Review Summary: Black Veil Brides is Black Veil Brides doing Black Veil Brides. Take that as you will.
Few bands in the modern hard rock/metal scene can stir up as much controversy as the California-based quintet Black Veil Brides
, and it’s not hard to understand why. Their image is Hot Topic personified and has been ever since their debut We Stitch These Wounds
. This notion was further reinforced by the cover of their sophomore release Set the World on Fire
, which looks like it came straight out of the ’80s glam rock scene with an extra dose of “gothic” for good measure. Frontman Andy Biersack famously gave a less-than-humble speech upon receiving the Golden God song of the year award for ‘In the End’. But as funny as it was to watch him call out “fat motherfuckers” in the audience for booing him, it doesn’t change the fact that Andy can sometimes be a world-class douchebag. On the music front, the band has developed into little more than a second-rate Avenged Sevenfold
with poppy choruses, cheesy guitar leads, generic song structures, and the like. So with this lavish reputation behind them, you may be wondering: how does Black Veil Brides’ fourth studio album fare amongst the rest of its ilk? And surprisingly, it really isn’t half bad.
Despite the brazen cover art, Black Veil Brides
isn’t an attempt to be grandiose or over-the-top in any fashion. To the contrary, it’s as if the band embraced their niche and simply aimed to make the most straightforward, radio-friendly hard rock songs they can. There are heavy riffs, there are catchy choruses, and shredding guitar leads are aplenty. In fact, nothing paints a clearer picture of what you’ll be hearing in Black Veil Brides
than opener and lead single ‘Heart of Fire’ – the song title alone should at least give you a hint. On the upside, while ‘The Shattered God’ has a bridge that sounds ripped straight from Avenged Sevenfold’s Nightmare
, it fits snug within the song’s atmosphere and emphasizes both the dark riffs as well as its oddly uplifting chorus. The better tracks on Black Veil Brides
are those that show the band in unfamiliar territory. One of the two ballads on record and the only one worth hearing, ‘Walk Away’, is the most mature Black Veil Brides song to date. It’s a slow piano-driven song about the perils of break-up. As cliché and asinine as that sounds, Black Veil Brides pull it off in a refreshing, unassuming way – and it actually sounds good. Strings soar atop harmonized melodies; simple guitar solos rank among the best in the band’s career, and the piano aptly lays the groundwork for the song’s build up and subsequent explosion during its powerful climax. It’s a notable songwriting improvement compared to past works and proves that Black Veil Brides are indeed capable of writing an effective ballad.
However, these minor improvements don’t negate the fact that Black Veil Brides have fundamental issues as a band – the most obvious being frontman Andy Biersack and his planet-sized ego. His vocals are front-and-center in the mix here, which is typically what you want in rock music, but when the vocals are so loud that you physically cannot focus on anything else when the man is singing, then it becomes a problem. Biersack isn’t entirely to blame though, as the production job in general is abysmal at best. The guitars are weak and pack no punch whatsoever, and some of the album’s best riffs are buried under the audacious vocal mix. The loudness of Andy’s voice also makes his faults that much more noticeable. His tone has not improved a bit since Wretched and Divine
. The low, raspy delivery is welcome in certain instances, but unfortunately here it comes off as more of a distraction than anything. That’s not to say he’s a terrible singer – he can come up with memorable lines now and again (for example, closer ‘Crown of Thorns’ has the best chorus on the album due to the melodious vocal hook). It just sounds like between each successive studio release, Andy spends his free time vigorously rubbing sandpaper in and around his vocal cords. Although, I’d imagine smoking a pack of cigarettes a day produces the same desired effect.
As a whole, Black Veil Brides
is the band at their most self-aware and honest. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Black Veil Brides – simply structured radio metal with fast guitar solos and no surprises. It’s a safe formula, but it’s a formula with very little reward. The good news is that this album is easily better than Hail to the King
(though that’s not saying much) and is the most realized, all-around best album Black Veil Brides has put out thus far. The bad news is that, well, it’s still Black Veil Brides.
The Shattered God
Crown of Thorns