Since shooting out of the gate with 2005's 'The Poison', Bullet For My Valentine have climbed to the very top of British metal's ladder. They've had their hands on the championship belt more times than we've had hot meals. And every time, they've jumped off the ladder, got out of the ring, and headed back to the locker room.
They've come back, album after album, bolstering their arsenal with new sounds and boasting new gimmicks. With their seventh, self-titled album, they're taking things back to basics. Presenting their heaviest offering in over a decade, the quartet of Matt Tuck (Vocals/Guitar), Padge (guitar), Jamie Mathias (bass) and Jason Bowld (drums) pull the boots back on for yet another round. Welcome to the ring, Bullet 2.0.
"'Gravity' was a transitional record, and I really wore my heart on my sleeve on that record. It was a very personal record to make for lots of reasons, and there were lots of transitions going on behind the scenes with changing band members," frontman Matt Tuck explains, champing at the bit to set the record straight on where they've been and what's coming next.
"This really feels like a fresh start for us. It feels fun, it feels exciting, and it feels confident. All of those things we were lacking the last few years, and albums as a band, and that's why it feels like it's Bullet 2.0."
Unlike the swirling synths and decadent strings of 'Gravity', 'Bullet For My Valentine' pulls no punches in aiming for the jugular. Opener 'Parasite' is introduced by a windswept, feedback-riddled mash-up of some of their biggest hits, drowned out in drone before erupting into a fiery blaze as Matt screams 'you fucking parasite'.
It's angry, and it's aggressive, and it's built on the bridges 'Gravity' tried burning. The two albums go hand in hand, intrinsically linked by Matt's personal struggles. Rather than pandering to a polarised fanbase – which meant either sticking to their guns and making a sequel or setting light to it all and starting again – they used its catharsis as a launchpad for a brave new world.
"We don't want to recapture any formulas or successes from the past, we've never been a band like that. With 'Gravity' sounding the way it did, which was so divisive for our fan base - some people loved it, some people hated it - we knew we had to kick the door open, let everything out and really not hold back."
'Gravity' isn't a graveyard for their nu-metal experiments and radio rock gimmicks; it's a resting place for their past in which they rose from resurrected. They needed to hit rock bottom to rediscover why they were aiming for the sun in the first place.
"Before and during the 'Gravity' cycle, there was a lot going on. We were testing the water, and everyone was finding their feet together, and there was lots of stuff going on behind the scenes that was really negative for everyone.
"I don't think it made 'Gravity' a negative album, I think it's a great album because it captured a moment in the band's career and my life that needed to be on record, but this time around, we're settled, and we're in a far better place. It really did give us the confidence to shock people this time around. It's a far more confident, aggressive, mature, assertive band now. It's taken us a couple of years to feel like this again."
It's no secret that Bullet For My Valentine have been through the ringer through the years, and the aggression they channel on this self-titled outing is a result of that. They've taken the personal and professional calamities, the critical receptions and commercial rollercoasters and raised a whole new beast. Ultimately, this is a product of what's come before.
"I really do believe that they are a product of each other. We couldn't have had this record sound as aggressive and as heavy as it is if 'Gravity' didn't exist. It gave us this platform to come back swinging even harder than we ever have and make the contrast even more obvious."
The confidence Bullet have cultivated across the years since 'Gravity' isn't just musically; it goes far deeper than that. This album is a celebration of strength as much as it's an admission of weakness. Driven by Matt's experiences with his mental health over the last few years, it serves as a space to unload after a long day and begin to break the taboos still held in certain corners of the metal pantheon. It's something they feel has been a long time coming, and something that's both a responsibility and a reward.
"We've come a long way in the last five years, where I've become confident and comfortable enough to speak to people about my issues and my worries in life, and it's good to just let it out. The moment you speak to someone about your mental health is amazing, it's like a weight off the shoulders, and this album is about sharing those experiences and having the confidence to be able to say it and not feel like you're overreacting or being stupid."
Behind the blistering breakdowns and searing choruses that comprise this self-titled offering is a collection of conversations. It's the sound of a band bearing their soul and wearing their heart on their sleeves. This is an insight into the realities of being a band who've been held on a pedestal, and what happens behind the scenes.
'Rainbow Veins' is Matt Tuck at his most vulnerable, exploring his experiences with self-medication and coming to terms with depression. As he sings 'another day, but I don't want to face it, I want to heal, so I self-medicate it, and I don't want to feel it, another dose just to keep me sedated', there's a sobering wave washing over you as you realise that even rock stars have feelings.
"I'm no different from anyone else in the world. 'Gravity' was the lowest point I've ever been in my life, and telling the world about it was not something I really wanted to do, because I didn't want to show the world my weaknesses, but I chose to roll with it, and I didn't want to resist it."
"'Rainbow Veins' and 'Can't Escape The Waves' are from a darker place of feeling down and having anxiety and being in these dark places you can't get out of. With the year and a half the world has faced, I know these songs are going to be more relatable than ever."
And there it is, the elephant in the room: Covid-19. The pandemic put live music behind bars, kept us locked down in our bedrooms, and bought the Bullet camp to a standstill. It also gave Matt and the boys the opportunity to tick off a goal they've been gunning for since their early days. They finally headlined Download, and it was everything they've ever wished for.
"We're really proud of ourselves for getting there. Obviously, it wasn't the all-singing, all-dancing Download, but it was more important because we were kickstarting the live music industry, so to be recognised as the band that could deliver and finish off the festival was phenomenal."
It's an achievement they've been trying to unlock for years. While they've always been touted as future headliners, the call-up has evaded them. They've always been the bridesmaid and never the bride, until now. It's something Matt is fully aware of, and something which drives them even further into the era of Bullet 2.0.
"We've been a very hard-working band since 2005, and we've made no qualms about our ambitions, what we want to achieve and how we're going to get there. We knocked off a load of goals early on in our career, which is very unusual for any band, but this one slot has eluded us for many, many years and rightfully so, because the bands that headline every year, there's no way we deserve it more than those guys do. But it feels like we're definitely ready, and we've got the history, we've got the back catalogue, and we've got the fan base."
As they usher in the self-titled age, there's a real sense of excitement coming from the camp which we haven't felt in years. It's infectious, like a shockwave rippling through your senses. With their confidence restored, Bullet For My Valentine are getting in the ring for one more championship run.
Taken from the November issue of Upset. Bullet For My Valentine's self-titled album is out 5th November.
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