Review Summary: Terrible lyrics and mediocre instrumentation is the theme of this poorly executed disaster.
The U.K.'s Bullet For My Valentine have never been a truly great band. Everybody knows that they were a Johnny-come-lately to the 21st Century's exploding metalcore scene if there ever was one, and most would agree that even if they weren't, they still wouldn't rank among modern metal's elite. However, they HAVE always had the potential to be great! Although somewhat lacking, 2006's debut, "The Poison," was catchy, well-produced, confident-sounding, and a showcase for their ample and exceptional instrumental prowess. Unfortunately, the follow-up, 2008's "Scream Aim Fire," because it does not cash in on that first album's promise. It makes for a maddening listen, too, because no matter how many times it is spun, the listener is left wanting. Indeed, this is one step not in the right direction -- and not even just a sidestep, but a full-fledged step backwards for the band.
BFMV stray away from the path that a lot of metalcore bands take by drawing influence from brutal melodic death metal acts such as At The Gates, Arch Enemy, and The Black Dahlia Murder; instead, they lean more towards the likes of Soilwork, recent In Flames, and Killswitch Engage. Thus, their sound on this is quite a bit more melodic. No, no, there's nothing inherently wrong with this; and there are even some advantages that come with it. For example, this record features neat guitar harmonies, better and more technical guitar solos, and much more prominently audible and muscular bass lines. But on the downside, the great, blistering double bass onslaughts, careening shred sections, guttural vocals, punishing breakdowns, and meaty rhythms that were a big part in making "The Poison" so enjoyable are completely absent. There are a lot fewer memorable guitar licks as well. As a result, "Scream Aim Fire" sounds watered down and sluggish; and when compared to most of the rest of the metalcore fare on the market, and it often borders on being almost TOO melodic. And this fact is made even more disappointing when considering all of its pre-release (and, in retrospect, falsified) hype: frontman Matthew Tuck promised the new material would be a lot heavier and more aggressive.
Yes, there is a hot guitar lick, well-written melody, and infectious chorus or two be found here. But the at over 52 minutes in length, these eleven tracks could stand to be more compact. Plus, the songs themselves are very hit-or-miss, thus making it a bit of a chore to sit through the album in full. On the plus side, excellent tracks like "Waking The Demon" and "Last To Know" overflow with memorable guitar chops. The former is a blistering and propulsive number with dueling, streamlined chainsaw guitar attacks, amazing riffage (including some that is, hands down, the best Bullet For My Valentine have written to date), drumming, bubbling bass lines, deft drumming, pounding rhythms and a climatic and well-placed breakdown; whereas the latter is probably the set's thrashiest and most technical piece. It is propelled by dizzying guitar whirlwinds. Elsewhere, the fiery, thrashy, and hard-grooving "Eye Of The Storm" is strictly decent, as are the heavy and hard-rockin'-yet-simultaneously-melodic "End Of Days," and the pleasant-enough, strong hook-laden, arena-ready closing ballad, "Forever And Always."
But there are several mediocre or throwaway tracks present here, as well. Tracks like the title song, "Disappear" (which sports a great, ripping guitar solo), and the overlong and clearly My Chemical Romance-indebted "Deliver Us From Evil" are listenable. Yet, they should be chalked up as average-at-best because they all have generic melodic choruses, and none of them are particularly deep or meaningful, and none of them really bring anything new to the table. The radio-readiness of them is also quite annoying. And now, on to the ballads. As the album's first love song, the cliche-titled "Hearts Burst Into Fire" can claim to have some guitar crunch, good, steady bass work, and gorgeous melodic solos and harmonies throughout; but those good aspects are counterbalanced with plodding tempos, lifeless momentum, cheesy lyrics, and syrupy, over-processed vocals. Lastly, BFMV have got to get over making songs like "Take It Out On Me" and "Say Goodnight," two pieces of positively reeky, modern rock balladry which practically have "filler" and "tailor made for radio play" written all over them. No kidding, if it weren't for the intro of "Say Goodnight," which has acoustic guitars that evoke Pantera's "Cemetery Gates," these two tunes would be completely skippable. And some of their lyrics -- i.e. "I would sacrifice the world, just to be with you". They are so painfully sappy, they may make you want to blow your nose on a pancake.
To be fair, "Scream Aim Fire" isn't a terrible or completely unlistenable album by any means. It just lacks too much inspiration, consistency, cohesion, "meat," timelessness, depth, and backbone to be a very good one. And to their credit, it appears that Bullet For My Valentine had good intentions which was to outgrow the plain old "metalcore" label and become more of a traditional metal band. Even so, "SAF" is still just another metalcore release, and a very mediocre, bland, and unoriginal one, at that.