Friday, June 29, 2018

Album Review: Bullet For My Valentine - Gravity

It's funny how no matter the form you're talking about, the biggest names that loom over the scene are far smaller than you would ever imagine. Just as the biggest movies of a given year reach a small fraction of the potential audience, so to do the biggest bands. Bullet For My Valentine is a heavy-hitter in the rock world, with a stature placing them in the upper tier, and yet I can't recall ever sitting down and listening to one of their records before. There is simply so much music to get through that even the biggest of names can slide by without realizing it. So in perhaps an interesting development, I get to experience their latest work with fresh ears and few expectations.

The key takeaway from "Gravity" is that this is a thoroughly modern rock record, where the guitars and aggression are balanced equally with synths and electronics. That is a sound that does sound fresh and current, but can also be a tough pill to swallow. I, for one, have never warmed to electronic elements in my music, despite how long they have been around.

The core of the band's sound is still anthemic rock music, the kind that will fill the venues they play live. Songs like "Over It" will go over great live, with plenty of opportunity for the audience to sing along when the chorus comes along. These are the kind of songs where the band is at their best, and where their music has a chance to achieve what they want it to. But then there are songs like "Letting You Go", where they go for a more aggressive sound, and in doing so strip away all the melody from the music. That leaves a song which lacks a hook, and even the guitar tone becomes harsh when the focus is put on it.

There are also a number of songs where the verses are soft beds of ambience with some crooning, which can come across a bit lifeless before the choruses come. If they come. "The Very Last Time" is the most electronic song on the album, and even the hook of the song is rather ambient, without any strong guitar presence. That leaves the song sounding small.

After getting off to a solid start, "Gravity" loses steam quickly. Maybe it's just because the electronic elements don't appeal to me at all, but the songs in the middle of the record fall flat, without memorable melodies. They float along like a wispy cloud on a summer day, barely visible as the sun slowly tears it to pieces. I can hear the band has the ability to put together songs that are far more effective, but the choices they make here don't do them any favors. They intentionally blunt the sharp edge off the music, which turns the killer instinct into a game of epee.

From what I had heard about Bullet For My Valentine over the years, I was expecting more from them. "Gravity" isn't a bad album, but it's too chill and laid-back in many places to make the statement it should. I don't know if rock and ambient electronics can mix, but I don't think they do here. "Gravity", I would say, is a disappointment.

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