Review Summary: A fun dose of metalcore that sadly has too many flaws to ignore.
Bullet For My Valentine are a Welsh band who have received a lot of attention in recent years. They kicked their career off with the fantastic metalcore album The Poison and then swiftly pumped out a rather similar album entitled Scream. Aim. Fire. Since then the band has been content to play a much more commercial style of music, blending hard rock song structures and instrumental work with a slight metallic tint to the sound. Of their four albums to date the one the polarizes opinions the most would be Scream. Aim. Fire.
Their sophomore album makes use of the same formula that made The Poison such an enjoyable and popular album. The sound of this release is one that blends fast, aggressive riffing with chugging breakdowns, lightning fast shredding solos and a mixture of screamed and sung vocals. It is a very melodic album that makes use of choruses that will make many want to sing along and is overall a rather catchy album, although not quite in the same vein as Fever. Many consider this to have been the band's low point until the release of Temper Temper in 2013 for the simple fact that it did not show any real progression from The Poison. There are a few shiny new bells and whistles such as the inclusion of slightly more melody and the fact the band have had some time to grow as musicians, but overall it feels like The Poison 2.0.
The album is best known for the songs Waking The Demon, Hearts Burst Into Fire and Forever And Always. This trio of tracks are among the band's best known and are all fan favorites. Of the three Waking The Demon is the best by a long way and may well be the finest song on the album. It opens up with a quick but fun and catchy riff that continues into the verse with a lot of uses of pull-offs. Matt Tuck screams his lungs out during the verses with a lot of aggression and conviction and the lyrical content is actually not quite as bad as the band is renowned for. The second part of the chorus has some great use of quick drumming that follows on from the incessant barrage of double bass drumming in the verse. The vocals during the chorus are sung cleanly but have a feeling of urgency to them in the sense that Tuck spits out quite a few words in a short space of time. At 2:18 the band makes a characteristic shift into a much softer, more accessible moment that could perhaps be one of the reasons this album caused many more fans to flock to the band. The solo to this song is one that is very well done and, aside from the brief finger-tapping section, it is not particularly fast which is definitely not something that can be said for every Bullet solo. After the solo we return to the soft "stay with me" part of the song before the verse riff kicks back in and we finish the song with the line "Waking The Demon". This is among the band's finest songs to date and stands out due to the amazing solo and cool drumming.
The other songs on the album are not too shabby either, although not a lot of them have anything particularly special to talk about. Forever And Always is one of the more interesting songs on the album due to the fact it actually attempts to deviate from the band's usual formula. This song uses clean vocals throughout making it somewhat different from the rest of the album. This really was not something the band should have experimented with, however, for this is probably the worst song on the album. The lyrics are tired, cliche'd and dull with the pathetic line "forget about the *** that we've been through". The instrumental work is as repetitive as it gets, dragging on for over six minutes with a very rare change in sound. The vocals are overly whiny and fit the lyrics but not the style of music. The song is still a metal song and the lyrics written for it feel so disjointed. Another song that stands out is the title track. It opens with a brief drum solo before diving into a fast, thrashy riff and beat and then some cool tremolo picked lead lines. A quick pick slide leads into the verse with Tuck sounding a lot angrier and more masculine than usual with his chanted vocals. The first screams of the song are found during the chorus and really suit this song. There is no break for the band either as the chorus does not slow down at all and we head right back into a second verse. The breakdown is not the usual re-used nonsense that many bands use and fits the song very well. It breaks up the flow of the song and enables the listener to take a breath as Tuck screams "Scream... Aim... Fire!" The solo is an absolutely amazing adrenaline-filled shred fest that really shows off the band's self-proclaimed Metallica and Slayer influence with great effect. This would take silver medal as the best song off of the album.
The musicianship on this album is very tight and is actually a significant step up from The Poison. The riffing retains the intense, aggressive and heavy feel to it that their debut had but also includes more of a melodic and accessible side. Whereas some riffs to that particular album had "second thought" stamped all over them, all of the riffs on here feel original and fresh. Whether the band wants to mix chords and pinch harmonics together, fast pull-off riffs such as Waking The Demon or fast as hell tremolo picking, it always feels air-tight. The soloing is some of the best found on any album by a commercial metal band of today, with a lot of fast scaling involved and some awesome finger-tapping. This is not a band that completely abuses the tapping, however, as they know how to work it into a section of a solo whilst still thinking about the overall sound of the full piece. The guitar work is not the only good thing about this album, though, as the drumming really has been taken up a notch. Gone are the repetitive and lame beats that were found on The Poison. That has been scrapped in favor of a varied and enjoyable performance that never once feels forced. The drum fills on this album are really awesome and the beats themselves are cool, with a lot of quick, thrashy beats. The only down side to this album is the bass which is both inaudible and falls victim to the trend of merely following the guitars and never attempting to stray away from the beaten track. This is a real disappointment as it was at least audible on The Poison, even though it wasn't mixed particularly loud. On Scream. Aim. Fire. it remains buried under the wall of sound the guitars create.
The production job for this release is fairly tight aside from the fact that the bass is totally inaudible. The guitars have a crisp and heavy tone, with the distortion sounding very nice. The solos are always loud in the mix, as should be, but the rhythm is never left out either as the riffs are constantly audible underneath the soloing. The drums have a bit of reverb which is nice to hear, and the vocals do not completely dominate the mix as on The Poison. The actual vocal work itself is very strong and stands out as a highlight of the album. The clean singing is not the strongest out there but certainly does not sound too whiny aside from on Forever And Always, the chorus of Hearts Burst Into Fire and a couple of other moments. Tuck handles the chorus to Waking The Demon very well with some nice cleans. He also has a good thrashy shout on the title track, and his screaming is absolutely top notch. Matt Tuck on this album gets a lot of hate for no particular reason as the vocal work on Scream. Aim. Fire. is fantastic. Lyrics have never been Bullet's strong point and this is once again evidenced on this album, although one or two tracks have some great lines to them. Hearts Burst Into Fire is rather cheesy and sticks out like a sore thumb as the worst song lyrically, arguably topping many of the tracks off of The Poison. Thankfully nothing on here ever threatens to be as bad as what the band has gone on to do with 2013's Temper Temper.
The one major problem that plagues Scream. Aim. Fire. is the fact that many of the songs drag on a little longer than they have to. This leads to the album feeling bloated and overly long, with not enough killer moments to carry it through. As good as the riffs and drumming and screaming may be, there is only so long one can listen to this band due to the fact that many of their songs follow the same formula of just thundering along full speed ahead. Toward the end of the album is where it really starts to suffer. It is not that the songs take a dip in quality. Instead, they are all too long, with the average song on here being around 4 minutes and too many songs being crammed onto the disk. The first half of the album is chock full of fresh ideas but they end up being repeated toward the end of the album. The only song that deviates from this is Forever And Always which is hands down the worse thing on the album and shows why Bullet should not attempt experimenting. Also this is another metalcore album that relies on sing along choruses and breakdowns just a little too much. Whilst the choruses may be great most of the time, the same can not be said of the breakdowns. Many of the songs have moments of open string chugging that add absolutely nothing to them aside from let the guitarists rest their fingers or build up to a solo/lead out of a solo. Songs like the title track and Waking The Demon make the best use of breakdowns on the album but the others really do nothing with these moments.
This is a solid metalcore album that definitely succeeds in what it does correctly. The drumming is fast and intense and the riffs are creative enough and the solos are among the best in mainstream metal. Sadly one or two songs are either too cheesy or just have nothing good to say about them and the album drags on a little too long so that ideas end up being repeated. Were this seven or eight minutes shorter and if Forever And Always were completely cut then it would be an absolutely fantastic album instead of one that has too many flaws to ignore completely.