Guns N’Roses, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, ‘Nothing Else Matters’, Skid Row, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bon Jovi, Billy Idol, Faith No More, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Bowling For Soup, Korn, Slipknot… who was it for you? Who was your Gateway band? Maybe the list I’ve given shows my age a bit, but it makes a point. For people to get to their Indian’s and Portal’s or even their Behemoth’s and Winterfylleth there needs to be something to guide them on their way and introduce them to the fold.
And just because we’ve (and I don’t mean Ghost Cult, per se) have decided there’s a “cool” line in the sand and the “mainstream” is above that line and therefore not worthy, or kvlt or true enough, doesn’t mean that it corresponds that there isn’t quality, valid, exciting and interesting music going on in the more commercial arena of our rock and metal world.
It also doesn’t mean there always is…
Perhaps Black Veil Brides IV (Lava/Universal Republic) is the wrong album to be having that discussion on, and perhaps that discussion should take place around Avenged Sevenfold, or more pertinently Mastodon, or Slipknot. Though what about non-Killswitch Engage “metalcore” and bands with slopey fringes and bits of emo? See, it’s OK to talk Mastodon, they were underground who got popular, and it’s OK to talk Slipknot, they’re allowed, but not Trivium. “We” have decided they’re not “real”. And we definitely can’t talk Black Veil Brides. They’re girlfriend metal. All image. Style over substance. All their fans are teenagers… I have a one word answer to that. Kiss. OK, all their fans may no longer be teenagers, but they were forty years ago. The biggest whores to image and commerciality are classic, timeless legends. Also, the more observant of you will have noticed the Motley Crue-dipped-in-tar look has quietly been banished to the back of the BVB wardrobe.
OK, context set, bullshit blustered, let’s address the album at hand. If you’ve consciously avoided Black Veil Brides, or never strayed onto rock radio or video stations, their sound is well established by now and there are no surprises in that respect. There are smatterings of more recent Disturbed and a load of metalcore-lite (but with the thrashy bits removed), all combined with Andy Biersack’s clean baritone that sounds slightly out of place, and, well, a little short of the presence you’d expect from a voice fronting one of rock’s big bands. He’s not even a David Draiman let alone an Axl Rose.
Where IV also falls down is that it doesn’t have the stand out track, the big anthem, that its predecessors had, as even best of the bunch, ‘Drag Me To The Grave’ falls short compared to the not-as-good-as-the-Poison-song-of-the-same-name ‘Fallen Angels’, or their best song, and genuine quality rock anthem ‘In The End’. Without that big single to hang the album on, we’re left with a bunch of samey songs that are perfectly decent in their own right, but don’t make you raise your fist and yell…
While it is worth noting that BVB may be a gateway band for the many and the millions, it’s also worth noting that this is not the album to pitch this particular argument on. When considering the context of “mainstream” rock/metal albums, this doesn’t have the songs of a Ten Thousand Fists (Disturbed – Reprise), the swagger of a Hail To The King (Avenged Sevenfold – Warners), the intelligence of a Once More ‘round The Sun (Mastodon – Reprise) or the depth and genius of The Black Parade (My Chemical Romance – Reprise). It’ll do well for them, of that I’m sure, but in the annals of time it won’t even be held up as the first, second or even third best, Black Veil Brides album to date, let alone achieve any status higher than that.