Review Summary: the album Set The World On Fire could have been had they been arsed about making that album...
For the members of a band as hated as Black Veil Brides live must be one tough road. People hate on them at every turn, each of their albums to date has been panned almost universally and they have but a small band of fans calling themselves the BVB Army to support them. It is even harder as one of these people, the constant explanations of why you champion a band as hated as Black veil Brides, but it must have been hard for those people when this was released. It is not that Wretched And Divine is a bad album by any means, as the 3 score should speak for itself, but it is more the fact that it is not what was promised. The band threw in the names Social Distortion and Metallica in the pre-release description of their new album and also said that it was going to be a punk rock album, and yet what we have in fact received is a better version of the album they released last year entitled Set The World On Fire. That album was just a straight up hard rock album and that is exactly what we have been given with a few shiny new features that make it feel more refreshing than that particular album did. This is a concept album spanning nineteen songs that tells of a band of heroes fighting the evil F.E.A.R and each song acts as a progression in the story, as one would expect, and it is carried through this album really rather well.
The lead single off of this release is a perfect way to show what the album is like. The song is entitled In The End and sticks out as being among the real highlights of the album with its incredible chorus that packs in so much emotion and brings to a close the story of the album. The guitar work is at times astounding, such as during the introduction where Jake Pitts' fingers fly up the fret board but then it dissolves into a chug fest. Throughout this album however the guitars do manage to show off a little as mentioned before with the beginning of In The End, but the introduction to Nobody's Hero is another great example despite being short lived. The guitarists on this release are a lot better than one would expect given the very poor reputation of the band they represent, but their solos are actually among the best in hard rock music of today despite over-using three finger sweeps to a ridiculous level. The lead work stands out rather well whilst the rhythm always chugs along in the background and makes for a solid back drop. The drum work is by no means on par with the performance Christian Coma put in on the last album which was one of the best things about that album but is still listenable with some quick fills scattered throughout the album. The most noticeable addition to the formula however is the violins that show off Jinxx's love for classical music and they could not have been better integrated and give this a feeling of diversity throughout. The violins on this release are not overused but are in fact very rarely found and when they are, they always add a feeling of emotion that was missing, be it the feeling of disappointment or rejoicing such as in New Year's Day. Also found on this album are various interlude songs, usually entitled F.E.A.R. Transmission that serve the purpose of carrying the story forward from the perspective of the villains, and really work rather well within the context of the album. Something worth noting is that the bass work that was audible at least on Set The World On Fire has been completely removed from the mix on this album courtesy of a ridiculously over-produced mess of a production job and it is definitely not a good thing as it was good to be able to hear Ashley's bass thumping along in the past release at least, no matter how bad that album was.
The lyrical content on here is by no means perfect but is certainly the biggest improvement over Set The World On Fire. It is at times pathetic and almost always the lyrics are cheesy but this has usually been the case with hard rock lyrics as bands such as Aerosmith and Guns N' Roses have shown so many times in the past. Andy has stepped his game up a little with the lyrics here however as they do a nice job at telling the story and always hold an air of optimism about them which he then transitions to a recording with his voice. His vocal work on here is definitely not as good as it was on We Stitch These Wounds, which remains their crowning achievement and no doubt will continue to be for years to come, but he has put in a lot of work that was evidently missing from Set The World On Fire. In place of the monotonous moans he was unleashing upon our ears on that particular release is a decent enough range as the chorus to Nobody's Hero shows us with some nice higher notes but he usually remains in a lower register. He manages to create a really catchy record on here with every chorus being really sing-a-long friendly and marvelously written which is definitely the best thing about it and songs such as In The End and the stupidly titled Resurrect The Sun show off this side of the band. Unfortunately his vocals are best reserved for the louder and more in-your-face songs as the aforementioned Resurrect The Sun shows off throughout the majority of its running time why the idea Andy Sixx singing in a soft voice should have been vetoed upon inception. His voice is more confident and a lot stronger when singing straight up hard rock tunes instead of soft songs that are intended to be heartfelt power ballads and the group vocals section before the solo is one of the worst moments on the album and does nothing to give this band any credit. Sadly, this is also as "punk" as this record ever gets contrary to Andy's claims before the release. Also, his screaming has definitely gone down hill and whilst it is toned down even more since Set The World On Fire and reserved to a couple of background moments scattered through the album but they should have been completely aborted full stop. In place of the really good, powerful screaming found on We Stitch These Wounds is some of the most pathetic, monotonous bollocks in the music of today. The scream in the background at the end of Resurrect The Sun he holds for a while but this is also perhaps his worst moment to date as it has no power behind it whatsoever and sounds completely absurd within that song.
The worst song on here is probably Shadows Die which is an attempt to sound a little more in line with the metalcore sound of their first album, although not quite a full return to that style. The fairly heavy riff that carries it through most of its duration really does nothing to add to the sound at all and in fact means that the song sounds totally disjointed when stacked against the pure rock oriented sound of the rest of the album. This also has a little more screaming present in it than the rest of the album and that pretty much speaks for itself. The most annoying and ridiculous thing about this song though is the ridiculous spoken/shouted word section with the violins behind it and this could not have sounded more pathetic. Spoken word sections in songs are seldom a good idea and this shows off exactly why-they usually end up deteriorating into a ranting style that pisses on everything the song has accomplished. The solo to this song is pretty bad as well by Black Veil Brides' standards, and the drumming is really the only thing worth praising about it. Aside from this however most of the songs are very solid and listenable, with In The End and New Year's Day being the best of the bunch mainly due to their soaring choruses that are guaranteed to be stuck in your head all day. The violins usually make for the best thing about the songs they are featured on and it is usually these songs that stand out as the best songs on the album.
This is an album that is recommended for anyone looking for a good hard rock album but nothing totally groundbreaking. This is essentially the train wreck that was Set The World on Fire with a better paint job and a lot of new additions and fine tuned sides of it that actually make this far more exciting. Think of it as what Set The World On Fire could have been had the band actually put any effort whatsoever into making that album-a really fun, enjoyable hard rock album with a lot of good soloing and far more talent in the drumming than many of their comrades in their genre. It is by no means a perfect rock album and feels overproduced and at times a little too disjointed, and Shadows Die is the sort of song that gives the band a bad name but songs like New Year's Eve are definitely worth checking out.