Hearing that Black Veil Brides had a new album coming was possibly the best bit of news I had this year, especially with the hints that it was to be their “heaviest” and “darkest” album yet. As much as I like 2013’s Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, it was no We Stitch These Wounds (possibly my favourite Black Veil Brides album), and I was hoping for a return to that. When they released the first single, Faithless, I at first wasn’t keen, but it quickly grew on me and I thought that if the whole album was going to be like that, it would be pretty good. Then the next single, Heart of Fire, was released, and my expectations for this album just shot sky–high. That’s where the problem starts really: my expectations were too high. But do you blame me? I went to see them on the 16th of October, and as well as playing the two aforementioned tracks, they played one more new song which had yet to be released: Last Rites. When CC opened up with that drum line, my friend and I just looked at each other with the biggest grins on our faces – it genuinely made me think “this could actually be their heaviest album yet!” Needless to say, I was very excited for the 27th of October.
I woke up that Monday morning and raced right downstairs so I could listen to all the previews on amazon and iTunes – my plan was to wait for the post and listen to the full album, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I listened to all the previews that I could, and I was still excited – but I felt there was something missing. Every time I tried to reply the songs in my head, they all sounded so…generic, almost pop-y. I was hoping the full album would prove me wrong, and it did. Kind of.
The album opens with Heart of Fire, which is by far my favourite song of the album and so is a good starting point. It’s a really good song, and very catchy – I always get a stupid grin when I hear Andy sing “Not living for this anymore, you want a fight – I’ll bring the war”. I think it’s the lyrics combined with the melody, you have to smile! It’s definitely a strong opening song, and I don’t have anything against this one (although I hate that “fire” is pronounced “fiy-yuh” rather than how it should be…), which certainly makes a change!
Faithless is the second song on the album, and again is another strong one – I really love the opening, although I’m not keen on the moments where the sound goes almost muted. When I’m listening to it through headphones, the sound is great and all around me, then suddenly and briefly it’s like it’s only in one ear, which isn’t something I like. At all. But otherwise, it’s quite frankly a brilliant introduction to a really good song. I’d like to take a moment to note down my favourite lyric, which comes from the chorus: “Even when I fall down to my knees, I’ll never say a prayer I don’t believe”. The reason I love it is because of how ambiguous it is – while one person may take it as them saying they’ll never say a prayer because they don’t believe in a religion or the likes, another person may interpret it as them saying they won’t say a prayer that they don’t believe in. That’s not the only time I’ve loved the ambiguity of a Black Veil Brides lyric; although the only example I can think of at the moment is from the song Set the World on Fire from the album of the same name: “[…] children crying when all they knew was dying”. I like that one, as it makes me wonder if the children are crying because all they’ve known is death and dying, or if it’s because everything they know is just dying around them – there’s not much better than a song that makes you think!
The next song, Devil in the Mirror, is another one with a good beginning, and it retains that throughout. The tune is catchy, and when I listen to it I find myself nodding along and tapping my foot – it’s that kind of song. I quite like the chorus too; it’s just as catchy as the rest of the song, but there’s just something about it that really makes me want to sing. Which I usually do, I’m pleased to say! The only thing I’m a bit iffy on is, strangely enough, the chorus – at points it seems like the kind of thing you might find in a more “pop” song than in something I associate with Black Veil Brides. I can’t really put it into words what I think of it, there’s just something there (that wasn’t there before) which doesn’t quite fit in. Regardless, it’s a very good song, and one that I look forward to getting to hear live one day!
Goodbye Agony is, for me, a song that, for the most part, is just…there. There’s nothing spectacular about it, nothing that really stands out to me. It’s a good song (when I remember it exists), but I don’t have anything of note to say about it, so to flesh out this paragraph a little I’m going straight on to song number five, World of Sacrifice. I think that fact that I was listening to this and thought I was still on the previous song says a hell of a lot for this one… I’m not saying it sounds exactly the same, it’s just pretty similar – and that’s something I’ve felt about a few of the songs on this album. There’s just nothing different and exciting! Oh well, at least they’re catchy I suppose, I’m sure that’s got to count for something?
Ah, now here we are at my most anticipated song of the album, Last Rites! Two words: what happened. It sounded so good when they played it, there were screams, it had an utterly FANTASTIC start, and it was just an altogether amazing song. But this? This just wasn’t what I was looking for. For one thing, no screams – that’s practically heart-breaking for someone who loves the screams! Even the introduction was lacking something that was there in the concert; I don’t want to go so far as to say it was lacking energy, but it definitely didn’t give off the “heavy” vibes that it did live. Again, it’s still an enjoyable song… unfortunately it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
But do you know what, that’s okay. Because the next song, Stolen Omen, really brings this album back up. And not just because there’s screaming (but that helps!), but because it’s overall great. I actually think this is the first song on the album that I’ve heard just the beginning and thought “this sounds pretty heavy!”, which being the seventh song in on an album claiming to be the heaviest yet probably isn’t great. This song though, it’s just so good. Words fail me, to be honest, but I do love it. That’s another one that would be amazing to hear live – so I’m looking forward to the next time they tour the UK!
Of course, no Black Veil Brides album would be complete without a nice, ballad-style song. On their first album, we had The Mortician’s Daughter (my favourite BVB song ever), on the second album we had Saviour, and on last year’s album we had Done For You. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t put a slower/softer song on this album, but Walk Away pretty much fits the bill! Admittedly it’s not as good as the aforementioned slow songs, and there’s too much “woah”-ing for my liking, but I’m so glad it’s there – I think I would have been pretty upset if they hadn’t put in the almost obligatory (in my mind) slow song, so hurray!
Ugh, again with the woah-ing?! That’s practically the first thing you hear in Drag Me to the Grave, other than, oddly enough, the cry of “Drag me to the grave!”, but luckily it doesn’t last long… until the chorus, it turns out. What is with the woahs? I don’t like them; they’re just not right for these songs. Frankly, they almost ruin them for me – they’re so off-putting! Ignoring that (I wish I could), it’s yet another addictive song with a catchy tune, and I always, always find myself singing along to the chorus. Even when I’m not singing, my foot’s tapping or I’m nodding my head, which I’m sure mildly concerns the people who share my buses.
Only two songs left, and then I’m done – I promise! The penultimate song is The Shattered God, and it definitely shattered something within me, possibly any and all hope I had for this album’s redemption… Well, it’s not that bad, I’m just being dramatic. But this isn’t a great song, in my opinion – it’s gone back to the almost too poppy to suit the album/band kind of thing, which is a shame. It’s not even one I can sing along with either; probably because when Andy sings “You are, you are the shattered god”, I was convinced he was singing “you are the shadow god/shadow of god”, until I discovered the song title – THEN I managed to hear the lyrics correctly. But hey, it’s otherwise a nice and cheerful song – my favourite is the part where he sings “You are, you are forever alone”. It’s like he’s singing right to me! All sarcasm aside, I do like that line, it’s one of the few I can understand.
And now, the final song, Crown of Thorns, bringing with it the burning question: will the album end on a high? Well it sounds pretty similar to the previous song…and the nine before that… Honestly, that’s my main criticism of this whole album. It all just sounds so similar. With their other album, I can tell pretty much straight away what song is playing, but with this album it takes me a while because, bar at least the first two tracks, there’s not an awful lot to differentiate between them. And that’s a shame, because I was so looking forward to this album and wanted to see how they’d improved as a group. Don’t get me wrong, the band play extremely well, and seeing them live is an amazing experience, but they’re just lacking something on this album. I read a review on iTunes which said that although it was a good album, it sounded like it had been recorded in a bubble – and that’s exactly right. From my first listen, I’ve thought it sounded just too clinical and put together. It’s one thing having an album that flows well; it’s something else entirely having an album which sounds like one song…
Overall, I enjoy the album and think it’s good fun to listen to (and as I’ve said, I look forward to hearing it all live), but their first two albums – We Stitch These Wounds and Set the World on Fire – are far, far superior. As much as I’d have loved to have been able to give it 5–stars, I’m afraid it’s only really deserving of 3.5.
And don’t even get me started on that bad attempt at an Iron Maiden album cover…