Every once in a while the metal scene collectively pisses on a band or record and someone needs to step up and defend why they like it. We normally don’t spend a lot of time defending shitty records, but sometimes genuinely interesting or good records get lampooned by an overly conservative heavy metal scene and that calls for a professional contrarian to defend it! If ever there were professional contrarians, it would be the staff of AMG. So here we are to re-hash a record from our past that (some of us) love that everyone else seems to have soured on (or never liked in the first place).
Those trve metalheads knowledgeable beyond the commercial veneer offered by (insert famous bands here) generally object to metalcore. Who can stand the staccato breakdowns? The hyper-modern, brick-walled production? The haircuts? But worst of all, the popularity? Who could possibly support a band who have seen sufficient success to earn a respectable living off their work? The greedy bastards. Those with sufficiently open minds to acknowledge Wales’s second most popular rock export (we don’t talk about the other one…) will limit their superior views to the début The Poison. After that they sold out and got shit. Not only am I here to defend said sequel, I’m here to hail it as one of the greatest works in metalcore! What could be more indefensible than that?
Scream Aim Fire by Bullet For My Valentine does nothing new. By 2008, the scene was already densely populated – arguably overpopulated – with Killswitch Engage- and All That Remains-wannabes and the record was stylistically very similar to their American forebears. Almost every track is structurally identical, adhering to the age-old verse-chorus-verse format. Pre-choruses are almost as hooky as the choruses themselves and the brief instrumental passages prefacing the final, epic refrains repeatedly feature similar guitar solos. It’s all polished to a gleaming shine and presented with as many breakdowns as you can squash into 52 minutes.
It’s a testament, then, to the sticking power of the melodies here that this record made such an impression on my young mind and continues to be my go-to for metalcore (challenged only by Parkway Drive‘s Horizons and the recent Fortitude by Feed Her to the Sharks). The Gothenburg-inspired intro to the titular opening track is a statement of intent, as are the simplistic but enjoyable rolling drums used to ramp up the intensity. Other notable leads at the heavier end include those on “Take it Out On Me,” “End of Days” and “Waking the Demon,” all of which offer heavy but catchy rhythms to immediately engage the ADHD-afflicted listener. There are no throwaway riffs and everything is thoroughly engaging and intended to induce maximum head-banging.
At the more melodic end (though there isn’t anything here which isn’t ‘melodic’), Scream Aim Fire is arguably even better. The bathos-drenched intro on “Forever and Always” is exactly as schmaltzy as its title suggests but endlessly entertaining, and Matt Tuck’s lyrics instantaneously memorable – “Whoooooah, forget about the shit that we’ve been through! I wanna stay here forever and always.” The ridiculous but ridiculously catchy “Hearts Burst into Fire” was an absolute favorite from my teenage years with its introductory power chords and clean choruses culminating in one final attempt at making something, anything, sincere out of its absurd title – “when hearts burst into FIRE!”
The real highlight comes in the form of the third single, “Waking the Demon.” The heaviest passage of the album, the first half of this song, is juxtaposed with an orgasmic transition into an epic guitar melody and soaring vocals, draped in all the melodrama and appeals to an overly-emotional teenage audience that anyone could ever desire. I almost hate myself for loving something so gushy but when they nail the melodies this hard into your psyche it’s impossible to deny.
Hate and reject me if you must but I find it difficult to believe that someone can’t be drawn by the populist appeal of the chugging rhythms combined with insane hooks here. If you want somewhere to start with Bullet For My Valentine, start here. I do also recommend The Poison, which is somewhat more ‘respectable’ for its ‘grittier’ tone and ‘darker’ lyrics, but don’t bother past these. Afterwards they sold out and got shit.