Bullet For My Valentine have stood on the precipice of superstardom for quite some time. They remain the only metal band capable of commanding a spot on Radio One’s coveted playlist, and they’ve headlined Wembley Arena before sprouting a solitary grey hair. These accomplishments would seem impressive, indeed they’d be lauded, were Bullet For My Valentine not persona non grata in metal circles. Although never subjected to the poisoned chalice “emo” label, as far as metal tastemakers are concerned: Bullet make music for “sulky teenagers”.
Matt Tuck and company are scornfully dismissed for yielding to their hit making instincts, but the defenders of the faith might want to lighten up a touch. Writing anthemic hooks, incestuous melodies and punchy arrangements is a skill. Bullet might not be pushing the envelope but they are reminding a new generation of metal fans that rock bands can top the charts without sounding like a Nickelback knock off.
Despite their success Bullet have a nasty habit of getting in their own way: burying their best hooks and slickest riffs behind lethargic arrangements.
Keenly aware of this fact, Matt Tuck returned from side project (Axewound) with a new ethos. He wanted Bullet to sound more instinctual and less laboured. The writing process was accelerated and Temper Temper bears the fruit of structural liberation.
The album is overwhelmed by a sense of pace. Each track flows in a seamless and polished fashion delivering plenty of thrash punch with minimal noodling and next to no fluffed attempts at atmospherics. Temper Temper gets straight to the point, rumbling along deliciously as the backing vocals struggle to keep pace on “Leach”. It’s thrilling stuff and at this stage in their career the Welsh metallers clearly know their craft. They have an intuitive touch, switching grooves and rhythms at the drop of a hat to maximize the pop potential of each hook and pummelling breakdown.
The quest for streamlined satisfaction is admirable, but in sacrificing so much in the name of immediacy, a huge burden is placed on Tuck’s vocals, and he routinely fails to deliver. Bullet make a decent fist of sounding cataclysmic on “Dead To The World” and reasonably wild on “Riot” but sadly Tuck’s lyrics are as contrived and simplistic as those song titles would suggest. “Riot” is devoid of menace and adventure. It’s so neutered in fact that you’re left with the mental image of a rocker politely asking his tour manager if he may pop a beer and kick over a stool, if he promises to clean up after himself. “Dead To The World” by comparison feels cynical, detached, and a little slapdash – like a collage of a hundred and one hard rock clichés, delivered without an ounce of sincerity.
Bizarrely, Bullet are at their worst when they play to their strengths. “Breaking Point”, “Truth” and “Temper Temper” are swashbuckling anthems and Tuck clearly feels more comfortable expressing frustrated angst than the depths of despair, but he routinely takes the listener out of the moment. Trite lyricism and limp battle cries emerge mid track killing any sense of impetus. It’s utterly deflating. Bullet For My Valentine are shrewder than most, they understand how to write a hit and their timing is impeccable, but Temper Temper lacks authenticity and squanders considerable potential.
Buy If: You fancy some punchy riffs and quick thrills and don’t really care what the frontman is blathering on about.
Skip If: You want Bullet to sound tougher and more animalistic.
Best Track: “Breaking Point”
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