With 2013’s Wretched and Divine: Story of the Wild Ones, Black Veil Brides certainly turned some heads. Of course, they had been doing this since their inception; it is, and has been since the band first burst onto the rock music scene in 2009, impossible not to notice Black Veil Brides, and not to either despise them, or adore them. Yet Wretched and Divine, the band’s third studio album, intrigued listeners and critics in a way their previous releases hadn’t. This time, people weren’t just taking notice of Black Veil Brides because of their distinctive image, or because they divided opinion; they were taking notice of the California quintet because Wretched and Divine showed that Black Veil Brides, despite all their leather and black make-up, were actually credible musicians, capable of writing an ambitious record that was a sophisticated balance of heaviness, melody, and, at times, truly beautiful orchestration.
However, with Black Veil Brides IV, the band have not fulfilled the promise they demonstrated on their last record. Instead of progressing from Wretched and Divine, their current release sees Black Veil Brides move back towards their older style, where the influence of producer Bob Rock (Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith) can be clearly heard, which is not, in this case, a good thing. The result is an unambitious, unexciting album which fails even to successfully imitate the glam-metal and classic rock genres by which it is so heavily and evidently inspired.
That said, lead single ‘Heart of Fire’, does, with its energetic, driving beat and fierce guitar solo, provide a promising start to the album, and second track ‘Faithless’ is more of the same, starting strong with a gritty riff and featuring a soaring chorus. Yet, the breakdown feels cliché and out of place – it is neither original, nor really, entirely necessary.
This is a common theme throughout the record – tracks start off strong, hinting that they might turn into something interesting, something more than what we’ve already heard on the band’s first two studio releases, but they repeatedly fail to do so. ‘World of Fire’, for instance, begins confidently with a sinister, gnarly riff and heavy drumming, but the choruses are weak, reducing the track to something bland and forgettable.
The content of the album is frustratingly predictable: almost every track features the guitar solos and catchy choruses of glam-metal, with the heavy breakdowns of metalcore, and throws these elements together in an unimaginative and lazy manner. Like ‘Drag Me To The Grave’ and ‘The Shattered God’, which, whilst amongst the stronger tracks on the album, are nothing particularly special or unique. Even the token ballads of the classic rock genre appear on the album, ‘Goodbye Agony’ and ‘Walk Away’, both of which do nothing more than draw attention to the weakness of frontman Andy Biersack’s voice.
All in all, Black Veil Brides IV is a thoroughly disappointing follow-up to its predecessor. Whilst Wretched and Divine asserted that Black Veil Brides were real musicians, capable of much more than they had been given credit for, all Black Veil Brides IV does is restore them to their former status of nothing more than an unoriginal glam-metal cliché.
Black Veil Brides IV is out now on Lava/Universal Republic.