Bullet For My Valentine- 'Scream Aim Fire'
Sometimes I seriously wonder if anyone proof-reads biographies on bands' MySpaces or Buzznets or whatever. Take this opening paragraph of Bullet For My Valentine's YouTube channel: "The Welsh metal-core band Bullet For My Valentine has spent most of the past two years taking over the world with massive UK, European, US and worldwide tours, sharing the stage with Guns N Roses, Metallica and Iron Maiden, playing the Main Stage at just about every rock festival on the planet, and seeing their 2006 debut album THE POISON - an album London's daily The Sun called "One of the finest debut albums in rock history" - sell more than one-million copies worldwide."
What I really like about the use of 'metal-core' is that it alerts you to the fact the bio was written by some bored record company administrator, since no one remotely down with 'the kids' would hyphenate "metal" and "core". They would quite incorrectly put an 'x' in there instead. That's just how they do it.
Anyway, there's also this thing about "London's daily" the Sun, as if the tabloids are every metaller's favourite source of rock knowledge (or lore, I bet they call it Rock Lore). Still the record sales, the big tours, the US break; these are impressive achievements for such a new band, especially in the current musical climate which (at least in this country) is angled much more towards indie than metal. Guns N Roses, Metallica and Iron Maiden are all household names, they've been around since before I was born, they're all in Guitar Hero, fer Chrissakes.
If you're wondering, yes, on medium and one of them on hard, but my ability to rhythmically poke plastic buttons aside, there is a great deal of relevance to bringing up those three bands and not just because touring alongside such famous groups is a big smack of kudos. The thing about those bands is that Metallica haven't released a good album since about twenty years ago, everyone knows the saga of 'Chinese Democracy' and Iron Maiden, whilst obviously important, are not exactly pushing anyone's boundaries these days. This is old metal (well, old rock in the case of Axl & co) and while quite rightly called 'classic', they're not a good showcase of what's being done in today's rock world. They're influences certainly, very strong ones, but music has moved on.
Still, you get the obsessive fans who'd tell you nothing good was made after 1987. When I was at college, there were plenty of people who listened nearly totally exclusively to one or more of those bands; everyone has a band like that at some point (for me it was the Offspring) and they spend three months (or indeed years) totally immersed in them to the point of utter obsession. It's not actually music appreciation, though, generally. Undoubtedly, the obsesser enjoys the band's music, it speaks to them in some way and usually they'll find it deeply emotionally affecting on some level or levels.
However, once the obsession has turned exclusive and phrases like "[x] are the best band ever and you can't say anything against them" start being bandied around (which they inevitably do) it becomes not music appreciation but ideology. Ideological thought is based around power relations; someone with an ideology (and we've all got one) has certain basic tenets that form the way they behave and think about things. These could be things like "all property is theft" or "Iron Maiden flipping rule".
Either way, once something has become ideological rather than merely opinion, it transforms into something solid and important in someone's mind; they'll argue, run their mouth off, even fight to support their passionately held views. Eventually things go past ideology and become dogma - the person considers their ideals to be so entirely factual as to be inarguable; the mere idea that people might think other to them becomes offensive and inconceivable, but also very important, because the quashing of arguments is what reassures the dogmatic that they are right.
Which is where we find me, in bed, with my monthly copy of Rock Sound doing a bit of background swotting for this review. Well, sort of actually reading about This Will Destroy You but anyway, in the review section and I happen across the fact Moose and Padge from Bullet For My Valentine are on the singles reviews. "Hurrah," I think, "I have found a goldmine of facts that aren't anything to do with the fact [Bullet singer] Matt Tuck nearly lost his voice completely while they were recording this album and might manage to keep that entirely out of the review because if I read another word about the whole business, I'm going to cry of boredom".
I am getting to the song, you just have to bear with me slightly longer.
Now, you may well think I am an utter idiot who writes complete dross but if you've ever seen pop stars (or indeed rock stars) do a guest review section then you'll probably have realised that for all our gigantic flaws, reviewers are relatively capable at our job. Aside from discovering that Moose and Padge have some archaic views about acceptable uses of the word 'gay' and basically hate everything that's not metal, the singles review section yielded me their views of their own song; they compare it to Machine Head, Trivium and Metallica and give it a '9'
Fair enough, it's their own song, obviously they're going to like it and a lot of people have compared Bullet to those bands. They're quite happy to admit the heavy influences of classic metal (and Machine Head and Trivium, more on which later) on their music, a lot of other people are quite happy to point out the fact that at points the influence blurs to a point where they might as well call themselves a tribute band.
'Scream Aim Fire' is the big lead single off the album of the same name; they know it'll get radio play, there's a really big buzz around this album and they've charted before. This is a massive statement of intent, and it sounds like this:
Yes, that does actually remind me of Trivium. It sucks exactly like Trivium do, only worse. It does exactly the same riff-lifting 'ceci n'est pas metal' thing that Trivium do. It does what is wrong with a lot of British music by carefully worshipping at the throne of The Greats of its genre and then thinking "awesome, I wish I was them" without stopping to collect any talent on the way. It is Metal Idol.
It does actually make me think of Metallica, too, the "Over the top! Over the top!" bits of the 'Scream Aim Fire' chorus sound overwhelmingly like the "Back to the front! Back to the front!" from the chorus of 'Disposable Heroes.' Maybe coincidence, maybe not, but when a band wears their influences on their sleeve as much as Bullet do, it's not to be overlooked.
Machine Head? Yeah, sorta. As my housemate observed, Machine Head are aggressive, sinister and powerful whether or not their music is actually particularly good, Bullet sound like an imitation of Machine Head. They're acting out being a metal band (or in fact, several metal bands) without bringing anything of their own to work with.
I quite wanted to like Bullet For My Valentine for awhile around their first album. Partly because they're Welsh (I live in Wales and am a closet Welsh nationalist) and partly because a bit of me always quite enjoys it when I like metal, since it's a relatively rare incidence. Bad reasons to potentially like a band, possibly but anyway; I didn't start out with an agenda to hate this band, I'm not scared of liking critically reviled or vaunted music, I'm not even necessarily bothered by the fact they seem to be a complete bunch of twits as people but this is, undeniably, crap music.
It's the music the diehard Metallica kids at college made in the crappy bands they formed. Not the ones that turned out to be awesome, either, the really bad ones that make you cringe and hope they don't keep inviting you to their gigs. I'm sorry the band have had so many problems, Matt's voice difficulties must have been a pretty difficult time for them but they're not going to have a problem shifting this record - there are plenty of people who, like me, get a bit excited when they find some metal they like, but if Bullet really want to shut up their critics then they're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than this.
The drumming is good enough to get a star though. Full marks for the drumming.