By Jon Horberry
And the winner of: "longest, most convoluted album title, outside of the Black Metal scene in 2013"; is awarded to - California's Black Veil Brides.
A band that have divided opinion amongst the scene for the last couple of years, following their breakthrough album - Set the World on Fire. Growing up with 80's/90's metal acts such as KISS, Ratt, Motley Crue and Twisted Sister (and in more recent years following the Sleaze/Glam revival movement headed by the likes of Crashdiet, Steel Panther, Jettblack and Reckless Love) has left me in the camp that just can't seem to appreciate this Melodic Metalcore act's obvious attempts to cash in on that Old School image and sound. I once overheard a conversation between a group of misled youths hailing this band as "The new Kiss" and claiming they were "carrying on from where Motley Crue left off". The marketing clearly works.
That said, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones is a good album. It is not a Glam/Sleaze album and Black Veil Brides are still not a Glam/Sleaze band as we would be lead to believe by their legions of teenage fans and PR reps, but it is a good album.
In terms of lyrical content, the album tells the story (being a concept album) of "The Wild Ones"; a group of leather clad, rock n' roll rebels fighting against the "F.E.A.R" organisation who enslave the world. The rebels' story is largely told through the "whoah oh oh" laden, rebellious and anthemic choruses that are ever present throughout the 50 or so minutes that album runs for; and F.E.A.R's in the form of 4 spoken word interludes produced to sound like propaganda broadcasts. Though present, the narrative doesn't really jump to centre stage and the plot didn't seem to obviously move forward at any point until the end of the offering. "We will fight. We will fight. Bugger, someone's dead. We will fight. We won. Or did we?"
The overall sound brings to mind the later Avenged Sevenfold offerings (City Of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold and Nightmare), with most tracks being punctuated by punk influenced vocals, high pitched lead guitar work and tight, athletic rhythm sections. The 80's influence is also definitely there, with BIG, harmonised choruses being the order of the day on nearly every song. Most notably the band has moved away from the harsh vocals that were the meat and bones of previous releases, another move reminiscent of the evolution of Avenged Sevenfold.
The opening tracks serve well to grab your attention, as a spoken word intro concerning the omnipotence of god explodes into the lead guitar driven, pacey "I Am Bulletproof" - the chorus is a rousing "shot to the new world order" - a great start and a highlight of the disc. "New Year’s Day" offers a song similar in tone, replacing the speed with a more simplistic drums, synth and bass construction. Whilst I consider none of the songs on the disc to be bad, I find that after this point it drifts into each one sounding too similar to the last and it became hard for me to keep the sound at the front of my mind. Crunchy Riff after gang chorus, after twiddly solo, after toned down mid-section went by, all too similar in sound to maintain the attention the opening salvo had commanded.
Interestingly, this makes the stand out tracks the slower ones on offer here. "Resurrect The Sun" begins in a haunting piano ballad fashion, before breaking into one of the more memorable choruses to be presented and a fantastic heavy breakdown that precedes a pleasant, but somewhat forgettable, melodic guitar solo. The only harsh vocals I could pick out on the album are found somewhere on the heavier "Shadows Die", a somewhat more Metalcore sounding presentation that is another welcome change of pace. "Lost It All" which features the vocal talents of Julia Simms (Automatic Loveletter), showcases a side of the band's song writing that I had previously not experienced. It is a beautifully constructed, powerful ballad; teeming with fantastic orchestration and musicianship from all involved. It's hard not to hear the Great Gig in The Sky at times when Julia Simms begins her haunting wails in the background of the latter half of this 5 minute treat. That's right: I just compared Black Veil Brides to Pink Floyd...
The best rocker on the album is saved until last. "In The End" is all the good parts of this album packed into one concise offering and it's easy to hear why this melodic, rousing, guitar driven, thumper of a track was chosen to represent as a single.
While "Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones" might not be what it says it is on the tin, it is a competent and relevant contemporary Hard Rock record with something for everyone, though being associated with the Black Veil Brides' fan base may not be. Give it a listen, you might be surprised. I was.
Devil Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/