They’ve sold millions of records globally, amassed hundreds of millions of online views and are considered at the forefront of today’s UK heavy metal scene. So what do Bullet For My Valentine decide to do as an encore to their 2013 album Temper Temper, which cracked the Billboard Top 20?
Get even heavier, louder and darker.
Venom, which is out Aug. 14, the same day Bullet For My Valentine take the Klipsch Music Center stage with Slipknot and Lamb of God, is a perfect summation of their convention: impossibly airtight rhythms, played at accelerated speeds and punctuated with big hooks, soaring solos and sing-along choruses.
“People seem to like the direction we’ve gone,” vocalist/guitarist Matt Tuck noted during a recent phone interview. “They’re liking the fact we’ve gone heavier this time around. We’re always making sure we’re happy with what we’ve done first. Hopefully others like it too. But so far the response has been positive.”
Temper Temper may have been on par commercially with Bullet’s previous three recordings, but reviews were decidedly mixed. That certainly didn’t escape the band’s notice.
“The last album was definitely one of the lightest things we’d done,” Tuck said. “This time around we didn’t want to regurgitate what we’d done previously, make the same album twice. We took some criticism for the last record. People wanted something heavier from us. We thought cool, let’s turn up the heat a little bit. We started with that mindset and it continued that way for the duration of the writing process.”
That extended to Tuck’s lyrics. Opening track “No Way Out” exorcises his demons from growing up in a depressed part of Wales, where ambition seemed pointless and escape virtually impossible. The seething “You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War)” is a defiant response to the bullying Tuck endured in his youth for being artistic rather than athletic.
“It was the way we wanted the album to be: aggressive and dark,” he said. “The lyrical content needed to keep with that theme. Those were subjects we hadn’t touched on in a while, with the last album especially. The music we were coming up with was exactly what we wanted. We needed something lyrically that was just as hard-hitting. We recaptured those darker times.”
If Bullet For My Valentine (rounded out by lead guitarist Michael Paget, drummer Michael Thomas and new bassist Jamie Mathias) sound as in lockstep as ever with Venom, there’s a reason for it.
“This album was the most we’ve ever done as far as writing and demoing the songs,” Tuck said. “It was seven months from the time we started writing to when we entered the studio. The album before was nothing like that. We went into the studio and started writing songs. So these two albums are very different from the way they were approached.”
With the departure of former bassist Jason James last winter, Tuck played that instrument as well during the recording of Venom. Bullet quickly found a suitable replacement in Mathias.
“His audition was really good, so we invited him to come play with us,” Tuck said. “He did everything he needed to do, and did it unprompted. He came in and took to the role immediately. He’s got a good voice as well. It’s been an easy transition. We didn’t expect it to be so easy.”
Considering the elemental thrash signatures that ballast their sound, it’s not really a surprise that Tuck is old school in his musical tastes too.
“I’ve always stuck to what I consider the classes, stuff I grew up listening to as a kid. I’m aware of a lot of new bands and am always willing to give it a listen, but I like listening to my favorites in my downtime,” he said, citing the heavy influence luminaries such as Metallica and Pantera have had on his guitar playing and songwriting. “Those were always the bands that got my blood pumping.”
Maybe Tuck is old fashioned, but he finds a lot of newer bands lacking in identity - a trait that, for him, separates the greats from the merely good ones. Besides, just a week and a half into this tour with Slipknot and Lamb of God, he notes this bill seems to be doing just fine drawing an eclectic audience.
“There are plenty of older dudes coming to the shows who just want to hang out and have beers with their mates, but also plenty of moms and dads who bring their kids,” Tuck said. “There are also lot of girls to go with the guys. It’s been gratifying to reach so many generations and types of fans.”