BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE / KILLSWITCH ENGAGE | LIVE REVIEW
Newport Centre, Thurs 24 Nov
The Bullet For My Valentine UK headline tour had officially begun and what better place to rev up the engine for this collective of hard rocking professionals, than their home country of Wales. On this particularly chilly Thursday evening, the Welsh quartet treated their energized fans (and motherland) to an all-American line-up of support acts.
The 2,000 capacity Newport centre struggled to set the tone for a heavy metal performance, with open windows parading pensioner swimming sessions and an enormous seating area. Flaws which t least made a change from the usual tick list of Velcro floors, caked in drinks with no hope of removal, and the usual stale venue smell replaced by the recognisable scent of chlorine.
Cane Hill were first to warm the crowd up but although they entertained a fraction of the occupants, their audience may as well have requested a Korn cover band. The vocals and guitar riffs were immensely similar to the nu-metal mammoths, and with no thought of experiment or alteration, the songs were received as bland and frankly boring. This slight diversion was swiftly rectified, however, with the entrance of Killswitch Engage, inserting enough metal in to the listeners to raise their iron levels to dangerous heights.
KSE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz remained a vulgar and hilarious factor, lightening the attitudes metal stereotypically carries. “I want two big balls of circle pits!” he demanded in between tracks, pointing out that one was decidedly “lopsided and lacking in girth”. Mike D’Antonio continued to ravage the stage with his hefty bass skills and ability to launch it through the air like it weighed less than a Snickers. If they weren’t already unanimously popular here, frontman Jesse Leach unveiled a Welsh flag which was draped over Dutkiewicz while he sank a pint.
The group rigorously powered through old and new material including songs from 2004’s The End Of Heartache, 2002’s Alive Or Just Breathing and 2016’s Incarnate, harking back to when metalcore was fuelled by great guitar solos and epic rhythms instead of endless breakdowns and constant chugging. Back with the band since 2012, Leach’s voice was thick with emotion but expressed through trained pitches and an understanding of his limitations – exemplifying how far he has come from his initial departure in 2002 due to depression.
Moving on to the valley boys’ headline set, BFMV stepped out after an introduction from Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades, with an impressive stage production and smart waistcoat attire (a nod to their most recent video, for Don’t Need You). They’ve come a long way from their days playing Bridgend’s recreational centre as Jeff Killed John, playing sets across the globe during 2016. No Way Out erupted into life along with copper stage lights and a line of open flames; Michael Paget and Jamie Mathias established an early relationship with the front rows, calling on throngs to sing and clap while Matt Tuck made periodic switches between front microphone and raised back platform.
It should be said that the breaks for retuning in between nearly every track did ultimately affect the atmosphere, but the evening’s most memorable moments included a softly sung opening of One Last Fight and a dramatic rendition of Hearts Burst Into Fire, not played recently until this date. The star of the night was undeniably Mathias, who not only led a precise and bass-heavy attack on everyone’s ears but was also largely responsible for big chunks of lead vocal. Signifying a strong end as the encore triggered explosions on the rigging, the blast left people in brief shock but quickly found a remedy in the form of a popular brand of energy drink handed out by a commercial truck parked outside the front doors.
words and photos NATHAN ROACH