructed choruses from the entire band that keep hooks coming with a passion and enthusiasm that can only be commendable, it's obvious that this is a band that takes itself very seriously.

You can hear it in the songwriting. While 2011's Set the World on Fire was nothing more than a collection of rock songs designed to be continuously fiery in it's delivery, there's more substance to be found on the sprawling openings of to New Year's Day with it's sub industrial backdrops and on the dramatic buildups of We Don't Belong. Even if it carries some tackiness, the gothic buildup to Shadows Sun has strokes of classical-based soundscaping that one could find on a Nightwish or Cradle of Filth album. More intelligence and a greater desire for all things expansive can be heard in this manner of songwriting and it's clear that this album is designed to be so much more than just a collection of jams. That's right everyone! Black Veil Brides don't enter the studio with the same recording ambitions as Fu Manchu. You heard it here first.

And that's not to say that there's less emphasis on making a rock album in any way. Many would happily say that Jake Pitts is the main highlight of Black Veil Brides and with his shredding on Wretched and Divine and Nobody's Hero, it doesn't take much for him to prove why. Solos squeal with delight amongst beefed up rhythm sections that deliver sing-along choruses that will make those who sing along nothing short of ecstatic. I mean, Devil's Choir is a guaranteed stadium-filler anthem and Days Are Numbered is immense on it's own without even considering the weirdly-anticipated vocal appearance from Bert McCracken of The Used.

McCracken's appearance actually serves as something of a highlight, because there's a weird interest to come from the fact that while The Used's debut album is over ten years old now and the band are verging on becoming veterans in the world of emo rock, while Black Veil Brides are still rising up just how much more ambitious and bold Biersack sounds when the pair's voices are put together. That's no put down to McCracken, as he's always put on the vocal characteristics of anxiety, panic and a sort of social terror and it's probably why the band wanted him on this song because no one presents that emotion quite like him. If anything it seems like McCracken is on that song to highlight the strength of Biersack's vocals which always play a more commanding characteristic. Maybe I'm completely wrong with my analogies. Either way, their duet is cool.

And while many would like to cast off the idea of Black Veil Brides being an emo band, it can't be denied that emotion is spread, particularly in the album's closing moments. Lost it All may be a modern example of one of those perfect ballads that takes you  from one spectrum of emotion to another in five minutes. Opening with a cold piano melody that conjures up feelings of failure and gothic despair amongst Andy's shiver inducing vocal performance which gradually progressives into something that feels warm, lush and unexpectedly life affirming, as the rest of the band join in and extra vocals come in from Automatic Loveletter frontwoman Juliet Simms, putting on a female balladeer performance positively reminiscent of Clare Torry. As the song ends with Pitts' unwinding solo the song's message of losing it all has sort of changed from being "You've lost it all. You've ruined everything, feel guilty!" to "You've lost it all. Shit happens, but we'll get over it with friends and beer." Maybe I'm completely wrong in my analogies again. But by the time the album actually ends with lead single In the End, you realise that the power, devotion and entire outburst of the band's full creativity and emotional force just makes them a band in a league of their own, not necessarily above but in no way comparable to any of the metalcore or glam-rock revival bands they were being grouped with a year and a half ago. This is their sound and it belongs to no one but them.

Of course, I am saying that In the End is the album's final track. It isn't actually, it ends on one of the many interludes that the band refers to as F.E.A.R. Transmissions voiced by Aiden frontman Wil Francis. That's the main sign that the album is taking itself too seriously. With these constant segments of essentially Bad-guy film speeches backed up strokes of symphonic backdrops, it's meant to be the band wrapping up the album's concept of fighting against fear resembled by authority and religion and all'a that. Necessary is not a word I'd use to describe them, though they sometimes serve as nice intros to full songs.

But when they all last under a minute it's hardly worth complaining about. Particularly when the music itself is so substantial. Truth be told, part of me wanted to dislike this album. Part of me wanted to see that it was just some basic hard rock songs made for kids who describe classical music as "Epic". But it's so much more. It's a sign that the Black Veil Brides have matured from the people they were when they recorded Set the World on Fire as I have matured from the person who listened to Set the World on Fire and probably described it as "Epic." And when you hear the kind of effortless confidence, sense of determination and full emotion and belief in what they're doing that pours out across Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, you realise that this isn't the same band that everyone was vomiting out slanderous remarks about on the internet a year and a half ago. Sure, there are similarities and they'll never impress any of the true metalheads that originally showed disinterest purely from a musical point of view, but this is no longer the band that gave bullied high school kids a place to run to. This is something more. This is a band on an adventure. And what a way to kick off 2013 that is.

Black Veil Brides' Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones is out now via Universal Republic Records. The band will tour the UK in February on The Kerrang! Tour with Chiodos, Tonight Alive and Fearless Vampire Killers.

1 comment:

  1. You're an amazing writer Your analogy about Lost It All was a little off from the original meaning, but I think I prefer yours haha. It ends with "I believe, that we all fall down sometimes," and then ends. The song never mentions anything about getting back up again, because sometimes, we don't. We just want to stay in that feeling, and even when someone tries to cheer you up to get you back on your feet, you almost feel annoyed because all you want to do is feel sad. It's all very depressing really ^^ Mr Biersack himself explained it a lot better in a recent interview, but I think it was taken down after the album release..

    Oh and "true metalhead"? Really? Is that a thing?

    It's Andy by the way. (The smaller, slightly less sexy one other than you.)