Ever since I first stumbled upon the “Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow” video, I’ve been a massive Bullet For My Valentine fan. I listened to The Poison every day for a year. I desperately tried to imitate Michael Paget’s insane riffs. And I’m still mad about the Bullet For My Valentine wallet I lost 10 years ago. But my relationship with them has been on the rocks since their last album, Gravity. Widely panned for its radio rock sound, it nearly turned me off to the band completely. Like many fans, I didn’t like the new direction. Not only was it bad, it felt like they changed solely for mainstream appeal. I was disappointed. Now, the boys are back with what’s supposed to be their heaviest album. And I’m kind of looking forward to it.
This new era of Bullet For My Valentine kicked off with “Knives” and it’s not bad. But it’s also not great. Days before the song dropped, the cryptic teasers and new logo got my heart racing. But once “Knives” was unleashed, I was underwhelmed. The song gripped me with its killer intro. The intense dirty riffs paired with Matt Tuck screaming “LET THE MADNESS BEGIN!” gets you pumped. You hear it and think “FUCK YEAH! HERE WE GO!” But over the course of the song, it loses steam. I got bored of it midway through and when it finished, I didn’t care about hearing it again. The song only has one note: be heavy. There are no interesting progressions, the riffs are okay, and the lyrics are decent. Otherwise, the song isn’t very memorable. It’s one of those Bullet songs you don’t mind hearing but ultimately forget about.
Since its release, the song has grown on me, but something about it feels forced like they’re trying too hard to be brutal. It’s as if they’re retaliating against the negative perception of their last album. I’m all for the heavy direction, but it doesn’t feel organic on this song. Granted, “Knives” is better than all of Gravity. I just hope the heavy direction is something they want to do, not what they feel like they have to do to make up for their last album. They did something similar after Temper Temper’s lukewarm reception. After its release, they recorded “Raising Hell,” which is a great song, but felt too much like fan service. But at least “Knives” has me invested in Bullet For My Valentine again. Admittedly, I lost interest in them after Gravity’s lighter sound left me disappointed.
When a band has been around for a while, they may want to shake up their sound to keep things fresh and exciting. But the album should be good. Plenty of bands have evolved their sound without losing their identity. AFI’s diverse catalog spans multiple genres, which prevents them from getting stale, while and Royal Blood’s new disco-infused sound has revitalized the band. Even Green Day shook things up on Father of All Motherfuckers by incorporating soul influences. These bands may have changed their sound, but the core identity of the band was there. Gravity lacked Bullet For My Valentine’s identity. Their songs usually have a distinct sound whether it’s Matt’s vocals, Paget’s playing, or their fusion of metal and thrash. The album had none of that.
Rather than being an album that could only be made by Bullet For My Valentine, it sounded like it could’ve been done by any popular rock band. Gravity was generic and mediocre. It sounded like everything on mainstream rock radio. It was stale, dull, and forgettable. Nothing about it was engaging. Rather than traverse new territory, they moved into territory that was worn out and well known. If the band wants to switch things up, it should still be distinctly them. Unfortunately, there were moments on the album that sounded more like Imagine Dragons than Bullet For My Valentine. The album was a letdown. But what soured me on the album the most was how the sonic shift seemed inauthentic.
The album was so radio-friendly and tame to the point where it felt calculated. I grew suspicious that the new direction was only to get mainstream appeal. And it seems this was the case. Matt alluded to this in various interviews at the time saying he wanted to take the band to larger arenas. Former drummer Michael “Moose” Thomas even said they were writing for radio, which prompted his exit. The move left a bad taste in my mouth since then. Of course, bands want to go bigger and better, but when you do it in a way that feels so inauthentic it’s not gonna sit well with fans. Sure, I love their heavy sound, but I don’t want them to keep making the same album. At the same time, any changes to their sound should be driven by a want to keep evolving and exploring, not to sell more records. They should try new things and stay ambitious. If their sound is going to change, it should be something that makes me excited for this new chapter, rather than long for the previous one. Gravity failed at that. Hopefully, the new album is their redemption.
Despite my hatred for Gravity and my lukewarm reaction to “Knives,” I’m looking forward to the upcoming album. The new song may not have hit me like other Bullet songs, but the heavy direction is promising. I just hope the album is authentically Bullet For My Valentine. Whether they go balls to the walls brutal or explore a lighter direction, I hope it’s music they want to make, not something they feel they have to make to appeal to the fans or to the mainstream. I can’t wait to pick up the album in September and hopefully, rediscover what drew me to Bullet For My Valentine so many years ago.