With their second record, 2008’s ‘Scream Aim Fire’, Bullet for My Valentine positioned themselves on the cusp of true metal heavyweight status; in the years since, they’ve clinched it - arena tours and genuinely impressive sales figures from the States, which run well into the millions and saw a top three chart debut for 2010 follow up, ‘Fever’; but you wonder whether it’s come at the cost of any real musical progression. ‘Fever’ failed to diverge notably from the sound that drove ‘Scream Aim Fire’, but that was fine by both their fanbase and the critics; it remained sonically unforgiving and structurally tight.
Their last album, though, ‘Temper Temper’ felt sterile; the aggression seemed rehearsed, and too often it flirted with a descent from actual metal to an arena-oriented hard rock sound. The fact that frontman Matt Tuck had started to talk about a possible side-project in terms of it being ‘metal as fuck’ by way of comparison had raised eyebrows, and ‘Temper Temper’ seemed to legitimise those concerns. The opening one-two on this fifth full-length, ‘Venom’, suggests Bullet are going out of their way to counter claims they’ve gone soft; ‘V’ is a short instrumental that appears to have lifted its inspiration directly from Slipknot’s ‘(515)’, whilst the furious ‘No Way Out’ runs into a melodic chorus from some brutal verses.
As the album wears on, though, it seems as if ‘Temper Temper’’s failings may have been indicative less of an ill-advised bow to commercial considerations and more suggestive of a real malaise within the group. There’s nothing here we haven’t heard before; ‘You Want a Battle’ tries to build tension, but fails, the title track’s guitars sound recycled from last time out, and ‘Tuck’ lacks his customary vocal bite on the likes of ‘Skin’. Flashes of the airtight songwriting that ran through ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and ‘Fever’ remain - closer ‘Pariah’ does controlled fury very well - but otherwise, it has to be case of back to the drawing board, because Bullet sound as if they’re beginning to run on fumes.