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Tuesday 2 November 2021

Reviews: Bullet For My Valentine, The Darkness, Emma Ruth Rundle, Monolord (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Bullet For My Valentine – Bullet For My Valentine (Spinefarm Records)

Seven albums into their career and Welsh metal act Bullet For My Valentine, have released music that has gone from metalcore and emo, to thrash and outright pop. But since their formation in 1998, they have yet to release an album as heavy and vicious as this self-titled offering. If you though Venom was a raging torrent of nasty riffs and screamed vocals then the first four tracks on this record will rip your face off. As it’s a self-titled record, these usually indicate a refocusing, or a rebirth of a band, something Matt Tuck confirms calling this album the start of Bullet 2.0. Well Bullet 2.0 is a much more aggressive version than what has come previously. 

As the previous singles from the band are played through the static of a radio, reminding you what has come before as founding members Tuck and Michael ‘Padge’ Padget unleash some vicious shredding guitars to kick you off in the right frame of mind for what’s to come. The snarl of "fucking parasite" brings the powerful drumming of Jason Bowld while Jamie Matthias is very much at home with these raging thrash basslines. I must say that as both a fan of BFMV since the early years and also as metal fan, it’s great to hear them going totally against the mainstream radio orientated sound of their last album Gravity and bringing back the heavy in droves. The wild frenzied solo of Parasite comes near then, before the machine gun drumming of Bowld kicks off first single Knives which yet again mixes Matt Tuck’s definitive sneering cleans with more roars than ever before, as the breakdown heavy riff gives some nice light and shade to the track. Bowld is a stand out here his drumming is thunderous providing the ear splitting rhythm for Matthais’ Tuck and Padge to riff against. For a band who have always danced between rock and metal in the past this seventh album is an outright metal record. 

Even slower offerings such as My Reverie have swaggering almost industrial flavour, adding that lyrical darkness and angst they had near the beginning of their career. There’s something here for everyone, if you fancy throwing up if you want volatile soloing? Then listen to no Happy Ending. Old school thrash? Paralysed. If you like a metalcore anthem? Then take Can’t Escape The Waves or the arena baiting chant along Bastards. Then for something decidedly modern sounding Shatter which features a wide ambient post-metal atmosphere and immense crushing guitars. BFMV haven’t sounded this vital for a long time, an explosive, in places savage record that despite being delayed by Covid is well worth the wait. Lets’ hope they continue with this more muscular and aggressive Bullet 2.0 going forward. 8/10 

The Darkness - Motorheart (Cooking Vinyl)
With stories of robots that have been designed for conjual purposes, alien love, a tragic 80's love story that is filled with German, a night out in Lowestoft and am ode to Glasgow, The Darkness' new album is as unhinged, mad and creative as ever! With what has happened in the past year a band that is literally fun distilled into a rock n roll show is always welcome and much like how their last album Easter Is Cancelled was the perfect tonic for Brexit, Motorheart, their seventh studio release is the ideal distraction from the pandemic. Not a single track mentions it, not a single track is inspired by it and not a single track on the 9 song record is in anyway downbeat or introspective. It's just pure, rock n roll delivered with a wall of big guitar riffs, hip shaking rhythms and a cheeky grin at all times. 

Kicking off the album Justin pays tribute to his favourite city, Glasgow "where the women are gorgeous and the food is ok", this percussive number built around Rufus Taylor's propulsion, bagpipes and Justin Hawkins doing his best Scottish brogue at points. It's a throwaway, silly opening track but one that builds into some fretboard burning from Justin as his brother Dan and bassist Frankie Poullain kick out the jams. As soon as you hear this song you can't help but have a goofy smile on your face. The punchy It's Love, Jim is an old school The Darkness number feeling like it could be on the seminal Permission To Land. It's classic The Darkness from beginning to end, nothing is supposed to be too intellectual or challenging, it's supposed to be stupid love songs and a lot of faux machismo (though Justin does currently look as if he could kick your ass if needs be). 

The remit of The Darkness is to have a bloody good time and on Motorheart they sound as if they are having a blast and no matter what anyone else thinks they are enjoying it. My advice is let loose and enjoy it with them, embrace the dramatic The Power And Glory Of Love, the choral jangle Goth of Speed Of The Nite Time, or the filthy and actually a little romantic Sticky Situations. Also we get full classic rock with the Lizzy-like rock of Eastbound where Justin names some of his old haunts and the folk punk thrash of No One Can See Me Cry where he can really open up those huge pipes of his, as Dan, Frankie and Rufus change time signatures all over the shop as Justin solos away. 

I've always loved The Darkness and as long as they keep releasing albums like this I always will. Rock n roll that doesn't take itself too seriously on face value but has some brilliant performances throughout. God save The Darkness as this is well enough to get your Motorheart beating! 9/10

Emma Ruth Rundle - Engine Of Hell (Sargent House) 

Stark, introspective and laid bare for all to see, musical enigma Emma Ruth Rundle's latest album was born from her want to be alone for a while. None of the musical exploration and widescreen compositions from her previous records, Engine Of Hell this is just voice, guitar and piano, an instrument that Rundle thought left in her past but included here as a metaphor for the imperfections and vulnerability of this record. Tracks such as Blooms Of Oblivion feel as if you are in the room as they are being recorded, the pained, whispered vocals breathily pouring out tales of dealing with heroin addiction while the piano plays along to Rundle recounting traumatic experiences from her past involving seeing a dead family member being wheeled away. 

It's a memoir and a retrospective, while it's also a collection of experiences both good and bad, the album is also a learning experience, Rundle dreamily recounting her past with in the most introspective way possible with just two instruments and her bewitching vocals. Tracks like Dancing Man and Razor's Edge are the most somber of the album despite them being totally different in terms of their lyrics. Engine Of Hell is a haunting claustrophobic listen that is also deeply personal, but somehow has lots of room to take away your own interpretations. Perhaps in her isolation Emma Ruth Rundle has created her most intimate album yet. 8/10    

Monolord - Your Time To Shine (Relapse Records)

Doom metal survivors Monolord return with album number five and the Swedish trio are looking inward on these five levithan tracks that shake your foundations with some downtuned, heavy riff worship. Recorded by drummer  Esben Willems, Monolord distilled a lot of uncertainty into a darker style than they've ever done before though this added darkness doesn't detract from their knack of hooking you in with a melody and huge choruses. The Weary opens up the album with some thundering riffs that effortlessly move into the first of this records many woozy psych elements. Thomas Jäger's guitars are excellent whether distorted or laced with clean buzzing while his vocals are echoed and spacial. On To Each Their Own both are displayed well as light moves into dark and then back again, the rhythm section of bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems ploughing a deep rooted furrow. 

There is a noticeable darker sound to this record, the guitars grind a bit more, things are more distorted but on I'll Be Damned they takes things back to some mind expanding blissfulness of their earlier releases, while the 10 minute title track ups the space/desert rock leanings of the band with a slow moving, foggy psych rocker that transitions into the sludgier, post-metal of The Siren Of Yersinia that closes out the record. Monolord continue to evolve with each album, here they approach things with a bit more gloom in their doom, will it continue? Who knows but it's this constant reinvention that have kept Monolord around for so long. 7/10  

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