Release Date: Aug 14, 2015
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Hardcore, Heavy Metal, Screamo
The Welsh metal unit's fifth studio long-player, the aptly named Venom finds Bullet for My Valentine on the defensive, offering up a meaty and aggressive 11-track set aimed squarely at diffusing some of the concerns that fans voiced upon the release of 2013's uneven Temper Temper. After a short ambient intro, the band wastes little time in getting their hands dirty, digging into the first single "No Way Out" with all the delicacy of a lion pack descending on a broken-legged gazelle. A visceral mix of taut, dueling guitar-monies, old-school thrash propulsion, and a chorus that burrows into your eardrums and lays eggs, it's the perfect opening volley, even though it sets the bar a bit high for what follows.
What do you do when your last two albums have drawn receptions that have been, at the very best, decidedly muted? When you’re sliding down festival bills and the venues you headline are getting smaller? Well, if you’re Welsh metallers Bullet For My Valentine, you go right back to basics. The Bridgend quartet’s fifth studio album cribs from 2005 debut ‘The Poison’ to the extent that it’s even titled ‘Venom’ (see what they did there?). It’s full of all the things that made them a success in the first place, namely, duelling guitars, pounding breakdowns and choruses built for fields full of delirious metalheads to scream along to.
Following up 2013’s largely hopeless Temper Temper was never going to be easy for Bullet for My Valentine. Widely – if somewhat erroneously – viewed as standard-bearers for mainstream UK metal, the Welsh quartet have sensibly returned to the sound that made them such a slick and inoffensive gateway into the metal world for sulky teenagers a decade ago. It would be a little generous to say that Venom repairs all of the damage caused by that laughable Riot video from two years ago, but it does at least suggest that frontman Matt Tuck has embraced heavy metal in its bombastic entirety again.
The fallout from the "New Wave of (American) Heavy Metal" is still around. When the nu metal-killing strain proved successful, major labels picked up talent (or, in some cases, "talent") left and right, and while many of the wise decisions, such as Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage, are still putting out quality material, many of the labels are stuck with what's left. Which brings us to Bullet For My Valentine.In a move that could be a nod to their debut full-length The Poison, the Welsh crew entitled their fifth LP Venom, but that's pretty well where the similarities end.
With their second record, 2008’s ‘Scream Aim Fire’, Bullet for My Valentine positioned themselves on the cusp of true metal heavyweight status; in the years since, they’ve clinched it - arena tours and genuinely impressive sales figures from the States, which run well into the millions and saw a top three chart debut for 2010 follow up, ‘Fever’; but you wonder whether it’s come at the cost of any real musical progression. ‘Fever’ failed to diverge notably from the sound that drove ‘Scream Aim Fire’, but that was fine by both their fanbase and the critics; it remained sonically unforgiving and structurally tight. Their last album, though, ‘Temper Temper’ felt sterile; the aggression seemed rehearsed, and too often it flirted with a descent from actual metal to an arena-oriented hard rock sound.