About rock music in Wales - part one

Bullet For My Valentine. Photo: Taya

Last updated: 18 November 2008

Has the success of Lostprophets, Funeral For A Friend and now Bullet For My Valentine (pictured above) paved the way for more heavy rock bands from Wales, asks James McLaren.

As Super Furry Animals, Stereophonics, Catatonia and Manic Street Preachers gained fame and sales, there were a few bands bubbling under, operating in the heavier, grittier underground.

"Clearly it's a been a great few years for heavy Welsh music and I think the secret of that is that Welsh rock is just a little bit more creative". So said Kerrang! writer Rae Alexandra in Sound Nation magazine, as Bullet For My Valentine became the third Welsh band in four years to scoop the prestigious Best Newcomer gong at her magazine's awards. But is there more to it than merely being creative?

Historically, Wales has often been dismissed as a musical force. It was only in the 1990s that a group of quality, commercially-successful acts came from Wales at the same time, creating for the first time the impression of a healthy scene in the nation.

While 'Cool Cymru' was in many respects a trite journalistic pat on the head for a quaint nation with quaint stereotypes, it did at least help shelve the cliché of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and male voice choirs as being the sum total of Welsh musical achievement.

As Super Furry Animals, Stereophonics, Catatonia and Manic Street Preachers gained fame and sales, there were a few bands bubbling under, operating in the heavier, grittier underground. Public Disturbance, No Fit State (then to become Douglas), Fishtake, No Choice and many others were creating much more American punk-influenced music, much of which was derived from the hardcore scenes of the American East and West coasts.

By the start of the 21st century, that self-same American hardcore sound became the blueprint for a huge musical explosion: the combination of punk, metal, hardcore and 'emo' styles of music became one of the dominant forces in contemporary music and teen culture.


It was a given that some UK bands would join the new rock party. Lostprophets were the first to do it, forming from the ashes of Public Disturbance, a straight-ahead hardcore punk outfit with speed being prioritised over melody.

Lostprophets combined punk with pop, metal and scratching, and toured the 'toilet circuit' of venues in the UK without compromise for years. Finally they were picked up by the London-based label Visible Noise and in 2001 released their debut, The Fake Sound Of Progress.

It sold 250,000 in the UK, and the same again worldwide after they signed to Columbia Records. Although they were dismissed by some as aping the nu-metal sound too closely, they outweighed verbal sniping with pure sales.

Between 2001 and 2004, the rise of Lostprophets was bringing to people's attention a new wave of heavy Welsh acts: the melodic hardcore of The Take (formerly Fishtake) was snapped up by Household Name Records, as was the brass-driven hardcore of Adequate 7. And a band called Funeral For A Friend went to record at Swansea's Mighty Atom studios.

Funeral were taken on by Mighty Atom's record label arm and before too long made the jump to the Warners major label, as it became clear that they were an exciting prospect for rock fans in the UK. Unlike Lostprophets, they weren't tainted by the increasingly-uncool nu-metal tag, and instead combined fast, twisty guitar, brutal drumming, bestial screaming and melodic vocal lines.

In short, they became the archetypal UK version of emo bands. And they had cracking tunes. Funeral's 2003 debut album, Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation, sold 100,000 copies in the UK.

2004 saw a mega-selling return from Lostprophets (the 2.5m and counting Start Something), but it was Funeral who provided more obvious similarity to another wave of bands providing their own take on the combination of punk, metal and emo.

Working in a similar kind of vein were the likes of Indifference, The Blackout, Covergirl, Shape Of My Addiction and Robots Talk In Twos. More proggy but equally intense are Night And The City Of Broken Promises and Adzuki.

Late in 2004, Bullet For My Valentine played Manchester's In The City festival, to only about 50 people, but the UK music industry became convinced that this Bridgend fourpiece represented yet another Great Welsh Hope. Sure enough, they signed to Visible Noise in the UK and Columbia worldwide, just like Lostprophets, and set about blowing a hole in the UK's rock world.

Within a year they'd played the main stage at the Carling Weekend Festivals, had sold large amounts of their debut EP and were Kerrang! magazine frontpage stars. They were crowned Best Newcomers and headlined the magazine's 25th anniversary tour.

BBC Music

rock concert

Pop and chart

All the latest pop and chart highlights from BBC Music.

How to...

Crowd at a gig

Go to the show

Our guide to where to find gigs and concerts in your area.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.