Bullet For My Valentine: Venom (RCA)
Lets lay it on the line shall we? Bullet For My Valentine have always been a band that have split opinion, bursting out of South Wales during the early 2000's as metalcore and the NWOAHM were all the rage, their debut The Poison was a masterclass in breakdown filled, solo loving, thrash with the clean and harsh vocal mix, the lyrics were full of angst and the music full of aggression. Since then they haven't really fulfilled the potential that was hinted at by their debut, Scream Aim Fire was in my opinion a very good that was criminally overlooked, Fever brought a more pop sound to their metallic backing and then we have Temper Temper which is best left not talked about as even the band have admitted that even they are not fans of that album. So after this bit of tumultuous back story the band are now back, albeit without founding bassist Jason James, (happily he has been replaced live by former Revoker man Jamie Mathias), still they are indeed back and yes it is with a vengeance. What is immediately noticeable about this new record is that it harks back to their debut (not just with the title) the aggression, fury and speed are all present and correct, with furious guitars from frontman Matt Tuck and guitarist Padge who supplies the searing leads and furious soloing on tracks like the opener No Way Out which explodes out of the stereo with a huge swaggering riff and the glorious sing along chorus that is in stark contrast to the screamed vocals in the verse.
So an old school vibe straight from the opening and as Army Of Noise picks up the pace with a speed thrash delivery, it's the faster songs that show off Moose's superb drumming, he is relentless like a machine gun on the faster tracks but on the slower more epic songs like Worthless and You Want A Battle (Here's A War) he also holds his own supplying the rhythms for Matt and Padge to ease up on allowing the songs to breathe. Tuck's voice is excellent on this record, his screams are venomous (no pun intended) especially on The Harder The Heart (The Harder It Breaks) where he shows off his scream and also his melodic vocals which soar clearly over the furious metal assault of Skin. With 11 tracks on the normal album and 15 on the special edition you get very little filler on this album, each song just fits and many of the huge choruses will go down well in the live arena as well as starting some serious pits, the band have finally found a way to balance the emotive, reflective part of their music with the more ferocious parts of their music such as main album closer Pariah and final bonus track the non album single Raising Hell. Bullet For My Valentine are back folks and whether you love them, hate them or just don't get them the band have released their best album in years, hopefully this will finally be their time; the headline slot at Download awaits and along with their debut Venom will be their call to arms!! 9/10
Ghost: Meloria (Loma Vista)
Papa II is dead long live Papa III!! The Swedish occult ghouls return with their third album which sees them playing in a similar vein to their previous album but with a concious move towards a more modern and indeed progressive sound. As the carnivalesque organs at the intro of Spirit give way to the NWOBHM style riffs we are once drawn back into the strange, iniquitous yet uplifting musical world of Ghost, Spirit is a twisting turning first gasp before the bass led intro of the heavier From The Pinnacle To The Pit brings the more occult Satanic imagery as well as more modern sound that is also present on Mummy Dust which rocks like hell and features a particularly malevolent vocoder topped performance from Papa as well as some very 70's keys and synths (even a synth solo). The heavy aspect follows through into Cirice which is a very doom laden track that Ozzy and co would be proud to write (although am I the only person that hears Down Under by Men At Work?)
It has the right amount of dark and light along with the nameless Ghouls providing some fantastic drumming, keys and guitars that give Papa a strong backing to deliver some almost sorrowful and romantic lyricism, as usual his vocals are amazing clear, powerful and unique commanding the listener to pay attention what is being said. As I said this album has a lot more experimentation on it with the band flexing their muscle a little, this is never more evident than on the spiritual folky sounding He Is which is probably the most beautiful song ever written about Mephistopheles, Majesty sounds like a lost Deep Purple track albeit it does at time err on to the side of the Gillan fronted Sabbath. With every album Ghost add yet more excellent songs to their bursting live repertoire, this is still where Ghost are at their most impressive, but what they have also done on this third record is grow as a band adding more elements to their sound to make sure that their occult shtick doesn't grow stale, with songs like the amazing Absolution and the all encompassing Deus In Absentia which ends the album perfectly as Papa invites you to "Burn With Me" before the choir sings you out as you are absolved of grace and devoured by sin. Meloria sees the band standing on the precipice of greatness, they have become a cult act but now they are well on their way to becoming a band that may just cross over into the mainstream. Don't resist ladies and gentlemen come to the altar of sin and kneel before your Satanic majesties! 9/10
Disturbed: Immortalised (Reprise/Warner Bros)
When Disturbed announced a hiatus after their last studio album Asylum many though that would be the end of the band as frontman David Draiman formed his other band Device and and guitarist Dan Donegan formed Fight Or Flight, both albums were OK but both these men do their best work in the Disturbed mothership. After the two solo albums there was a relative silence and then from out of nowhere came the announcement that the new Disturbed album was in the can and ready to be released, shortly after the first single The Vengeful One was unleashed, this blood splattered clip has the bands mascot destroying injustice with a shotgun, which is very cool but what is best about the clip was that the band were indeed back to their previous musical form, indeed they fell straight into the sound that they had on Asylum which saw them branching out from their nu-metal routes (although not too much). The Vengeful One and the title track set the tone for the rest of the album with Draiman's unique rapid fire vocal delivery, his snarling lower register and soaring highs which drive the massive choruses with the trademark rhyming couplets. Add to this a massive, chunky rhythm section from John Moyer's bass licks as well as Mike Wengren's blasting drums and you are immediately brought back into world of Disturbed.
As well as Draiman, who is always the focal point of the band, it's Donegan who is the other star of the band, he is a simply amazing guitarist, however he is highly underrated due to many believing Disturbed are a bit of a joke. Still Donegan plays like his life depends on it adding to the swaggering groove with technical lead playing that many are praised for, listen for it and you too will be converted, as well as the guitars he also handles the synths that undercut all of Disturbed's music. The synths are the major contributing factor to The Light which is an uplifting track that yes does have a religious overtone, but this is theme that permeates all of Disturbed's career. As I said the signatures of Disturbed's sound are present on this album, in fact this album is more retrospective than it's predecessor, although this is probably deliberate to announce that the band are back by giving fans something that they know and love before. The electronic elements continue on You're Mine which could have been off the debut record, Save Our Last Goodbye has the staccato guitar sound, Fire it Up continues this vein and then the curve ball comes with their orchestral, dark reinterpretation of Simon and Garfunkel's Sound Of Silence. Still this is classic Disturbed with the modern edge and even though it's good to have them back they are still a band that will have critics but fans will lap this album up. 8/10