Review Summary: A decent enough (if now redundant) starting point from the future superstars of British metal.
Bullet for My Valentine are one of the most controversial metal bands to have come to popularity in recent years. They are the leaders of, as I like to call it, “The Nu Wave of British Heavy Metal”- yet also a band that has inspired loathing from thousands of internet trolls, declaring them “not metal enough”, and even “emo metal”. But before the fame, fortune and frenzy descended around them, came two quite low-key EPs. Almost identical, the only difference between “Hand of Blood” and its self-titled predecessor is the addition of opening track “4 Words (to Choke Upon)”.
And a rather excellent starting point it is too. Firing into life with serrated guitar leads, it then takes the plunge into a galloping riff that could have come straight from Trivium’s excellent “Ascendancy” album. The vocals are delivered mostly as screams, with a nifty sung chorus, while the lyrics are a venomous attack on the band’s early detractors. There’s nothing particularly original about any of this collection, but it does use the traditional metalcore elements effectively, with breakdowns in all the right places and a good compromise between screamed and clean vocals.
The guitar work on display on this EP is almost uniformly excellent- the blistering double lead that kicks off the title track sounds like Iron Maiden would if they ate amphetamines for breakfast. Undoubtedly the finest moments musically are present on the stellar “Cries in Vain”, a metalcore masterclass that rails against organized religion. The riffs on this song are monstrous yet tasteful, while the breakdown at the conclusion is simply exhilarating. The ballad-esque “Curses” seems somewhat bland in comparison, but on second listen it is a strong song and proof that the band aren’t just a one-trick pony.
As good as Bullet for My Valentine can be, there are also moments where they descend into complete tedium- proven by the filler-saturated “Scream Aim Fire” album. Sadly, it’s the finale of this EP that suffers from a drop in songwriting quality, as both “No Control” and “Just Another Star” slip into realms of mediocrity that so many metalcore bands have fallen prey to. The former of these is simply awful, with no redeeming musical features whatsoever and nothing that could qualify as a hook.
While it does slip into disappointing mediocrity towards the end, there are enough interesting musical ideas in the first two-thirds to make this a worthy EP. The band would then go on to make their greatly superior debut full-length “The Poison”, still their only truly excellent album. That “4 Words” and “Cries in Vain”, the strongest tracks here, made it onto “Poison” proves that while Bullet for My Valentine can fall prey to weak songwriting, they are at least good at noting which of their songs are the diamonds, and which are the polished turds.
4 Words (to Choke Upon)
Cries in Vain
So you may as well just buy The Poison really.