You think you’re above me!
But now I’m here to envy
Four words to choke upon!
Look! (Look!) At, me… now!
There in a nutshell is the charm, strength and limitations of Bullet For My valentine displayed for your delectation. back in 2005 I bought the 7″ of Suffocating Under Sorrow (What Can I Do), being a sucker jointly for the cartoon artwork featuring men being beaten up by chesty amazons and songs (with) brackets (in them). It was an absolute revelation for me at a time when there wasn’t a lot of metal around that was frizzing my tree. It was a brilliant kinetic treat and made me think of Iron Maiden playing as fast as they could after a 72 hour energy drink binge, that riff! Possibly even more than that the singer seemed to switch effortlessly from singing to screaming to real effect. It became my running tune of choice for years although I had to be careful because, being a bear of very small brain, I always ended up running in time to the track rather than pacing myself properly.
Almost exactly 8 years ago I snagged a copy of their debut album The Poison, lured by yet another excellent noir-ish cover replete with lots of silver foil* and two other song titles with (brackets) in (them); by this point I knew precisely two things about the band they were really young and, praise be to the druids, they were Welsh. They sort of dressed a bit gothy in the way that metal bands do these days**. Bullet got called metalcore, whether this is accurate or not, I’m not the chap to ask, but make no mistake this is a METAL album, not a revved-up hard rock LP but a metal one – this music’s roots and structures are firmly in the classical, rather than blues tradition.
The lovely ‘Intro’ starts the LP*^ using the talents of Apocalyptica – Finland’s premier cello metal band^, it’s a gorgeously atmospheric gently swelling number, leading us lightly into THE SCREAMING. Actually, I’m being unfair here, sure the bulk of The Poison is comprised of blast beats, screaming and hard riffing but Bullet For My Valentine were a precociously clever crew. Just when you start to find the whole thing a bit too much like being caught in the middle of a particularly noisy teen vs. parent shouting match, they leaven the mix with some great melodic guitar touches, unexpected vocal harmonies and a sly pop consciousness. It’s a neat trick and one they rely on in even their most relentless numbers to great effect.
This is such a teenage LP, there’s no other way of putting it. Check out the lyric sheet, we get sticking it to your detractors ‘4 Words (To Choke Upon)’, unfaithful chicks ‘Room 409’, random violence ‘Hit The Floor’ and unfaithful chicks who were detractors and are now deceased ‘The End’. As a patronising old type I can say it’s all very provincial and sixth-form and that’s its charm for me, it’s a surprisingly artless album, very honest, very straight-forward; no-one’s trying too hard to be cool. Of course it helps that I’ve never really matured emotionally beyond 15 myself…
Highlights? I like it all massively en masse. Okay then, ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ has some great arty guitar touches and melodies, ‘Room 409’ just rages, ‘Hit The Floor’ is suitably menacing and has some great bass work a la White Zombie and I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you. The Poison is a great album for a certain mood / time in your life. The real tragedy is that I got so glutted with vinyl that I’ve probably only listened to it about four times since I bought it and I still haven’t got around to ripping it yet. Still, that’s why 1537 started in order to peer into the darker corners of the collection.
Well worth a go. And they’re Welsh.
*always looks great but is a real pig to photograph properly.
**Don’t ask me I’m just some ancient gnarly dude who doesn’t know his Trivium from his Lamb Of God. Back in my day metal bands dressed like metal bands, white Hi-Tec boots, black jeans, bullet belt, band T-shirt – we did things properly back then!
*^how unimaginative, when I form my metalcore band, Black Towel, I’m going to cover this track and make it the fourth track on our LP Nobody Tells Me What Time To Go To Bed!.