It seems an age since I last joined a queue for an arena show. The global situation has meant that since summer, gigs have quietly grown in size and now I finally find myself back enjoying the full experience of a major stage production. What better opportunity to do that than the hometown show of Bullet For My Valentine, straight off the back of the release of their new album of the same name.
Once I had passed through the covid security checks (Wales being somewhat more secure and virus conscious than back in England) there was no time to waste as the first band took to the stage at 7 (bit of a surprise that as tickets said 7.30!). Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for the first band on in a big venue as getting any kind of reaction from the few who get in early can be challenging. No problem for Scottish metal five-piece Bleed from Within who hit the stage with such energy that almost immediately a pit formed that took up any space that had existed. It was a short but brutal set with vocalist Scott Kennedy whipping the crowd into ever more appreciative response and the reaction as they took a bow after ‘The End of All We Know’ spoke volumes.
Sandwiched between the brutality, TesseracT brought something more structured and melodic but still underpinned with crushing power. Vocalist Daniel Tompkins is a mesmerising performer and TesseracT constructed intricate soundscapes against a background of varying rhythms. A series of scalpel cuts rather than the axe blows that preceded them on stage. The ebb and flow of light and shade in the set made for quiet appreciation rather than out and out moshing. The level of applause at the end of the set showed just how well they went down though.
Soon though it was the time for the homegrown heroes to take the stage. The new album had been released literally two days before and the set opened with the same static bursts as the album accompanied by two big screens of graphics. A burst of light and Matt Tuck screamed “You Fucking Parasite” and the place erupted. Holy crap this was heavy stuff. Bodies flying everywhere and a sea of as many legs in the air as arms.
BFMV brought with them one heck of a light show. Besides the two screens are a sea of ever-changing and strobing lights that stretch from floor to ceiling and swing to the wing of the stage. It is visually stunning and complements the energy perfectly. Padge looked reborn. Prowling and glaring at the audience as he let rip on his guitar as if wanting to punish it for being responsible for being away from an audience for so long. Matt Tuck – effortlessly cool in black leather – only occasionally stepped back from the mic to shred in support, and screamed out the vocals with a snarl. Jamie Mathias put down some thundering bass lines, but the standout performer for me was drummer Jason Bowld. He was indefatigable and just listening to his stunningly technical drumming was an utter education.
There was very little back and forth with the audience. Tuck only briefly interrupted proceedings to thank the crowd for their reaction or to introduce a song, but later in the show, he seemed genuinely humble when he thanked the crowd for sticking with them for so long and said how it still feels crazy to look out from a stage that he used to be part of the audience watching. The setlist is superbly chosen to represent the full spectrum of output. It showcases right back to the first album and the new songs highlight just how deliciously heavy and visceral the current material really is. It also features a mix of light and shade, with several of the “lighter” songs being sung back by a remarkably tuneful Welsh choir whenever the band gave them space.
The band left the stage, and for a while, I was a bit bemused where they had gone, before I realised that the assault of light and sound had already been in progress for well over an hour and it was now time for the encores! It has been a long time since I have been that caught up in a performance. As they age, bands might be expected to soften and mellow, but on the strength of the new material showcased tonight “Bullet” are angry and harder than ever!
Review and pics – Rob Wilkins