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Black Veil Brides has had an interesting upbringing. Forming in 2009 as another addition to the rapidly growing metalcore/post-hardcore scene, the band has since embraced influences from classic glam metal acts such as Kiss and Mötley Crüe.
The transformation has been so fast and so radical, the US outfit now seems miles away from the emo ensemble we saw four years ago. Now with their Lava Records release of rock opera Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, it’s becoming pretty clear that the evolution of Black Veil Brides is showing no signs of stopping.
Upon playing the record, we’re immediately faced with the religious commentary that remains a theme for the whole album. The intro, outro and intermission tracks (or F.E.A.R Transmissions as the album titles them) aim to give a sense of theatrical narrative to the whole album. However, in reality the somewhat dark narrations leave us awkwardly wondering what perspective we’re hearing the album from after the significantly more positive voices of the songs themselves.
The first fully-fledged track on the album, I Am Bulletproof, opens with the familiar face-melting of guitarist Jake Pitts, but soon becomes something that was only slightly touched upon in Set the World on Fire: the power ballad. However, this time it makes a very, very prominent appearance. This album is a final farewell to any vestige of the band’s remaining roots in heavy melodic metalcore. Say hello to hard rock BVB.
It seems that the strong, instrumental thrashings of past Set the World on Fire fall to the wayside in favour of catchy lyrics and slower sing-alongs. Christian “CC” Coma (drums), Ashley Purdy (bass), and Jeremy “Jinxx” Ferguson (rhythm guitar) all play a significantly lessened role in the mix we hear.
That isn’t to say BVB doesn’t do the rock ballad well. They do pull it off exceptionally. Devil’s Choir is a shining example of the sort of festival-mainstage belted chorus numbers the album gives us. But it just gives us so many.
Biersack himself said in an interview with NME that “[the album is] going to be more of a punk rock record than anything we’ve done”. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Lyrically maybe, but in terms of a holistic sound, it’s a stage dive in the opposite direction. We’re left with the unshakable feeling that old-school Black Veil Brides fans may sorely miss what could have been.
Exceptions do exist; however, Shadows Die is the heavier, more powerful, operatic sound we can’t help but feel was the band’s intention for the whole album. It’s also clear that the slower, emotional tracks Lost it All and Done for You are attempts to add some much needed contrast to the monotony. And they come close…before jumping ship right back into the generic rock sound that the album makes so typical.
When looking at Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones solely as an independent work, the lack of variation between tracks gets old – fast. The concentration of such similar sounding songs, no matter how powerful they may be, is a little overwhelming. Hopefully, when tossed into the mix of aggression and musical assaults of previous BVB offerings, the record will be given a different voice.
Outside the context of Wretched and Divine as one entity, there are undoubtedly some fantastic songs. It will be interesting to see whether the energy of a willing crowd and theatricality of Black Veil Brides can make the confusingly bland array of rock ballads individually brilliant.