Wednesday 15 December 2021

Black Veil Brides - The Phantom Tomorrow (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Oct 2021
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I don't think I've ever heard Black Veil Brides before, though I've certainly heard of them, which is rarely a good thing when it comes to modern American rock music that's mainstream successful. I had vague fears of emo or nu metal or some such, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is really just straightforward hard rock music clean vocals and hook-driven sensibilities that hint at goth perhaps more often than not. There's the occasional electronic gimmickry to underpin some of the changes, in the way that Paradise Lost did in their new wave years. It's not that ambitious or challenging but it's very likeable, even at a first listen.

Given that they're pretty far from my expectations, I looked them up. They're from Cincinatti and they're pretty recent, having been founded initially in 2006 and again in the current form in 2009. The line-up has been pretty stable since that second beginning, only one change happening since 2010, that being when Lonny Eagleton replaced Ashley Purdy on bass in 2019. This is a sixth studio album and their third in concept form, after Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones and Vale. And it's pretty decent.

I didn't particularly follow that concept but some of the songs stood out as highlights on my first time through and more joined it on a second. Blackbird is surprisingly deep musically, the strong hook grabbing us right off the bat but the solos and guitar interplay keeping us, especially as they just don't quit, continuing even during vocal sections when we don't expect it. Torch is strong too, more overtly grand and gothic and almost metal in outlook. Those are the two that caught me on a first listen and kept me each further time through.

The first one to grab me on a second listen was Shadows Rise. I was already on board, because of its quirky intro that's utterly delightful, but the song gets quirky too and it's easily the one that grew on me the most, lying in wait for me to come by again to grab me with confidence. The other is Crimson Skies, easily the most metal song on offer, with an opening thirty seconds that ought to spark a real pit when the band play live. I wasn't expecting that from the nine songs preceding it but it was a welcome shift up in the gears.

Others gradually trawled me in but were much less emphatic about it, as if they wanted me to like them but couldn't be bothered to grab me and hoped I'd just come around on my own. Most of the songs that did this came deep into the second half, songs like Fields of Bone and Fall Eternal. They do their jobs and they do them pretty well. Maybe they'll get me in the end. Certainly, they have a greater chance right now than earlier songs that sounded fine but drifted by me anyway.

And, with acknowledgement to the neatly constructed instrumental pieces that serve as an intro and a later interlude, very capable with their orchestrations, something that doesn't tend to shift across into the songs proper, I'll wrap this up by saying that I've clearly been a fool to look past the Black Veil Brides. On the basis of this album, they're a solid hard rock outfit who somehow seem to have found a trendy spot at a couple of the more sensational rock media outlets, such as Kerrang! and Loudwire. That seems odd to me hearing them here for the first time. They sound good and it would seem that the music ought to speak for itself, idiotic award nominations like Hottest Male 2012 and Tweeter of the Year 2015 notwithstanding.

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