Victoria Hall in Stoke is steeped in tradition. Built in 1888 for the Queen’s Jubilee, I’m sure it could tell many a fascinating story. Tonight is another chapter in the venue’s wonderful story as the Bullet For My Valentine Venom tour rolls into town on a dank October evening with support from While She Sleeps and Coldrain.
There’s a fair crowd in early to catch Japanese act Coldrain. These guys are a big deal in the land of the rising sun and it’s clear to see why. Bursting with breakdowns and aggression, their electro slanted post-hardcore is a little different to the headliners. Kudos for BFMV and the promoters for booking bands that challenge the listeners to think beyond the genres. On the night, I’m certain Masato and the rest of the guys have garnered some new fans.
Loz Taylor and While She Sleeps are just crazy; it’s that simple. From the first second they are in the crowd’s face with an onslaught of ferocious brutality. While the entire band is energetic to the point of exhaustion, frontman Taylor is beyond doubt, the star of the show. His screams are piercing, his exuberance is infectious and his passion for the music is clear to see as he soaks security, photographers and the front row with bottles of water. There are many in the audience sporting WSS tees (clearly visible when the girls are asked to get up on shoulders for one song) and they are rewarded with a stellar performance. ‘Four Walls’ is fantastic from the set and Loz’s in-song crowd surfing only serves to bring the whole While She Sleeps experience even closer to the fans. Stunning.
The moment has arrived and so many of us die-hard fans of the almighty Bridgend metallers are hungry for the sweet taste of their delicious British Heavy Metal. Bullet For My Valentine are cool, calm and collected as they take to the stage. Their calmness is the opposite to the delirium of the jammed front rows. Suddenly there is an explosion; an explosion of the sound of the supercharged ‘No Way Out’. I can feel the breeze of all the headbangers blowing onto my neck in the pit. It’s a feeling of pure bliss; the joy of a heavy metal concert. This month, Bullet’s first full length release ‘The Poison’ celebrates its 10th birthday and what better way to celebrate than to play the title track of the album. It is certainly a moment that those that have the privilege attending any of the Venom UK tour dates will treasure for a lifetime. ‘The Last Fight’ goes acoustic and the hall is lit up with lighters and phones creating a spellbinding atmosphere which enhances the energy of the beautiful moment. ‘Hand Of Blood’ is included on the set list followed by dynamic performances of ‘Your Betrayal’ and ‘Tears Don’t Fall’. With a variation of classics, old and new, they cater to everyone’s tastes. The Welsh legends bring exultant joy to the packed out Victoria Hall.
A special mention has to be made to the contribution of Jamie Mathias. If you are a hardcore Bullet For My Valentine fan like myself, you would have been devastated by the news earlier this year that bassist Jason James was stepping down from the band. Being biased, i thought it would have been impossible to find a replacement for a great musician with such distinctive screams. I am happy to admit that I was incredibly wrong. Jamie’s delivery is perfect, impassioned and as brutal as his predecessor. His power and low end brings a great balance to the performance. I was stupid to think that Jay couldn’t be replaced.
Matt Tuck has had a well documented history of tour related vocal issues which have lead to surgery and cancelled shows. Over the years, his vocals have improved immensely and tonight he brings pure joy to us as his live vocals are the best I have heard in years. You can tell he has matured as both a vocalist and a frontman, putting in a lot of hard work to get where he is today. They close with with the twin attack of ‘Your Betrayal’ and ‘Waking The Demon’. It is the perfect end to a show full of nostalgia and promise.
It is amazing to see how much Bullet For My Valentine have achieved since the early days and with this extensive tour, the boys are proving that there is a hell of a lot more to come and 2016 is going to be a massive year for the BFMV camp. Believe us boys, we are very excited. You have done the United Kingdom proud – thank you.
- No Way Out
- 4 Words (To Choke Upon)
- You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War)
- Raising Hell
- Scream Aim Fire
- The Poison
- The Last Fight (Acoustic First Verse & Chorus)
- Guitar Solo
- Army of Noise
- Tears Don’t Fall
- Hand of Blood
- Your Betrayal
- Waking the Demon
Photos by NLCR Photography