Temper Temper wasn’t completely diabolical, but it felt neutered on more than a few occasions, and was the first time that Bullet For My Valentine’s sound could ever be deemed as toothless. It seemed that, with this and the departure of long-standing bassist Jay James in February, cracks were finally starting to show in Wales’ premier metal machine. But, of course, that wasn’t to last – the record put no dampener whatsoever on their live shows, and Revoker vocalist Jamie Mathias was quickly drafted in as a new bassist. Most importantly though, they’ve returned with Venom, an album that proves that they’re still the band they once were.
The semantic likeness between Venom‘s title and their debut The Poison isn’t a coincidence – their fifth full-length sees them harking back to their old ways and cranking up the heaviness once more in a fashion that their previous album never even came close to mustering. No Way Out gets this across nice and early, utilising the Bullet holy trinity of big riffs, a bigger chorus and ferocious screams for a truly great reminder that they can still do heavy, and do it very well. It’s a harbinger of things to come as well as, as a collection of songs, Venom represents some of the band’s heaviest moments to date. The likes of Skin and Army Of Noise relentlessly gallop along in a manner not seen for some time (the latter especially with its typically virtuosic solo from guitarist Michael Paget) while You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War) will undoubtedly be a favourite at arena shows and festival main stage appearances that will surely follow. The only time Venom‘s aural attack is broken up is by the title track midway through, a soaring power ballad not completely unlike Tears Don’t Fall, but it’s welcome. It shows the band’s more introspective side perfectly, and is an ideal island of relative calm amongst a sea of brutality, but one that never resorts to being mawkish, and is still a suitable showcase of a band with a fire in its belly.
For all its vast improvements though, Venom still struggles to elevate itself to be amongst the band’s best material. The purpose of this album is redemption rather than progression, and that’s something it sticks to rigidly. Sure, it impresses with the regaining of heaviness, but it starts to lose its way as its gets to the end, meaning that songs like The Harder The Heart (The Harder It Breaks) and Hell Or High Water begin to feel stale, as if they begin to run out of ideas. The unyielding nature of the album’s weight also means it comes across as less technically advanced as some of their other material. For all these criticisms though, what’s undeniable is that Bullet have finally begun to find their way once again, and anything about the actual construction of the album being unedifying becomes somewhat redundant. If there was something to bring up though, it would be some rather weak lyrical moments, but even that can’t be held against them too much. Matt Tuck has never been the greatest lyricist in the world anyway, and nothing pops up on Venom that’s much worse than anything they’ve done before.
Overall then, Venom impresses in its attempt to bring Bullet back onto the heavier path. It’s not up there with their best, but think about it this way – that this band can release the most critically maligned album of their career followed by the rockiest period they’ve ever had, and follow it up with an accomplished return to form like this is definitely something to be commended. And for all they’ve been through, that’s the very least that Bullet For My Valentine deserve.
For fans of: Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Revoker
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Venom’ by Bullet For My Valentine is out now on RCA Records.