Bullet For My Valentine - Gravity review


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Band: Bullet For My Valentine
Album: Gravity
Release date: June 2018

01. Leap Of Faith
02. Over It
03. Letting You Go
04. Not Dead Yet
05. The Very Last Time
06. Piece Of Me
07. Under Again
08. Gravity
09. Coma
10. Don't Need You
11. Breathe Underwater

Shoot for the stars but gravity will hold you down.

Bullet For My Valentine have a long history of shifting their sound to fit in better with the prevalent trend of the time, with each successive record making subtle but noticeable changes that seemed geared to broaden the band's appeal. Ever since Temper, Temper the band were about as subtle as a brick through a glass window with their intentions, with subsequent dramatic shifts becoming more par for the course. Gravity's sharp turn into a hugely electronic sound therefore does and does not come as a shock for anyone who has followed the band; given the prevalence of Imagine Dragons clones that polluted the music scene back in 2018, it is not hard to see what the band were using as a sonic template.

The title track is the best example of how the band try to embrace electronics with their own aesthetic, sounding like a standard Bullet For My Valentine song with keyboards and effects being used to fill in the sound where guitars once would have. In tandem with the embracing of electronics without embracing with them as a key component of the music but instead using them as mere musical polyseal, the band slow the tempo and over-rely on bursts of power to propel the tracks with energy rather than having a constant flow. These bursts of power punctuate the tracks but also highlight how empty the tracks are when they aren't there, with the generic keyboards or reverbed guitar riff filling out the sound but only to about a quarter of the glass, leaving you with a lot of empty space that isn't utilized.

Tracks like "Over It" are the closest the band get to using this newfound aesthetic to the benefit of the track, using it alongside the natural flow of the song, sitting on top of the guitars to add depth to a track rather than filling in blank space. The very next track "Letting You Go" highlights this issue in bright colours, with the meandering intro giving way to a so-so verse and chorus that shows the two ways electronics are used for better and worse.

The band themselves seem to sit in first gear for much of the record, with none of the songs driven along by any member of the band, instead running themselves out with everyone except Tuck's vocals listlessly playing their parts without stamping their presence on any of the songs. Newcomer Bowld (replacing longtime drummer Thomas) could honestly be replaced by a drum machine given how little he can impart any personality in his parts; it is not that he puts in a bad performance, but he is never given any opportunities to stick out from the noise. The same can be said for the rest of the band, with the guitar parts being the most generic strum alongs that anyone could be on the instrument and no audible difference could be established. Tuck and Paget have proved themselves to be solid on their instruments but you wouldn't know it if you don't already know their prior work; if this was a record from a new band then it is feasible one would think the two were newcomers to their instruments.

It is only on the last two tracks of the record that the band emerge from behind the wall of sound that has held them back thus far, with "Don't Need You" sounding like a Bullet For My Valentine song of old while "Breathing Underwater" is a faux-acoustic heartwarmer that lacks the conviction to really pull it off. While the quality of the songs vary, they are the only two that sound like the band playing (well Tuck and Paget anyway, with "Breathing Underwater" having no drums or bass featured).

The production of the record does double down on this issue, with the condensing and squishing together of all the different elements into a tight compartment leading to Tuck's vocals and the electronics being pushed to the fore, as everything and everyone else is pushed into the background. Case in point, it took me until the chorus of "The Very Last Time" to hear Matthias' bass without having to actively search for it.

Is it a case of mis-using electronic effects derailing what is otherwise a good record? Ultimately no, it serves as a lightning rod that (for good reason) gets attacked but at the same time it merely covers up the shortcomings in the songs themselves. Even if they were pushed to the back of the production, it would only serve to highlight how bare bones some of these tracks are, with songs like "Under Again" and "Leap Of Faith" being skeletons of songs with some clothes thrown on them to hide the fact.

The band try and fail to hitch their wagon to the latest radio ready style and as a result roll along going nowhere fast; with no engine to pull the songs along, you find yourself enduring rather than listening to the album. While they wouldn't be the only band to find themselves in the dust *coughPapaRoachcough* they don't offer up a good reason why listeners should sweep off the dirt, and sit down and hear the band out. Best left on the shelf where it can gather dust to cover up its shortcomings.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 6
Songwriting: 4
Originality: 3
Production: 6


Written on 17.11.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.

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