Innovation is a fine thing, but it has its drawbacks. For a rock band, trying to create a unique sound that has never been heard before is surely a bit pointless when most of their audience are naïve teenagers (is there any other kind?) with a limited knowledge of rock music’s vast back catalogue. Better to find a sound that you are comfortable playing and then develop your ability to perform it at the highest level. This is the driving philosophy of metalcore band, Bullet for My Valentine who tour Japan in August, a couple of months before releasing the follow–up to their 2005 debut album The Poison.
Metalcore refers to bands that are happiest playing the traditional 1980s style of heavy metal music, instead of all the subgenres and fusions that followed in its wake.
"I think that’s where each of our hearts lie," guitarist Michael Padget commented by phone from his home in South Wales. "That's the type of music we've always listened too and still do. Our musical influences are a part of us, so having those kinds of styles in our music is perfectly acceptable."
Among the main influences the talented guitarist mentions are classic 80s metal bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Machine Head, and Judas Priest. But when Bullet started out in 1998 under the name 'Jeff Killed John,' they were initially influenced by Nu–Metal. This was the now much unloved mid-90s fusion of metal, grunge, funk and hip–hop, spearheaded by bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. One of the advantages of Nu–Metal, however, was that it was easy to play.
"It wasn't really my cup of tea," Padget admitted. "But we were kind of in the Nu–Metal vein at the time, which meant we were more of a chording band. We used to struggle to play riffs and there were rarely any solos in our songs. But as we got better at our instruments, over those eight years we kind of developed into Bullet. We picked up the pace on the guitars and the drums and started playing more riffs and solos."
They soon abandoned the sinking ship of Nu–Metal and switched to a more traditional form of metal that was starting to find favor again with rock audiences. The band signed to an independent record label and released The Poison in 2005. With soaring anthems likes All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me) and barnstorming rockers like 4 Words (To Choke Upon) , the album impressed hard rock fans and helped the band win the 'Best British Newcomer' award for the same year from Kerrang Magazine, the UK's top rock publication. This acclaim also led to tours supporting the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Guns 'N Roses. In part, this was a testament to how 'traditional' the band sounded.
"When we were on tour with Iron Maiden," Padget recalled. "The guys would come into the dressing room and say, 'We saw your show last night. It was great,' etc. So it's really good to have our heroes come up to us and say that was really good."
But for a band treading so closely in the footsteps of their heroes, isn’t there a danger of covering ground that has already been well covered?
"Unfortunately it's hard to be truly original these days because a lot of the music has been done before," Padget agreed. "To come up with something brand new and original is really tricky. But I think we've kind of established our sound."
Rather than seeking novelty for novelty's sake, the band's focus is on continuing to improve their musicianship and, in the person of singer Matt Tuck, an element of showmanship and charisma that would put many boy bands in the shade. Having found a winning formula and a dedicated audience, any radical innovation would frankly be a bit of gamble, Padget admits.
"If we do that, we're only going to get shot down for it."
The instrumental parts of the new album, including new songs Disappear and Waking The Demon, have already been finished, but, with Tuck recovering from a recent operation to remove his tonsils, the vocals have understandably been delayed. So, when it's finally released, what can fans expect?
"I'd say it's a continuation and it's a progression," Padget responded. "With this new one, we've tried to elaborate on everything that's heavy and elaborate on everything that's mellow, opening the parts up, making them better. The musicianship has totally gone up a gear. I wouldn't say it’s really super technical, but it's definitely a technical progression on what we did on The Poison. So musically there will be a difference there – better hooks and better harmonies. We tried a lot of alternate harmonies, just to find the sweetest ones. There will definitely be more guitar solos. I’ve been trying to keep it in a classy vein rather than just thrashing and shredding."
If Bullet can improve on their strong debut, then October's follow–up is sure to be an important rock album. Japanese fans can expect to get an early preview in August.
2007 AUG 28 Tue - TOKYO : SHIBUYA-AX
2007 AUG 30 Thu - NAGOYA : Diamond Hall
2007 AUG 31 Fri - OSAKA : BIG CAT
International Herald Tribune
6th July, 2007