[8th January 2013]
[Lava Records/Universal Republic Records]
02. I Am Bulletproof
03. New Year’s Day
04. F.E.A.R. Transmission 1: Stay Close
05. Wretched and Divine
06. We Don’t Belong
07. F.E.A.R. Transmission 2: Trust
08. Devil’s Choir
09. Resurrect the Sun
11. Shadows Die
13. Days Are Numbered
14. Done for You
15. Nobody’s Hero
16. Lost It All
17. F.E.A.R. Transmission 3: As War Fades
18. In the End
19. F.E.A.R. Final Transmission
Before preparing to write this review of Black Veil Brides‘ third album Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones, I knew precisely two things about them. The first is that they are popular enough to headline at Brixton Academy, and the second that almost everybody seems to hate them. This interests me. What could a band be doing that earns them adulation and scorn in equal measures?
I’ve spent many years cultivating a sort of musical firewall that only lets in what I want it to, so up to now I’ve not knowingly heard even a note of their music. What, I wondered, was all the fuss about?
It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I sat down and pressed ‘play’ – and, when the nineteen tracks came to an end, I was somewhat perplexed…but not scarred. Most peculiarly, not a single riff, melody or lyric had managed to lodge itself in my memory.
Under normal circumstances, I’d be writing here about the sound and style, but in this instance it feels somewhat redundant. There seems to me to be the same relationship between metal and Black Veil Brides as there is between a chocolate pudding and a ‘chocolate-flavour dessert’. Sure, there are superficial similarities, but one leaves a faint chemical aftertaste, and has little nutritional value.
Indeed, drop out the harmonised twin guitar tracks and the occasional ham-fisted attempt at a breakdown and fill the gap with some twinkly electronica, and this is just another pop record. It sounds every bit as cynically contrived as the seemingly endless parade of anonymous karaoke honkers from Planet Cowell.
It is painfully apparent that I am well outside the target demographic: those that are still have a set bedtime and weekly pocket money. This is an album to be played after shouting “it’s not fair!”, stomping upstairs and slamming a bedroom door. It does occur to me that part of the reason these guys can play Brixton is because of the number of tickets sold to parents and chaperones that spend the evening loitering at the bar.
From a performance perspective, the music is played professionally to the point of pedestrian. I am left with the impression that nobody broke a string, snapped a stick, popped a blister or even broke a sweat during the recording sessions – and the result is as bland as a bran flake sandwich. You’ll find more legitimate danger in a soft play area.
My interest, however, was piqued by the lyrics, with a surprising outcome. There is a notional concept that is supposed to tie these tracks together, but it is so obvious and hackneyed that it is hardly worth bothering with. It should not come as a revelation that the lyrics are largely an anthology of somewhat denuded slogans of teenage angst that could have been collected by a focus group.
The revolution, it would appear, will be Disneyfied.
These lyrics also borrow pretty liberally from the rhetoric of evangelical Christianity. References to marching, battles and war in a kind of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” vein abound. Nowhere is this more apparent than in “Resurrect The Sun”, which has to count as one of the most feeble metaphors I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and in “New Year’s Day”, they sing “Faith will find a way, like lightning crashes” – and it is gently pleasing to remember that the way that lightning finds is the path of least resistance.
However, it is in reading these lyrics that I think I find the saving grace; the reason why I won’t begrudge the band their existence. It seems to me that the over-arching message is along the lines of “even if things feel tough, you are not alone and you can make it through” – and I can’t help but think that’s an excellent message to be giving to kids in the grip of that confused teen angst. If I had a child in the right age group, I think I’d much rather they listen to this than, for example, the unremitting futility of Papa Roach’s debut Old Friends from Young Years. To be serious for just one moment – teen depression is a real phenomenon. If this music, however deeply steeped in cliché it may be, speaks to some kids having a really shitty time of things in a positive way, then who are we to judge?
If you are older than a teenager, this album is not for you. For anyone already out of this age group, hating on it seems like almost as much of a waste of effort as listening to the wretched thing. Let the kids have their fun, safe in the knowledge that they’re probably going to spend the rest of their lives faintly embarrassed by that tweet calling this the “best album eva”.