After the release of the self-titled 5-track EP earlier this year, many people looked forward to the release of this album. (Me being one of them) Many, not all. One half really loved this more metal-influenced mix of Metalcore, others just saw a bunch of Maiden rip-offs in them. Well, now it's here (over here at least, where it was released September 30th) so lets see what it provides.
Some general impressions:
I expected a lot of metal-like guitar work, but this is more then I thought would be present. Most of the songs feature a solo-like guitar line. Quite some tapping going on (for example on 'Her voice resides'), and interesting dual-guitar work on probably all songs. Overall the guitar work is much more metal then on their EP IMO. The vocals are a combination of clean and melodic parts, sung by Matt Tucker. And on the other side there are screamed parts done by Matt and Jay James, the bassist. They add up good together, with Jay having a slightly lower scream compared to Matt. A little multi vocal part is present here and there as well, a good example would be the background on "Four words to choke upon". I guess that this was studio work, as it sounds like about... at least four or five voices to me. It sounds nice, and adds to the songs, though I must say that in the case of 'Four words to choke upon I prefer the old version, the background vocals were better there. As we mentioned the bass guy: The bass is... well, not very present at all. Not that he plays a lot of sophisticated stuff, but still it would be nice to really notice what is played. But after all it's Metalcore-like music, so I'm not really suprised by that. The drumming is solid, and is very driving and pushing on most songs. A quick double bass here, nice fill there. I like it.
Coming to the music and songs as a whole. Basically the LP can be divided in two kind of songs: a bit harder regarding riffs and vocals ('Her voice resides', 'Hand of Blood', 'Room 409'), and songs that are a bit more mellow and feature a lot more melodic vocals, and basically going more into the 'classic metal direction' so to say ('Tears don't fall', '10 years today', 'Cries in vain'). You won't find songs that are purely screaming or purely melodic here though, just some where one or the other is more present. The overall mix is ok, though some of the songs are pretty similar if you don't pay attention while it plays. This is one of the records you won't notice it's already over while doing something while listening (to the complete opposite to albums by 'The Fall of Troy' for example). So much for the general impression.
Good and Bad:
What's on the good side? Clearly the guitar work, that is quite good. The solo-like guitar on the songs is nice, and in combination with the screamed/melodic vocals... not bad at all. Though that is the first weak point of the album as well. The riffs remind me a bit too much of Iron Maiden, and on some rare spots of Metallica. You can get the feeling that this is Iron Maiden with screamed vocals here and there. Though I know that not every band out there can create something completely new, this is a bit too much like known stuff for me. Still the work done here is good, wih nice ideas: The acoustic guitar intro to 'All things I hate revolve around me' and the great first Intro track, composed together with Apocalyptica. Fantastic IMO.
I don't mind the topics of the lyrics much, but I guess that for quite a bunch the lyrics are a bit too angsty, or how some people would state: "emo" (though that's not true as this has nothing to do with what Emo is, but that is another story). I think it's ok. But I guess that some poeple already start to crinche on reading song titles like 'All things I hate revolve around me' or 'Suffocating under words of sorrow'.
One personal negative point: I bought the special edition in a digipack, as it was the same price as the regular one. The cover is ok, but the booklet is a complete waste. Only pictues of the band members, and the usual "We thank...". Nothing like lyrics ore something like that. The booklet has only about 4 pages or so. Poor, really poor. Especially after seeing how cool a booklet can be (examples for me: 'The Shape of Punk to come' by Refused and the latest album by Coheed and Cambria). Does not affect the music, but I still felt a bit ripped of my money.
So what's the final verdict then? This is a good album, I listened to it at the store and took it home the same day. It's fun to listen to, and the guitar work sure is nice. The vocals are good as well, as main singer has a good voice, melodic and screamed, well supported by the screaming of the bassist. Still, something seems to be missing. Maybe it's because it's not really new and innovative material. Even more as on the EP Bullet for my Valentine sound like Maiden spiced up with some Metallica-like passages here and there. What differs is the harder guitar work, that is more like Metalcore and of course the screamed vocals. But basically this is a lot of Iron Maiden riffs combined with more 'modern' vocals and a bit angsty lyrics. This failed to live up to the expectations I had after the EP.
It's a solid package though, and if you like Metalcore that is a bit more Metal then core, try these guys. This might be the stuff you've been looking for.
Final rating: 3 - 3.5/5