Review Summary: Less commercial drivel, more a tepid exercise in stagnation.
Bullet for my Valentine have had a difficult time finding their place lately. Recent releases have regressed their sound to the point of an all-time low on the desperate attempt at mainstream rock appeal in Temper Temper
. Realizing what a failure this was, Matt Tuck promised fans that the follow-up would be a return-to-roots deal. Knowing they may disappoint by taking risks, Tuck is sticking to what he knows on Venom
. Their steady ascension to radio friendly heavy rock is put through a modern thrash metal coating. Venom
essentially relies on self-plagiarism and zero risk taking whatsoever in order to cling desperately to what little of their fanbase remains. This is Bullet Lite, just as shallow and stagnant as Temper Temper
, only this time with some faster tempos and more harsh vocals.
Nearly every song on Venom
begins the same way: a fast and simple guitar riff, Matt Tuck screaming, similar drumbeat, standard structure, and a decent solo to cap it off. Eventually the album realizes it can only milk this monotonous formula for so long, and the last few songs try to change things up. “The Harder The Heart (The Harder It Breaks)," “Skin,” and “Hell or High Water” feature slower tempos and employ the more melodic side of their songwriting from early material. Even these minimal changes of pace heavily rely on past successes. “The Harder The Heart” sounds remarkably similar to “Bittersweet Memories” from Fever
. Both have mid-tempo, chord-based songwriting and emotional subject matter, as well as similar lead guitar. While lacking a pathetic attempt at replicating a past hit (“Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)"” Really"), Venom
still relies on their long-standing reliance on watered down thrash riffs and poppy choruses with abysmal lyrics. These qualities are most apparent in the album’s first half. Songs like “No Way Out,” “Army of Noise,” "Worthless," and "Broken," essentially rip off the singles from Bullet’s neo-thrash hit Scream Aim Fire
While the more emotional and melodious aspects of Bullet's earlier material are minimal, they do occasionally appear throughout. Looking back with the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, these qualities embody youthful energy among metalcore’s massive popularity at the time. Times have changed however, and Bullet for my Valentine have failed to change with them. Band members in their mid-to-late 30s playing a watered-down version of their own original sound, singing about the same youthful subject matter as always, is just getting depressing. Anyone looking for an enjoyable, modern metal album can find it done much better by many other bands. Every riff, every chorus on Venom
has been played hundreds of times before on numerous albums, some of them by Bullet themselves. Seeing such monotony and lack of creativity yet again is a sure sign that their once strong brand of modern metal needs a major overhaul. While lacking the worst offenses of Temper Temper
is still a failed exercise in mainstream metal. It serves to plainly expose Bullet for My Valentine's refusal to progress or broaden their identity in any way, shape or form.