Review Summary: "The best rock ‘n’ roll record that’s ever been made.” Ahem.
Of all the recent shifts and movements in the hard rock scene, the stratospheric rise of Black Veil Brides is perhaps the most divisive and talked-about. They have a fanbase that can be described as no less than rabid, a bona-fide army of adoring teenage girls that find solace in being outcasts through the band’s lyrics. Then on the other side of the fence are the people who find the very existence of the Black Veil Brides absolutely offensive, and would like nothing more than to feed vocalist Andy “formerly known as Sixx” Biersack to a hungry snow leopard.
Musically, it’s hard to determine just why this band are so offensive, because there is nothing here of any particular substance to justify any strong reaction either way. Though their look screams of 80s glam rock gods Kiss and Motley Crue, in terms of music they take their cues from the mid '00s melodic metalcore of Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. This is no bad thing in itself (at least they’re not playing breakdown/chug/breakdown Rise Records metalcore), but it’s such an obvious and clichéd pastiche that it’s frankly hard to tell if the band are being tongue in cheek or are simply 5 years too late to the party.
Instrumentally each band member is perfectly competent, and there are some technically impressive guitar solos and drum sections (bass remaining mostly inaudible aside from the intro of The Legacy), but there is nothing of any soul or passion. Everything about this album- the sterile production, the template-fixed song structures, the mind-numbingly frequent bursts of gang vocals- sounds like it was concocted not organically in a band’s rehearsal room but by some modern rock computer program, coding the same song 11 times and hoping that nobody notices.
And while Biersack may be at the centre of many teenage girls’ fantasies, he’s a painfully limited vocalist. His smoky croon is initially interesting and helps him stand out from your typically whiny scene band vocal, but it soon becomes clear that he has almost no range at all and must rely on his phantom army of gang vocalists to elevate the band’s choruses. Though he’s wisely decided to cut down on screaming, there are a still a few dying hedgehog impressions cropping up here and there, most ludicrously on the otherwise ballad-inclined Saviour. His lyrics are also very narrow in scope, all pertaining to some revolution of black-clad outsider teenagers taking over the world, then crying to themselves about messing up their hair in the process.
The saddest thing about the mediocrity of ‘Set the World on Fire’ is that there is potential here. Album opener “New Religion” is rather good for about 9 seconds before Biersack ruins it all with a very out of place vocal melody. “God Bless You” has a nice little groove and both “Fallen Angels” and the title track have catchy choruses but it doesn’t stop the whole package feeling cold and artificial, the band churning out 11 songs that sound very similar so that they can get on with selling T-shirts.
Personally, I have nothing against Black Veil Brides. They have perhaps the most annoying fanbase in music and their singer is an egotistical big-mouth, but they know their way around a tune and are at least trying to stand out. They simply need to write some better, more varied songs to impress people that aren’t 14 year old Hot Topic regulars. ‘Set the World on Fire’ is ambitious but overly so, and though there’s nothing wrong or offensive about what Black Veil Brides are doing here, they ironically lack a certain fire that would elevate them to the next level.