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Bullet For My Valentine

+ {Axe Wound}

Alongside former Visible Noise label-mates, BRING ME THE HORIZON, Bridgend boys BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE have broken through the normally partisan American alliance to spearhead a resurgent, post-millennium NWOBHM invasion. With the Welsh valleys now ringing to the sound of death growls rather than male voice choirs (step up LOSTPROPHETS and FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND), the romantically-monikered BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE became the latest Brit band to co-opt the quintessentially American, metal-core ear-bashing plied by the likes of TAKING BACK SUNDAY and THRICE.
Initially formed in 1999 as Jeff Killed John, Welsh screamo chorale Matthew Tuck (vocals/rhythm guitar), Matthew “Padge” Paget (lead guitar), Michael “Moose” Thomas (drums) and Nik Crandle (bass), struggled to rise above the parapet of acceptability, although one demo release (`You’, b/w `Play With Me’) managed to surface before Nik opted to bail out. Refusing to join the proverbial graveyard of nearly-men among the punk-metal fraternity, the remained trio called upon Jason “Jay” James, refined their sound and chose the altogether modern moniker of BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE.
In November 2004, the Bullet boyos opened their sonic account via an eponymous EP, the lead track of which, `Hand Of Blood’, served as the title of the US version (released the following August). Over the course of the following year or so, BFMV grazed the UK Top 40 courtesy of singles, `4 Words (To Choke Upon)’, `Suffocating Under Words Of Sorrow (What Can I Do)’, `All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)’ and `Tears Don’t Fall’. Meanwhile, parent debut album THE POISON (2005) {*7} just missed out on a Top 20 place, persuading Kerrang! to name them Best British Newcomer at their annual awards. Promoted in the States forthwith by way of a support to ROB ZOMBIE, the record bubbled under the Top 100, sparking an onslaught of interest for their overtly romanticised lyrics and chugging riffs.
Whether covered at this time or in the future, one could see where the boys wore their hearts: `Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ + `Creeping Death’ (METALLICA), `Domination’ (PANTERA), `Crazy Train’ (OZZY OSBOURNE), `Whole Lotta Rosie’ (AC/DC).
Duly signed to Jive Records worldwide, the Bullets shot to fame almost overnight as SCREAM AIM FIRE (2008) {*7}, went Top 5 in both Britain and America. Assisted on one track (`Take It Out On Me’) by SKINDRED’s rap-metalist, Benji Webbe, the BFMV’s formulaic power-driven emo-metal drew on tattooed teenagers everywhere to wave their hair skywards to the anthemic title track hit, plus `Hearts Burst Into Fire’, `Waking The Demon’ and the arena-friendly softer touch, `Forever And Always’.
2010’s Don Gilmore-produced third set, FEVER {*7}, consolidated their Top 5 status, and it seemed the Welsh wizards were mining all their metallic resources to push toward world domination. Staccato axe-grinding and riffing (example `Your Betrayal’), plus Matt’s exuberant but lonely-boy vocals (on `Eye Of The Storm’, `The Last Fight’ and `Bittersweet Memories’), pitted them up against their aforementioned Brit rivals.
Tempted into taking up with metal-core combo, AXE WOUND, alongside members of PITCHSHIFTER (Jason Bowld on drums), Cancer Bats (Liam Cormier on lead vocals), Rise To Remain (Joe Copcutt on bass) and Glamour Of The Kill (Mike Kingswood on lead guitar), Matt Tuck brought the “supergroup” side-project an extra guaranteed focal point. VULTURES (2012) {*5} was hardly ground-breaking, but thrash-metal dirges such as the title track, `Victim Of The System’ and `Exorchrist’, nailed their metal to the mast.
BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE showed signs of going through the motions on their fourth set, TEMPER TEMPER (2013) {*5}; unleashed to coincide with “Valentine’s Day”. Probably a nice bloody gift to fork-out on one’s screamo other-half (if Cupid’s hands were covered in AB negative), the record just missed out on a Top 10 placing; fickle fans it seemed were beginning to wane on their formulaic classic rock thrash. Like their posturing peers and pioneers before them, ideas looked thin and pasty on the ground; but for `Riot’, `Breaking Point’ and the title track, even the empathetic Kerrang! might’ve read them their last rights.
Filling Jason’s berth with Jamie Mathias for 2015’s VENOM {*6}, BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE were heavier and old-school thrashier than on previous encounters. But while metal mags deemed the transatlantic Top 10 outfit the fresh saviour of British screamo, critics with ears connected to their heads were less than impressed by the bludgeoning `No Way Out’, `Army Of Noise’, `You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)’ and `The Harder The Heart (The Harder It Breaks)’ – the best bits! There’s no doubting BFMV’s talent and musicianship skills, but to emulate their forefathers METALLICA, PANTERA, et al, identity and individuality have to be considered first and foremost.
Gearing up for their next studio set by replacing Moose with Jason Bowld (though that came after the original cut of single, `Don’t Need You’ and a couple of “Live From Brixton” packages), BFMV crashed back down to Earth when GRAVITY (2018) {*4} – their first for Spinefarm Records – dramatically dropped in sales and chart returns. Metal purists were now up in arms over the Tuck’s screamo-by-numbers rock schmaltz on just about every number; something that progenitors LINKIN PARK had administered previously. All but the explosive title track, `Piece Of Me’ and `Coma’ punched above their weight, and it seemed the quartet had finally shot themselves in the foot.
© MC Strong 2006/ERD // rev-up MCS Apr2013-Jul2018

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