(Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records, out Fri 29 Jun 2018)
Anyone who spent the mid-2000s in tattered Converse, studded belts, and with a colourful fringe hanging over heavily lined eyes may fondly remember the epic scream-fest that typically defined a Bullet For My Valentine album. Well rejoice, emos past and present! This summer, the Welsh rock legends return to our speakers and stages with Gravity, their first release on Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records.
The first point of interest on opening track Leap of Faith, is the somewhat uncharacteristic synth-rich introduction. Appropriately, it reflects how the band have taken a leap of faith themselves, following the recent trend of other celebrated emo icons from the last decade, adding more electronic elements to their distinct signature sounds. It’s an experiment that pays off on this particular track, transitioning neatly into the familiar sound of thrashing guitars and growling vocals of founding members Michael Paget and Matt Tuck.
Following on from a promising opening, second track Over It serves as a showcase for frontman Tuck’s striking voice, and will have listeners burrowing in the wardrobe for those long-forgotten wristbands and gig t-shirts. Other songs on Gravity that evoke the heavy, hard-hitting sound fans know and love include Piece of Me, with a menacing yet alluring whisper of “Give me a reason”, Under Again, and Don’t Need You. Those looking for more experimental creations may want to focus on Not Dead Yet, with its rhythm sounding almost upbeat compared to past Bullet For My Valentine songs, title track Gravity with its otherworldly undertones, and acoustic closing number Breathe Underwater, where Tuck’s voice carries a heavy emotional impact.
Thematically, Gravity follows the usual Bullet For My Valentine pattern: pain, betrayal, redemption, and overcoming adversity. As a result, there is a strong sense of remaining in the comfort zone, with the electronic experiments suggesting tentative steps outside of said comfort zone. However, with the newer elements at play in Gravity, there is also a notable absence of more classical Bullet traits, in particular the fast-flowing guitar solos, performed with effortless precision by Tuck and Paget in earlier albums. Is this a conscious sacrifice in the name of musical evolution, or an unusual omission of a key sound that makes the album fall flat overall? The floor is open to debate on that one.