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Sunday, May 23, 2010

CD Review: Bullet for My Valentine - Fever

Bullet for My Valentine - Fever
2010 Jive Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Every couple years a band emerges over their peers as the official voice of its scene. In recent years, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Taking Back Sunday, Killswich Engage and In Flames fit those roles. Now the honor goes to Bullet for My Valentine.

The Welsh metallers know how to make an impression now through three full-length albums. Anyone scoring an opening tour slot with Iron Maiden is headline-worthy enough, but Bullet for My Valentine literally crashed the gates in 2008 with their finessed emo-thrash bonanza Scream Aim Fire. Bullet for My Valentine has been so meticulous in their mission to streamline metal's most popular threads into one homebase they gained the attention of the majors and have surpassed H.I.M. as pointmen of the concert shirt parade.

Granted, cyclicism being what it is, the shirts will change faces along with the demographic as they grow older and for some, out of metal. Bullet for My Valentine at least fortifies their position with a sales chart-scorching effort, Fever. The best-selling album in metal as of this writing is, for its targeted Teenage Wasteland 2.1, the anthem album of the summer.

If there's any complaint about Fever (and it's going to take a few years for most of this group's core audience to hear it once life seizes them and adjusts their overall outlooks) is that Bullet for My Valentine plays it far too safe and unfortunately sets themselves on repeat. Gone is the fireball urgency of Scream Aim Fire and in its place are eleven pandering tracks designed to boom from cars and MP3 players.

In a way this album is for Bullet for My Valentine what So Far, So Good...So What was for Megadeth; entertaining, largely competent, vocally front and center. Yet what did So Far, So Good...So What do for Megadeth when following the speed metal masterpiece that is Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? It sold well, it was showcased prominently on the original Headbangers Ball and it even led Dave Mustaine and Megadeth circa 1988 into Penelope Spheris' socio-documenary Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Yet more people down the road of time have torched that album instead of embraced it.

Granted, Fever is a much more polished effort than So Far, So Good...So What and Bullet for My Valentine are going to capitalize heftily with this album from an audience on the constant search for the one band who stands up and shouts for them. Bullet for My Valentine answers the call with "Dignity" and "The Last Fight," two songs tailored directly for this band's followers. "Dignity" especially raises high the banner for Generation Tech, who like any that's preceded them is simply looking for respect and acknowledgement by the rest of the world they've purposefully ostracized themselves from. Fastway had "Stand Up and Be Counted" in their day, Motley Crue, "Shout at the Devil." Everyone needs an electric roar of what lies dormant inside their frustrated minds, even if said frustration has yet to know its full capacities once they enter the real world. At least Bullet for My Valentine recognizes their position as leaders to offer their listeners booming odes of hope.

Michael Padget and Matt Tuck wield some mighty axes, albeit their American counterparts Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu of Trivium remain the tag team of their time to beat. Bullet for My Valentine has bluntly followed a few of the Triv's paths, yet Fever is nowhere in the class of Shogun, though it damn well had the potential to be. Fever instead has an intentional comeliness to its metalhead coif on neatly-tucked melodic numbers like "Breaking Out, Breaking Down," "Your Betrayal" and "Pleasure and Pain." At least Shogun retains a velocity and brutality elevating its purpose, though some might argue Trivium suffered their own backlash with 2005's scaled-down Ascendancy.

Whereas "Scream Aim Fire" and "Eye of the Storm" from Bullet for My Valentine's previous album bottlerocket and steal your breath away, this time around, the band stamps down more cautiously. Michael Thomas gives a drum clinic on both albums, yet on Fever he's relegated to largely mid-tempo crush grooves instead being allowed to free-float his double hammers like on Scream Aim Fire.

One of Fever's trade-ups is the amplified singing of Matt Tuck. Though he does yelp and growl at times, Tuck's cleans have evovled into world class. You have to applaud the guy for polishing his chops considering the physical adversity he'd suffered through resulting in a tonsillectomy in 2007. Tuck's refined vocals help sell Fever's lighter-jerkers "Bittersweet Memories" and "A Place Where You Belong," a pair of songs that represents this generation far more than the obviousness of "Dignity."

Bullet for My Valentine waits until the very end to step on the gas with the chaotic thrasher "Pretty On the Outside," which skids the blazing verses to push mountain-moving choruses. It's a reconciliation on Bullet for My Valentine's part, because even they have to admit they've played a sturdy hand through the rest of Fever, finally landing on Boardwalk to couple their album version of Park Place. "Pretty On the Outside" is Bullet for My Valentine running past Go into a very certain four-corner trip which has the benefit of the sure thing gusting their movements. Did they land on too many Chance squares to get here, though?

Fever is a slick vehicle and despite its remorseless iteration, it's a fun album to kick back with. Not as mind-melding as Scream Aim Fire, Bullet for My Valentine nonetheless whips up a champion performance to stand tall as the kings of summer, 2010. Do they have what it takes to write their own Rust in Peace, however?

Rating: ***1/2

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

these guys suck....mainstream metal garbage

Metal Mark said...

I heard the previous album. It was okay, but nothing great or new. Just a rehash of previous metal sounds only with more polished production and less energy.

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