Archive | March 2013

Album Review: Temper Temper by Bullet For My Valentine

ImageAlbum: Temper Temper
Artist: Bullet for My Valentine
Year: 2013
Genre: Metalcore
Label: RCA Records
Songs: 11 (Standard edition)

If I were asked to name the biggest codifiers of metalcore, I would probably point to Bullet for My Valentine. Opinions of the genre and the band aside, I would argue that the Welsh quartet are easily one of the biggest names in modern metal, responsible for popularising a sub-genre and bringing it into the realms of the easily marketable. Their 2005 debut The Poison was particularly successful (and not without reason, either) and their popularity has generally continued to rise with each new record they release.

This album might change that.

Temper Temper is the fourth release by the band and it’s easily their weakest. We’ve had 4 albums now. We’ve had our fill of teenage angst over lost girlfriends who cheated. We’re good for songs about our levels of pent-up rage and how much we really like this new girl. Unfortunately for us, Bullet for My Valentine haven’t had enough of writing about these subjects and so we must be subjected to another 45 minutes of grown men whining about teenage problems.

We begin, then, with Breaking Point. A loud and raucous scream heralds the beginning of the new album. We get a standard tremolo picked intro riff and a stuttering guitar line to back the verse. It builds up to a big chorus where vocalist and guitarist Matt Tuck gets to sing in tandem with the rest of the band. Rinse and repeat for 4 minutes, don’t forget to add in the whispered breakdown and a technically-proficient-but-devoid-of-soul solo and bang, done. Lyrically, the song is about pent-up anger, with choice lines written by master poet Tuck such as “It’s an eye for an eye/It’s an eye for an eye/It’s an eye for an eye/It’s an eye for an eye”. Everyone might well indeed have a breaking point, Tuck, and it seems you’ve almost found mine. Not a good start.

We continue with Truth Hurts, a song about how drugs are bad which features the brilliant song structure employed by Bullet for My Valentine, in which the chorus is repeated no less than 4 full times in succession. In its favour, the song does feature a strong octave-based riff that belies the band’s hardcore punk origins, but it’s utterly unmemorable and is quickly forgotten. We move onto the title track, Temper Temper. It’s a song about pent-up anger and utterly bland metalcore riffs. Ho hum. If I must say something positive about this song (and it is a struggle) it’s that the video that debuted with it does feature Kyle Gass of Tenacious D running rampant hitting hordes of stereotyped teenagers with a plastic baseball bat, and I think we can agree that’s basically a good thing.

Track 4, P.O.W., opens with an eerily familiar riff and takes the spot of the designated slightly-quieter and slower song. In fairness, despite the fact that the music feels too familiar for comfort, it features Matt Tuck’s best singing so far on the album and is a welcome change of tone and pace. It’s still a standard metalcore quiet song, but it is better than the previous three songs. It’s not exactly high praise, but it’s the most this album can aspire to. Dirty Little Secret is also a slow song; it features the exact same song structure as P.O.W. (slow intro/verse, heavy chorus, slow verse, heavy chorus, breakdown, chorus, like every uninspired slow metal song since Metallica’s Fade to Black) and the same attitude to lyrical repetition as the rest of the album – in one section, the line “Dirty little secrets” is repeated no less than 8 times. Full marks for originality, guys.

We follow these quieter moments with Leech, a song about someone who gatecrashes a party. No, really. Here, a couple lines of lyrics to illustrate the point: “Your invitation, it doesn’t exist/So tell me why you keep crashing the party”. Now, I’m sure you could argue a deeper metaphorical meaning to this, but given the track record set by the album thus far I’d be inclined to disagree.

The next track is Say Goodnight – sorry, Dead to the World. Lyrically, it’s not the worst of the album, although it does feature the awkward lines “Lost without hope/Hope is now lost”. Other than that line, it’s fine; inoffensive, but it pushes no boundaries and recycles the standard tropes you’ve come to expect from the band. It does have a pretty good solo though, even if it only stands out by dint of being one of the only solos on the album.

Next we’re treated to¬†Riot and it’s pretty much the worst song in Bullet for My Valentine’s discography since – well, since Leech, to be honest. The main riff is awful and hits true heights of repetition, while the lyrics alternate between the standard full-band “Woahs” to lines like “Here comes the sirens, here comes the law/Run from the sirens, run from the law”. Musically, it is the absolute nadir of the album, and it’s almost hard to believe it came from the same band who crafted the brilliant riffs of The Poison.

I’m almost glad to listen to a track like Saints & Sinners after Riot. It’s honestly almost pleasant to be back to the comfortable territory of mediocrity, with forgettable lyrics about whatever Matt is warbling about this time. Anything to escape from the call to anarchy that permeates Riot, because that’s what kids want to hear about these days. One of these days I’d like to hear a band that calls for anarchy by singing about actual anarchic theory, rather than this utter tripe of affected anti-authority that record companies and bands shovel out to the masses. Give me a band that sings about Kropotkin, please.

Tears Don’t Fall Part 2 is, clearly, a call-back to the hit single from The Poison. It plays with the same lyrical themes, acting as a loose continuation of the story of Matt Tuck trying to get in touch with a girl. Not only does it continue the lyrical themes, but it also follows the song structure and music of the first song; where the first song is quiet, so is this one. Where the first song is loud and heavy, so is this one. Where the first song features screams, so does this one. This would be, in a small way, kind of clever, had it not been something that has been done many, many times more effectively by far better bands – Metallica’s Unforgiven trilogy leap to mind. In fact, by the end chorus, this song even tries to do the Unforgiven II thing of echoing the original’s lyrics between the lines of the actual chorus. Again, Tears Don’t Fall Part 2 is inoffensive and forgettable, serving as a bland filler track in an album constructed entirely of bland filler tracks.

Finally, mercifully and with a long-awaited sigh, we come to end of the album. Livin’ Life (On the Edge of a Knife) is another boring example of how mediocre metalcore can be when it is filtered through so many layers of what is decreed popular by record labels and then attempted to be played by a band who seem to be utterly devoid of passion. Like the majority of the album, it washes over you with nary an echo remaining in your ears. As the song ebbs away, and the album with it, I’m left with nothing but a sense of blissful silence.

Make no mistake, Temper Temper is not a good album. Bullet for My Valentine have produced some good stuff before – personally, I rate The Poison rather highly and I enjoyed both Scream Aim Fire and Fever though neither had quite the energy and creativity of the debut. But this, this is bad. It is boring. It is saturated in what record companies deem “edgy” enough to appeal to the teenage market while still being radio-friendly. I’d say it’s an insulting mess of an album that has no shred of creativity, passion or soul in it, but even now, barely 10 minutes after it has finished playing for the fourth time, I can’t even remember it. That’s what this is, more than anything else – unmemorable. And from a band like Bullet for My Valentine, I think that’s a true shame.

Best songs: P.O.W. and Dead to the World
Worst songs: Leech and Riot
Recommendation: Avoid.

Cheers,

Jim

(Originally published on The Escapist: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.401629-Music-Review-Temper-Temper-by-Bullet-For-My-Valentine)

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