Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
Mighty Welsh rockers ‘Bullet for My Valentine’ have embarked on their UK & European tour, tonight brings them to the O2 Academy in the heart West Midlands.
On getting to the venue with 30 minutes to go until the doors open, there is a healthy queue already gathered in the cold. Yet again the UK weather is threatened with ‘The Beast from the East’, with plummeting temperatures forecast, it hasn’t deterred the fans from turning out in summer festival attire though. It’s going to be a sweaty one inside without a doubt.
It’s a triple header tonight with the Metalcore giants ATREYU opening the proceedings with ‘Strange Powers of Prophecy’, a brutal onslaught which sees front man Brandon Saller, parading in a black and white leather jacket, his bald head is already shining under the bright lights. The crowd are cheering and singing along to this callosal opener from the 2021 album ‘Baptize’.
This is followed up with an equally thunderous rendition of 2007’s ‘Becoming the Bull’. Saller has again been parading across the stage before jumping into the pit and shaking the hands of the front line of fans. This wasn’t enough as he disappears into the crowd, the place is heaving so whilst still singing along he roams and befriends the entire crowd.
The rest of the band point and cheer from the stage as they continue the song. Mohawk adorned Dan Jacobs is stood on the riser grinning as he strokes his red ESP guitar, as frontman Saller re-joins them only to walk off and remove his leather, the sweat streaming down his face.
Saller tells the crowd that it’s the most switched on any crowd has been from the get go, in the 6 weeks they’ve been on tour, before firing into ‘The Time is Now’ from 2018’s ‘In Our Wake’. This is another thundering tune which has the crowd chanting along with the band immediately. At one point the drums briefly drop into a Queen ‘We Will Rock You’ groove before the crowd join back in with a riotous sing along full of cheers and whistles. Saller drops the frayed voice out for an airing on this tumultuous tune.
Standing on the riser, arm out to the crowd he absorbs the praise as the chanting for the band continues. A trip to 2006 follows after a command for a circle pit to open up. The heavy hitting Kyle Rosa is beating the drums hard as ‘Ex’s and Oh’s’ slams into the faces of the crowd.
An older fan favourite has the crowd yet again singing along. The collective are bouncing as one as, again, the frayed vocal is careering around the venue. Jacobs and Miguel’s guitars are scream loud, laying down the dirty riffs as McKnight’s bass is rumbling your kidneys about like gems in a rock polisher. ‘Save Me’ follows on with its heavy beats and heads nodding hard.
The guitars harmonise as they scream in unison. The crowd repeat the vocal ‘Save Us’ back and forth with Saller before the song finally finishes, again to huge applause and the crowd once again chanting for the band, much to their delight.
Birmingham gets told that tonight is the best night of the tour bar none. The crowd are told a new song dropped, if you know it, we want you sing it at the top of your voice, if you don’t know it, get in the circle pit. The new song is called ‘Drowning’, “1-2-3” Saller roars before dropping into a clean vocal momentarily. The frayed vocal is there as he alternates voices. He shouts encouragement to the crowd as the band flood your senses with a wall of sheer brutality. The song finishes the same way it started, with a frayed roar.
He shouts ‘shall we keep this party going tonight’, to which he introduces bass player, Porter McKnight to help with the growls and screams. After a call for the whole venue to be a circle pit, we have the demonic screams of McKnight calling as ‘Battle Drums’ plays out. He’s up on the riser, is long beard reaching out before him. Industrial noises fight with his demonic howls as Travis Miguel rips a lick or two as the crowd clap along.
The song is a veritable smorgasbord of sounds, screams and cleans. Saller calls for noise for the yet to play Jinjer and Bullet for My Valentine, before asking for cheers for themselves. Saller says this is the least favourite part of the night, it’s the last song of the set. He promises to be back for a headline show. A vocal barrage flows back and forth amongst the band members.
A memory of a previous visit when the band where off avocado shopping, is shared with the crowd, “ as hands meet across the avocado story is told the band starts, ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’, the Whitney Houston classic, the vocal is being led by Saller, as the crowd sing along, the song starts up properly and a few bars are played before it suddenly stops. What a tease. The crowd boo until Saller says he’ll play the full song on their returning headline tour; he knows the band will hate him for suggesting that. He better play it the fans have long memories.
The night is finished with ‘Blow’ from 2007. The sound of a struck cowbell rings out as the song takes off. The crowd sing the lines that Saller omits to sing, on purpose. This is a hard-hitting banger of a song. A great tune to wrap the night up with. You can never have too much cow bell. The set finishes with the crowd chanting for more as Saller again promises to return soon.
ATREYU are – Brandon Saller – Clean Vocals, Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight – Bass, & Growling frayed Vocals, Dan Jacobs – Guitar, & Mohawk, Travis Miguel – Guitar, Kyle Rosa – Drums.
After a brief set change-over we are ready for JINJER. This Ukrainian band from Donetsk, formed in 2008, interestingly the band have none of the founding members present today. With a couple of EP releases before they launched their first long player in 2014, the simply named ‘Cloud Factory’, the band have since gone on to grab the attention of Metalcore fans world-wide. Since doing so they have travelled far and wide and released a further 3 albums, the latest being ‘Wallflower’ in 2021.
Already, as we are getting close to the set time, the partisan crowd have started chanting for them, the lights have now dimmed and slowly the band come on one by one to massive cheers. The set is still dark as they strike up in the opener ‘Who Is Gonna Be the One’, from 2014’s ‘Cloud Factory’ the much-awaited debut album.
This instantly has the crowd bouncing as Tatiana ‘slinks’ onto the stage in her catsuit, the swirling patterns and lines on it are activated by the Black Lights around the set, its glowing with a green intensity, showing off her form incredibly.
Arms over head she stands on the central riser and greets the crowd, her neon eye makeup out emphasising her eyes, which are darting around the venue with a mischievous glint, before dropping into that familiar growling roar and throwing her head forward clutching her microphone with both hands, her triple plaited pony tails whooshing over her head as she does so.
The drums crash out hard and fast. The guitar of Roman Ibramkhalilov is dark and moody as he stands in his bucket hat in near darkness, except for the odd pulse of light, on the other side of the stage, Eugene Abduchanov has his 5-string bass grooving out an earth moving riff. The tempo changes constantly as ‘Tati’ hits the breakdown with growls and frayed vocals.
The crowd join in with a round of clapping as the clean vocal returns to finish the track. the crowd cheer but the drums have already started as we go into ‘Copycat’, from the latest album ‘Wallflowers’, this is a furious amalgam of fast beats and distorted vocals.
Tati’ is pacing about for this one a bit more. Taking time at each side of the stage to sing to the crowd. The screams continue as the blast beats echo around the venue. ‘Tati’s’ outfit is glowing in the dark, her mouth covered by her cupped hands as she releases the inner demons time and again.
The stage is now split in half one side is lit by yellow lights the other is blue. ‘Home Back’ from the 2019 album ‘Macro’ is up next. ‘Tati’ addresses the crowd by telling the crowd that this one is for everyone in Ukraine, the crowd are cheering and several blue over gold flags are fly proudly. ‘Tati’ screams “WE WANT OUR HOME BACK” as the drums slam out hard.
The bass is low and rumbling like an earthquake as the distorted guitar riffs drive over the top, Bucket hat wearing ‘Roman’ is up on the riser bathed in blue as he nods along to his playing. The middle has an interesting jazz inspired cross stick section as ‘Tati’, vocally soars around it., A nice respite before she unleashes the beasts of hell!! ‘Judgement (and Entertainment)’ from the same album follows on and keeps the onslaught of beats going, its dropped tune SKA-esque riff has the crowd bouncing as the vocal is delivered from all parts of the stage.
The neon glowing suit and make up eerily flows around the stage as ‘Tati’ moves around in the near darkness. The blue and yellow lighting provides a great back drop as the song slams out. The thunderous ‘Pit of Consciousness’ is up next, the third in succession from the same 2019 album. It’s a fury of blast beats and frayed vocals, how ‘Tati’ manages it is crazy, next breath it’s all clean as she soars in her natural voice.
The atmosphere is through the roof as the blast beats and off kilter time signatures continue with ‘Perennial’ from 2019’s EP ‘Micro’. The staccato guitar start becomes a foil for ‘Tati’s’ frayed vocal from the start. Thundering drums blast out as Roman weaves a demonic lick from under his bucket hat. Break downs bring the head spinning and low crouched position on the front riser as she screams with the seasonal depression that the song is written about.
‘Dead Hands Feel No Pain’ from 2021. It picks up the smashed pieces of the crowd and moulds them back together before the breakdown smashes them into pieces once again. The guitar is melodic over a simple but destructive bass line with concussive fire power from the man seated at the back. A song that pulverises the senses with its dark, ferocious delivery. ‘Vortex’, up next, this is a bit of a reprieve, with its simple guitar riff intro and steady drum beat.
The clean vocal is a refreshing change, the breakdown has a more intense clean voice as the guitars are dirty dancing around the backbeat. This is another from ‘Wallflowers’ the 2019 release. Just as it seemed we’d taken a change in path; all hell is unleashed and ‘Tati’s’ demon voice is running amok. A possessed person howls at the collective in tonight, who seem to be hanging on every word, wide eyed in appreciation of her talent.
The last song of the night is again from the 2019 album Wallflowers. ‘Call Me A Symbol’ is in your face from the get go. Full of frayed screams, blast beats and lots of dropped tuned nasty guitar licks, with bends taking the screaming notes into the next dimension and back, solid stuff. The bass is thudding hard, locked in tight to the engine room that is playing 16th and 32nd notes at will. The percussive barrage from the kit is damn impressive.
The songs cleaner mid-section gives us a breather but you know the world is going to fall apart again. The bass riffs are almost jazzlike as we get some tasty licks over a simple drum groove.
Then WHAM the screaming howls are back as surfers are picked off the crowd by the security and beat a hasty retreat full of smiles. The song finishes with a roar from the crowd. A poster is handed to ‘Tati’ who takes it on stage, I can’t quite see but I think it gets signed before its handed back. The band say their farewells and are off, BFMV need to have the set cleared.
JINJER are – Tatiana ‘Tati’ Shmailyuk – Vocals, Roman Ibramkhalilov – Guitars, Eugene Abduchanov – Bass, Vladislav ‘Vladi’ Vlasevich – Drums
With the set cleared and 5-minutes before the start time we are allowed back into the pit.
The venue is buzzing with anticipation as the seconds tick past. The crowd have joined in, singing along with what’s being played over the house PA, it isn’t being sung quietly, this is full on festival singing as System of a Down’s ‘Chop Suey’ gets the O2 Academy Birmingham treatment, Its bloody awesome. Bullet For My Valentine from Bridgend in South Wales, they have let their music do the talking since they formed in 1998. With only seven albums released to date, it’s no wonder we have a full house tonight. This is the band to catch live.
The crowd are going nuts, screaming “BULLET” “BULLET” as a blue light has descended on the stage, the roars from the crowd increase tenfold as the band casually walk out as calm as you like. When you’re that good why the hell not.
The cymbal crashes out and we are off into ‘Knives’ from the 2021 self-titled album. The frayed vocal is tangled in the cacophony that’s slamming from the stage. This is full on powerful and destructive. Tuck is up front, his foot on the riser as he screams the vocal at the crowd.
Paget is locked into his white V, his hair flying as he throws out the moves, Mathias is pacing back and forth, he visits the microphone to scream his vocals, his bass is dark and mean as it rearranges your internals with is destructive rumblings. Tuck has the entire academy singing along with him as we fly into ‘Over It’ from 2018’s Gravity.
This is just pouring the coals on the wildfire that has already been lit. There are frequent calls to have the venue bouncing, it is already, visions are being blurred as the band treat everyone to a trip to the Opticians. The frequent changes in lighting give a chance to get a well-lit shot before it plunges into green or the dreaded red. The crowd are having a blast as they sing punch and bounce along to the distorted high-speed riffs flying from the band’s fingers.
Tuck takes a moment to addresses the crowd saying how good it is to be back in Birmingham, the venue is going nuts as the band go into ‘Piece of Me’, again from Gravity. It’s a fast and furious anthem as Tuck ‘s vocal is clean but fast. The drums are slammin’ as the guitars are riffing hard. The set lights are flashing fast adding to the intensity, ’ The crowd join in with a round of “Whoa” ”Whoa “Wow” “wow” “wows” before we get the screamed vocals thrown in to wake the dead, just as the drums crash and the guitars riff hard, the breakdown bringing the song down to an end.
Tuck, again thanks the crowd for selling out the venue, for being there, and for wanting more, he says he’s going to take us back to day one. ‘4 Words (to Choke Upon)’ has the crowd on its toes again as we visit the debut album, The Poison, from 2005. The guitar strings are being strained as they drop the picked notes an octave or more as they are being seriously bent thereby adding to the sinister sound emanating from them.
The crowd are singing their hearts out as I try and find a vantage point to enjoy the rest of the show. It’s rammed to capacity, I struggle to see the stage as Paget and Tuck let loose a scorching finger burning solo, the bright lights at least point me in the right direction. I admit defeat and find a corner to climb into as the heat in the venue soars. The seismic slams of two and a half thousand people hitting the floor at the same time must be sending ripples across the A38 that runs alongside the venue.
‘You Want a Battle (Here’s a War)’ is up next, its thudding drum groove is relentless as the screams fly from the stage followed by the clean vocal. The guitars riff and chug along to the drum beat. Fast feet are the order of the day during the bridge. Screams swap with the clean vocal from Tuck once again as it takes over. This has a slower feel to it, although I’m sure Bowld’s feet will say different as they are going 10 to the dozen.
My Sons favourite Bullet track is up next, sadly he’s in Bulgaria skiing otherwise he’d have been here, the song is ‘Hearts Burst into Fire’ from 2008’s ‘Scream, Aim Fire’. The opening riff gives way to a searing solo and feedback. The galloping drum beat propels the song along as Tuck’s clean vocal is flowing effortlessly. The guitars harmonise giving a sound that is so 2008, but just as refreshing to hear today. The crowd seem to like this one too as all around me fans are singing along word for word. The song finishes to more applause, I’m glad I have my ear plugs in, its loud.
Fast drums and a nasty riff akin to something Judas Priest would play, fly’s forth as we are treated to ‘The Last Fight’ from 2010. A pulverisingly fast tune that hits you square on the jaw. The drums again are the driving force as the guitars scream around the lyric. The staccato solo lick punctuates the song briefly before it’s full speed ahead to the finish. A great tune and a treat to hear live.
Coming back up to date with its screamed vocal we have ‘Shatter’. Another one full of thundering drums as Tuck’s gentle voice ease us into a certain trap. His voice is in and out of the frayed screams, as the repetitive guitar lick plays out. The crowd sing along as the lights pulse in time to the beat, heads are rocking back and forth. ‘All These Things I Hate’ takes a moment and brings the assault to a gentler pace. This is another great tune from back in 2005. Again, the crowd are singing along quite happily.
Heavy percussive beats thunder across the room as this Metallica type riff flies from the guitars, ‘Scream, Aim, Fire’ the title track from the 2008, sophomore album brings us back to ground with frayed vocals and pinched harmonics. The guitar solo is fast and furious and fits nicely into this well written tune. A demonic breakdown finishes this song from 2008 brilliantly.
The pacey beat carries on with ‘Suffocating Words of Sorrow’, again another trip down memory lane to the first album. Fast galloping drums and scorching guitar launch this one.
Ying and Yang vocals flow with high octane energy, Mathias’s growls are spectacular in their ferociousness, they have been all night. A simple guitar riff then call’s out as a low clean vocal almost speaks the words, behind it a thumping drum groove calls to the gods as Bowld restrains himself with this slower delivery.
This is ‘Rainbow Veins’, another recent one and one that the crowd are enjoying as they groove along, heads pumping like a heartbeat, in time to the snare crack. The frayed vocal of the breakdown is again fierce and guttural. Bowld has released all the restrained beats in one go as he blasts like someone possessed. Another cracking addition to the setlist.
Don’t Need You’ from 2018 is up next, its musical intro is impressive as we get another softer vocal which let’s rip very quickly. This is a fast, brutal tune again the clean singing is light and bouncy before it gets real and the guttural screams rip your heart out with its short sharp intensity. Judging by the nodding heads in the crowd it’s another favourite. The trademark breakdown finish is abrupt on this song, I like that one, stunning.
‘Death By a Thousand Cuts’ from the latest album finishes the set of with aplomb. Guttural screams and fast feet smash this one into next week, the vocal is fast and powerful, the strobing of lights flash around the venue in a multitude of colours as the vocal frays and cleans beat you up. The guitar riffs are dirty, the bass is rupturing your spleen as it slams into your body, your ears are being ripped from your head as this one rearranges your hearing.
The scorching solo gives a respite as it sings melodically albeit in a high-speed blur. Death by a thousand cuts delivered at a thousand miles an hour, and finishing with a deliberate scream and hanging guitars. Wow what a set!
Staccato snare cracks herald the start or the encore, ‘Your Betrayal’ and its machine gun footwork and crazy guitar lick has the crowd nodding like the Churchill dog on a cobblestone street. This tune from 2010’s Fever, is killing the crowd as it sweeps across the venue, “is it my turn to die” sings the crowd. The song finishes with the same staccato brutality as it started with.
‘Tears Won’t Fall’ is another encore song with a screaming intro and a string bending guitar lick, this is a rocking tune with a melodic guitar crying over the brutal drums, the periodic fast feet are accurate as they kick the kickdrum into oblivion. It thunders squarely into the crowd letting them know they are at a ‘Bullet’ show. Again, the vocal belies belief at its frayed brutality.
‘Waking the Demon’ is the final song of the night and leads off with a dirty guitar riff, and a sea of heads nodding along, the intro is fast n brutal before we get the count into this banger of a tune that concludes the night. The guitar harmony and pick squeals are a nice touch, they add to the slight Scandi rock vibe, present in this concussive track from ‘Scream, Aim, Fire’. Tuck and Mathias’s vocals have been ridiculous throughout tonight’s show.
Bullet For My Valentine are – Matthew Tuck – Vocals & Rhythm Guitar, Michael Paget – Lead Guitar, Jason Bowld – Drums, James Mathias – Bass.
And the nights over. A stunning display by all three bands, each one different but at the same time appealing to the same fan base. An outrageous night and well worth struggling with the M6 closure on the way home. If you have the chance to catch these bands either all together or on individual tours then get the tickets ordered.
They Do Not Disappoint. Brilliant and on a school night too.