What is a fish to do when he finds himself out of water? Flail and flap upon the deck in a last-gasp effort for a return to the sweet briny abyss from which he emerged? Or perhaps it’s the case that this particular species prospers in inertia and adapts – swiftly and unwillingly, at first – to make the most out of his new habitat. The latter, it has to be said, is an accurate, if not admittedly glib metaphor for tonight’s Bullet For My Valentine performance in Belfast’s historic Ulster Hall.
A welcoming venue, the Ulster Hall has seen its fair share of bands lately for whom rock falls on to the shouty, vicious and heavy end of the spectrum. This latest addition to the roster is no exception, and as the crushing weight of decibels from supporting acts Coldrain and While She Sleeps permeate the many pricked ears, it isn’t long before it’s the turn of our main act to arrive on stage. Surprisingly punctually, I might add.
Bullet For My Valentine, now on their fifth studio album, have had a decade of professional musicianship under their collective belt and it really does show. Presumably still riding high from the release of the Venom LP, the Welsh four-piece command their legion from the stage and do so with ferocity and technical ability. It’s a set that’s heavily constructed from their new material too, with tracks ‘No Way Out’, ‘Venom’ and ‘You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)’ all getting appropriate airtime – much to the pleasure of the packed main hall. Unsurprisingly, the soaring volumes and staunch, aggressive screams from the band are welcomed with a ‘give-as-good-as-you-get’ attitude and the (mostly) young crowd are satisfied as such, with frequently flying bottles of beer appearing to be some form of scene-specific offering to the band.
Older material, spanning but not limited to albums like Scream Aim Fire and The Poison, ignites veteran followers with the kind of explosive admiration you’d expect. The guitar lines are complex, the percussion is tight and dexterous, and as a unit, Bullet For My Valentine are an accomplished sight to behold. The gallery, facing down upon them as blue lights wash the stage, chant in unison, fist-bump with enthusiasm and despite the nature of this cacophony of heavy-metal sub-genres, it’s hard not to be a little excited when guitarist Michael Paget raises his weapon of choice for an extended, solo…solo.
With the certain end approaching, harboured ably by the apocalyptic yelps of Matthew Tuck (who is “dreamy”, apparently – cheers, ‘Stacy’?) and Jamie Mathias, it’s plain to see why so many people came out to see Bullet For My Valentine this evening. An impressive performance from a band who, career-wise, seem to be right where they want to.