Last decade was a polarizing one when it comes to BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE releases. I think we can all agree that “Temper Temper” (2013) was, for the most part, bland and uninspired. In all fairness, they tried a proverbial return to their melodic metal roots with “Venom” (2015), as well a sleek and modern sound on “Gravity” (2018), but those records turned out to be a hit for some people and a miss for others. Now, to appease critics and fans alike, things seem to take a turn for the better (read: heavier) with their self-titled seventh album, “Bullet for my Valentine,” which was released on November 5th, 2021, via Spinefarm Records / Search & Destroy.
Before “Parasite” actually kicks in, there’s a 90-second recap of trademark BFMV songs somehow mashed up together. This is a rather unique and interesting way of starting off a self-titled album; it’s like saying “this is where we’ve been and this is where we’re going.” And they are going in a much heftier direction as the album has a lot of guitar crunch, thundering drums, and aggressive vocals to back up the band’s statement that this is Bullet 2.0. The album’s sound and overall energetic feel are comparable to a live release, as the instrumentals are more in the forefront and not as layered as expected. The exception here is for some vocals and the electronic/ambient sounds. Going back to the actual opener and first single, “Parasite” is as brutal as they come outside of death metal, with some pounding drums and visceral screams from frontman Matt Tuck. This is pretty much the formula they follow throughout the almost 48 minutes of playtime, with some deviations here and there.
Second single “Knives” balances the heaviness and melodic juxtaposition a bit better while the catchy chorus is boosted by the up-tempo melodic hook, “bring out the knives,” and a grooving guitar riff. It’s the type of melody that gets you headbanging in no time. Pretty much the same can be said about both “No Happy Ever After” and “Shatter,” as they chug along to nice beats underpinned by rhythmic drumming and melodic guitar riffs, all the while the vocals switch between harsh and clean that add to the overall dynamics of the tracks. The guitar solo on “No Happy Ever After” courtesy of Michael “Padge” Paget needs mentioning as it is potent and fiery. “Bastards” has a neat marching beat and subsequent headbanging rhythm that goes hand-in-hand with the song’s angsty lyrical theme of an army of people revolting against unfair rules and rulers. It is big and bouncy, rooted in towering bass and barreling drums. Truly, Jason Bowld’s drums are the engine behind this steam train of an album and merge well with Jamie Mathias’s rumbling bass. On that note, I love how the bass is mixed in so as to give the tracks a dense and dark undertone.
The most beautiful and emotional moment on the album is undoubtedly “Can’t Escape the Waves,” a ballad about survival and needing help to get through a rough period. The lyrics bring to mind EVERGREY’s “Currents,” especially in how similar the two choruses feel: “Come / Come save me from these waters / These waves too tall for me / They’ll bury me in silence” versus “Why won’t someone just pull me aboard / No more treading water / Can anyone drag me to shore / Before troubled waters take my life away.” This only goes to show you how universal the theme of survival actually is and how good and powerful of a metaphor the idea of drowning, mirroring a person’s inner struggles. Music-wise, the guitar melody, ambient sounds, and vocal delivery really give the impression of being lost at sea.
Power ballad “My Reverie” is a close second, as a beautiful moment on the record. It has a dense and groovy bass sound at its base, while the vocals dance on top of subdued guitars and steady drums… that is, until the pre-chorus and chorus hit and inject energy and a healthy dose of aggression into the track, altering the otherwise downcast mood. It builds up into a nasty and wicked end-section that is quite heavy (as redundant as that may sound in this review). The grooviness continues on “Rainbow Veins,” which has a gloomy atmosphere going for it, coming from the bass tone, how the vocals come across, and the lyrics that deal with mental health and self-medication. The breakdown is probably the nastiest one on the whole record. “Paralysed” is in a whole new league of heavy, as it pummels forward with crushing riffs and gut-wrenching screams that create a big and overwhelming soundscape. If only they had ended with this one, as “Death By a Thousand Cuts” feels a bit weaker when compared to the previous tracks.
The bottom line is that BFMV 2.0 is here and I hope it’s here to stay for a long, long time. In a year where many bands (like JINJER, THE AGONIST, or BTBAM) are battling for the title of heaviest record of the year, I do believe BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE may just have the upper hand when it comes to the overall soundscape, as there’s barely any time to catch your breath before the next hefty riff hits hard. Indeed, while heaviness is the keyword to accurately and briefly describe “Bullet for My Valentine,” many tracks also have a solid emotional backbone for the listener to latch on to, which in turn means returning to this album time and time again. Personally, I have already added a few songs to my playlist, though I am still partial to SPIRITBOX’s “Eternal Blue” as metalcore album of the year.
Written by Andrea Crow
- My Reverie
- No Happy Ever After
- Can’t Escape the Waves
- Rainbow Veins
- Death by A Thousand Cuts
- Matt Tuck – Vocals and rhythm guitar
- Michael “Padge” Paget – Lead guitar
- Jamie Mathias – Bass
- Jason Bowld – Drums
Spinefarm Records / Search & Destroy