A ‘Fever’ For my Valentine

The burgeoning period of metal that gave us the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath might have been a golden age that can’t be topped. Yet, in the shadow of those revolutionary bands, Bullet For My Valentine has emerged as a major metal force to be reckoned with on a global scale.

Hailing from the UK, Bullet broke into its home country and pierced America with a palatable brand of metal on its debut album, “The Poison.” Sing-a-long choruses and a keen penchant for melody replaced incessant growling and cacophonous riffage. Then in a near 180, the band’s follow-up, “Scream Aim Fire,” as intense as its title, saw Bullet reveling in thrash metal with intense double-bass kicks and lightning speed riffs.

On its newest album, “Fever,” the Welsh metal-ers swing the pendulum more toward hard rock, opting for a chunky, mid-tempo sound that pits itself halfway between “The Poison” and “Scream Aim Fire.” But that doesn’t mean Bullet has toned it down. Blistering solos and razor-fast shredding are still in full effect. Vocalist/guitarist Tuck and guitarist Michael Paget continue to employ their signature minor-key harmonizing, adding extra ear candy and greater depth to the songs.

It just so happens that the focus this time around is on making the vocals more prominent. Nevertheless, guitar dueling and menacing drum patterns still manage to steal the limelight as a reminder that Bullet has top-notch musical chops.

“The Last Fight” offers a snapshot of the new direction, effectively blending the elements of Bullet’s first two albums, using thick chords and melodic voicings as a backdrop to highlight Tuck’s vocals while featuring a finger-busting solo with a classical twist.

On the opposing end of the spectrum, “Pleasure and Pain” is a no-holds-barred thrash metal that is prime mosh pit material. Brutality is the name of the game here, and Bullet doesn’t let down, charging ahead at a machine gun rate with a healthy dose of screaming. Perhaps a tad painful on the ears, but undoubtedly pleasurable.

The purest and proudest metal moment comes in the form of “Alone,” beginning with Dream Theater-esque virtuosity. Padge’s guitar histrionics are put on proper display here, as he brings out all the tools from the woodshed, including two-hand tapping and squealing pinch harmonics while running through scales up and down the neck in record time.

The opener, “Your Betrayal,” sees Bullet breaking some new ground with an extended introduction of battle ready drumming and thick palm-muted riffs while Tuck whispers “Am I going insane?” The “woe is me” self-pity that abounded during the nu-metal era is a bit overdone at times. Otherwise, it’s a heavy opener that prepares you the full-on guitar onslaught of the title track and Michael “Moose” Thomas’ relentless pounding.  The influence of producer Don Gilmore, known for his work with Linkin Park, is visibly apparent as Bullet goes for a more streamlined sound at times, occasionally repulsing against its identity. This is most obvious on the slightly hardcore-emo tinged “Bittersweet Memories,” which will probably have some fans cringing at its crossover pop appeal and “soft” lyrics. Regardless, it’s a catchy tune that could convert a new legion of followers.

Within the metal scene, Tuck is one of the few vocalists who can successfully transition between singing and screaming, evoking strong harmonies while also giving his vocal chords a beating during the band’s harsher moments. The interjection of “whoa’s” from time to time seems like a conscious attempt to reach for stadium rock stardom, but Tuck has plenty of screaming carnage to please Bullet’s dedicated fans.

At times however, Tuck could use a little work on his lyrics. Lines like “Come here you naughty girl / you’re such a tease” sound like they came straight off a Nickelback record. Meanwhile, Tuck’s insistence for his significant other to “Just take off that disguise / You’re only pretty on the outside” doesn’t quite suit Bullet’s aggressive style. Bullet should stick to addressing more serious subjects and let the pop idols tackle less substantive topics like sexual infatuation and superficiality.
Despite this drawback, Bullet establishes a cohesive brand of melodic metal on “Fever” that doesn’t merely rehash its past work. The attempt to integrate more of a hard rock sound at times is a minor cause for concern. Yet, there is plenty of technical prowess and intensity that should cease any worries that Bullet is going ultra mainstream. For the time being, “Fever” has an infectious quality with enough instant gratification to put Bullet For My Valentine as a frontrunner in the metal scene.