Bullet for My Valentine lives and dies by Matt Tuck. The young lead vocalist and guitarist is capable of driving the band to massive success or dragging them into total collapse, and nothing is more evident of this than the contrast between their debut album, The Poison, and its follow-up, Scream Aim Fire. The Poison was one of the biggest metalcore albums on the decade and helped to revitalize the entire subgenre when it was released. Scream Aim Fire was a decent album, but nowhere near as good as its predecessor, owing mostly to two factors: the lack of Tuck’s screaming vocals due to his emergency tonsillectomy in 2007, and some rather uninspired compositions that did not live up to his potential. The band’s third album, Fever, somewhat maintains the level of quality that Scream Aim Fire had, but doesn’t advance back to their prior level of excellence.
Fever proves, more than anything, that when Bullet for My Valentine is on their game, they are among the best in the scene. This album has some excellent tracks that are reminiscent of the best songs on The Poison, excelling in both faster metal tunes and slower, more emotionally-charged songs. “The Last Fight”, “Pleasure and Pain”, and “Dignity” are high-energy, dynamic songs with powerful vocals and creative solos. They are among the best metalcore songs released thus far this year. Meanwhile, “Fever”, “Alone”, and “Breaking Out, Breaking Down” have insightful, personal lyrics that match the good compositions on which they appear. These songs remind listeners what made Bullet for My Valentine popular and what they are capable of doing.
Unfortunately, Fever also confirms that when the band is not on track, they are just plain awful. “Your Betrayal” is an uninspired, lackluster song that is a bad opening to the album in general. “A Place Where You Belong” is essentially a less-than-mediocre version of “Hearts Burst Into Fire”, an excellent ballad from Scream Aim Fire. The other ballad on Fever, “Bittersweet Memories”, is absolutely terrible, having more in common with My Chemical Romance than any other band. Meanwhile, some songs are held back by Tuck’s attempt at performing screaming vocals again. Tuck’s screams on Fever are strangled, lifeless versions of his vicious growls from The Poison, and these disappointing vocals detract from otherwise good songs like “Begging for Mercy” and “Pretty on the Outside”. Rather than risking damaging his voice even more, Tuck should just stick to singing from now on and leave the screaming vocals to Jason James and Michael Paget.
The final verdict on Fever is that it’s a decent album with some good songs, but it pales in comparison to Bullet for My Valentine’s previous work in many ways. Much like City of Evil by Avenged Sevenfold or the 2009 self-titled album from Killswitch Engage, Fever will be embraced by some fans and reviled by others, but will be greeted with apathy by most listeners. There are more good songs than bad, but the bad songs are very seriously flawed, and will likely stand out more than the positive aspects of the good songs. The band needs to address these issues and remove them when they head into the studio to make their fourth album.