Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review: Bullet for My Valentine - Temper Temper

Seems like this album is the only natural follow up with the ever increasing approach of Valentines day, and the fact that we've recently been immersed within a Bloody Valentine, so let's keep up the theme of love hearts and flowers by looking at a band everybody loves to hate: Bullet for My Valentine.

Now BFMV's story is hardly one that needs re-telling. Make accessible heavy metal albums, become arena filling giants of the genre, become hated by all the troo metal fans of the world. Personally, I was never able to agree with this because wouldn't you know I got into them when I was at a younger age and still unaware of all the real metal metal bands hidden in the corners of thrash land and... Norway. So, I have a prolonged love for the first three albums of the Bridgend quartet, The Poison, Scream Aim Fire and Fever even though I'm fully aware of why they generate so much hatred. But I will still stand for this band. I love those albums, I'll be watching them at this year's Download Festival (albeit, mainly so I can get a good spot for when Slipknot follow them up) and I was convinced that they were of a quality that could make them fly the flag for the future of British metal. Note the fact that the phrase "Was" just got used there.

Last year, the band released a single titled Temper Temper which later revealed itself to be the camp sounding title of their fourth full length album. As I listened to it while looking at recent news stories to come from my Facebook news feed, the song became the soundtrack to me learning that Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence has been tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Needless to say, the quality of the music wasn't exactly the main thing on my mind when the song reached it's end. But as I began to listen to that single and follow up single Riot, it became obvious as to why people were saying that Bullet had gone through a metaphorical death themselves.

So naturally, as you walk into the Temper Temper, what you're expecting is to hear Bullet's quality in great decline. You're expecting to hear them fall from the top of their game to something of a cheaper band that don't sound like they care at all. So, when you come to the end of the album, what you're left with is, well, a three quarters-letdown experience really.

So when the album's good, it's a good chunky piece of infectiously melodic heavy metal that is clearly made to rouse voices from arenas and main stages of festivals. And I know the likes of Leech still isn't going to make BFMV a abnd that will appeal to Darkthrone or Mayhem fans, but for a piece of melodic metal that takes influences from latter day In Flames, it's a refreshing rush of heavy metal that will get you singing along effortlessly. If you like choruses that is. It would be highly cynical to suggest that the best of Bullet's songwriting only comes through the chorus, but if that is the case then they're definitely making the best of it. As heavy metal balladry goes P.O.W. bleeds out the perfect amount of emotion and makes a truly enjoyable song as a result, perfecting upon Bullet's always prominent emo element that has been there since 2006's The Poison, while they reach their heaviest point during the mid section of closer Livin' Life (On the Edge of a Knife) which is the sweet payoff of a long time waiting.

Of course, you shouldn't expect any parts to be truly heavy on a Bullet album. And this might surprise some people who thought that frontman Matt Tuck's time co-fronting metal supergroup AxeWound with Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier would make him want to bring the more genuinely heavy grooves to the table with this band. But then after Tuck's statement that doing what he did in that collective would be Commercial Suicide for BFMV, it really did reveal that with this band comes a formula of songwriting that keeps them at a level of headlining stadiums, playing big festival slots and, well, making money.

In this respect you could excuse the band for working the majority of their songwriting in a "give the fans what they want" sort of way, but a lot of times on Temper Temper they take this too far and come out with songs that sound like re-hashed versions of songs they've already done better. The album's title track sounds like a cross between a cheap version of Fever's title track and a cheaper version of Yashin's New Year or New York. And if you don't know that song, check it out, because it's wicked and you'll see that it's probably not the kind of band Bullet would want to be compared to. Meanwhile, Truth Hurts sounds like a re-hashed Your Betrayal and Riot takes rhythms that sound like they'd be perfected by Newport metallers Skindred. Basically, much of Temper Temper can easily be triumphed by other bands or by their own previous efforts.

In fact, Bullet for my Valentine effectively prove this by themselves by choosing to call a song Tears Don't Fall, Part 2. Now for proper BFMV fans, 2006's Tears Don't Fall is surely a fan favourite. It's the song that got one of my very good friends into metal. In a world where gateway metal bands gain more and more respect, it's a song held in quite high regard. So the choice to give it a Part 2 only does the band the disservice in allowing fans to look at the original song, compare it to this and ultimately witness how much the band's efforts and quality have truly declined. Guitar melodies are less memorable, Tuck's screams have weakened and the sense of passion the first song bled isn't so notable this time round.

And along with that, a collection of weak lyrics (Saints & Sinners just opens with "Welcome to this fucked up world!" Great.) and questionable Bon Jovi impersonations (Dead to the World) and a constant letdown in vocals that feel devoid of any care, there's no easy way to get into Temper Temper as you so easily could with The Poison, Scream Aim Fire or Fever. It has it's strong moments, without a doubt, but for the most part it really feels difficult to identify a sense of passion or musical freedom coming through these stadium filler anthems.Only the sound of a band trying to break America, keep making money and try to headline festivals. And I hate that it sounds this way, I really want to enjoy it. But with the disappointment of AxeWound and the dismal follow up in this, it seems like Matt Tuck's golden days may truly be behind him, not even a decade into his career. I think you should stick with My Bloody Valentine. They can still sound great after 22 years.

Bullet for My Valentine's Temper Temper is out now via RCA. The band will tour the UK in March with Halestorm and Miss May I and will play at Download Festival at Donnington Park, Derby on 14th Jun.

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