Friday, January 25, 2008

Bullet For My Valentine :: Scream Aim Fire

Artist :: Bullet For My Valentine
Album :: Scream Aim Fire
Label :: Jive

In a word :: Powerful.

Play this cut first :: Take It Out On Me

Rewind to the early '90s, considered by most to be the pinnacle of metal, with the heavyweights like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Pantera, Testament, and Sepultura all putting out career-defining CDs one after another. It was ridiculous. Just when you thought no one could ever equal one band's release another would come along and do it.

There is a new batch of metal bands that have emerged during the last few years who are maturing nicely and putting out their best releases to date. After stoopid-good albums from Atreyu and Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine steps up to the plate with their sophomore effort Scream Aim Fire, and they hit it out of the park. Hell, they damn near hit it out of the stadium.

Yes, 2008 is shaping up to be The Year of The Bullet. With a main stage slot on the Taste of Chaos tour (as part of the best TOC lineup ever), their own comic books, a huge fan base, and some major label support, I'm guessing that you'll be hearing a lot of Bullet For My Valentine this year. And that, friends, is a good thing.

Actually, it's a great thing.

On Scream Aim Fire, Bullet For My Valentine makes a huge leap from 2006's The Poison. It's a leap that is reminiscent of the leap Metallica made between Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightening. Matt Tuck's voice even sounds like a young James Hetfield's. Often, when bands say they have matured, it usually means they have slowed down. In this case, however, Bullet For My Valentine has matured in all directions. The riffs are harder. The harmonies are smarter. The solos are more blazing. The vocal melodies are more memorable.

The common element across all of the songs on Scream Aim Fire, however, is a sense of urgency. It's that urgency of drumsticks pounding drum skins, instead of just hitting them. It's the sound of guitar picks digging into strings, instead of just plucking them. It's the growl in a vocal that lets you know every word that is sung is the most important word in the world at that moment. It's the ability to find the heart of the song and put it right in your face. And it's this sense of urgency that separates the great from the good.

On cuts like "Scream Aim Fire" and "Eye of the Storm", it's made very clear that Bullet For My Valentine's first priority for this record is to establish that, when it comes to metal, they are the sonic equivalent of a nail bomb, both explosive and razor sharp. The same spirit is reinforced across the majority of the album in cuts like "Waking the Demon" and "End of Days".

The next goal for Scream Aim Fire seems to be establishing a true musical range, by slowing things down to ballad-like levels at times. Indeed, "Say Goodnight" seems to fit nicely with some of the more notable metal ballads of all time like Metallica's "Fade to Black" or Testament's "Return to Serenity".

The effect of convincingly achieving these goals is the building of a set list that is primed for arenas. In fact, "Take It Out On Me" covers so much sonic territory that, in a live show, it'll have fans banging their heads, clapping their hands, singing along, and banging their heads again. For that song alone, this CD is worth the investment.

In a musical landscape where major labels and iPods force emphasis on singles, it is becoming more and more rare to find an album that shines from top to bottom. Scream Aim Fire does that--so much so that when the last song finishes, your first instinct is to start it over from the beginning. When's that last time a CD made you do that?

Yeah, it's like that.

The Bottom Line :: Get ready to start pumping your fist again. Get ready to headbang in traffic. And get ready to sing along at the top of your lungs. The release of Scream Aim Fire rings in The Year of the Bullet. And it looks like it's going to be a one hell of a year for the band.

Best Cuts :: Take it out on Me, Scream Aim Fire, Waking the Demon, Say Goodnight

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Word of a Ministry Cover Up

"We don't just bitch about Bush and global oligarchies. We're still a rock band and Cover Up is THE Ministry party album," said Ministry's Al Jourgensen about Cover Up, recorded by Ministry & Co-Conspirators and set for an April Fools Day (April 1) release.

Cover Up sees Jourgensen and Co-Conspirators paying tribute to some of the most memorable PAR-TEE rock songs, mostly from the 8-track era, and to those artists who first laid them down - Deep Purple, T-Rex, ZZ Top, The Doors, Mountain, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and more.

Playing on the Cover Up title, Jourgensen has injected himself into various conspiracy theory photographs throughout the release's artwork.

In addition to fellow Ministry guitarist Sin Quirin (Revolting Cocks), Jourgensen enlisted an impressive group of Co-Conspirators for Cover Up - Fear Factory front man Burton C. Bell (also Ascension of The Watchers) sings on the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb," Revolting Cocks' Josh Bradford provides vocals for Golden Earring's "Radar Love," and Prong vocalist Thomas Victor lends his pipes to Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'" and Ran Jam's "Black Betty," which also features the Hell Paso Mosh Choir. Additional Co-Conspirators include the late Paul Raven (Ministry/Killing Joke), Tony Campos and Wayne Static (Static X), Edu Mussi (Echoes and Shadows) and Plastilina Mosh.

Cover Up will also include Ministry's cover of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" (the version can also be found on Ministry's September 2007 release, The Last Sucker), and Deep Purple's "Space Truckin," all tracks culminating in Jourgensen's personal punk rock rendition of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World."

"'Under My Thumb,' like The Doors' cover 'Roadhouse Blues,' was about my not understanding the dichotomies involved," says Jourgensen. "If you listen to the lyrics to 'Under My Thumb,' it's the most misogynistic song ever made. I never understood that dichotomy so I always wanted to tackle it. Same with 'Roadhouse,' it's a blues-based song, yet the lyrics are about driving your car into a wall at full speed, drunk, and not giving a fuck. It's so much an Anarchist anthem, it should've been a Sex Pistols song. So, I wanted to approach both tracks with the spirit of the original lyrical intent."

The April Fools Day release of Cover Up coincides with the launch of Ministry's final world tour - C U LaTouR - which kicks off March 25 in Spokane, WA. The 36-plus market limited engagement C U LaTouR features Special Guests Meshuggah and opening act Hemlock, ending the North American leg mid-May with multiple-nights in Ministry front man Al Jourgensen's home town of Chicago. Ministry then heads off to play the principal European festivals as well as choice club dates, kicking off in London at the end of May, stretching through to July to end the tour in Dublin, Ireland - that itinerary will be announced shortly.

The "C U LaTouR" touring line-up features Ministry's founder Al Jourgensen (vocals, guitars) being joined onstage by guitarists Tommy Victor (Prong) and Sin Quirin (Revolting Cocks), keyboardist John Bechdel (Fear Factory, False Icons), and drummer AAron Rossi (Prong/John 5). Static X's Tony Campos has recently stepped in to fulfill bass on behalf of the recently departed Ministry/Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven. Joining the Ministry clan as Special Featured Artist will be Fear Factory/Ascension of The Watchers vocalist Burton C. Bell.

After 10 albums and 28 years (including a 2006 Grammy nomination for "Lieslieslies" from the Rio Grande Blood album), and a Grammy nod in 2005 for "The Great Satan," from Rantology, Jourgensen has decided that the Ministry garage is ready to close its doors, but the revolving 13th Planet Studio doors remain open for Jourgensen's collaborations and also for upcoming 2008 releases on his 13th Planet imprint, including Ascension of The Watchers, False Icons, The Revolting Cocks, and the Wicked Lake soundtrack, as well as remixes of Ministry's The Last Sucker and Prong's Power of The Damager.

For its two-and-a-half-hour "C U LaTouR" set, Ministry will perform tracks from their provocative 28-year musical history. Archival Ministry videos plus other visual elements of alchemy, Christianity, politics and other topics aligned with Ministry will be incorporated into a special video presentation, produced by "Wicked Lake" director Zach Passero (with whom Jourgensen is collaborating on the soundtrack for the feature film) that will change night to night. And, as is expected from a Ministry show, you just never know what surprise guests will jump on stage for a song or two.

"A Ministry tour is a traveling circus," states Jourgensen. "When we roll into town, everyone hides their daughters, but the freaks roll out the red carpet and a friend or two pops up on stage to add some spice and mayhem to the show. We never know who's gonna walk through the dressing room door at sound check. We rehearse a bunch of 'extra' songs just in case so-and-so shows up..."

Catch Ministry on Tour.