“I try to go into the studio armed to the teeth with as many licks as possible,” says Bullet for My Valentine lead guitarist Michael “Padge” Paget. “So if people don’t like a certain solo idea, I can say, ‘Well, what about this instead?’ That’s much better than being put on the spot and going, ‘Duh, I don’t know what the fuck to do.’ ”
This strategy certainly served Paget well on the band’s new album, their fifth to date, Venom. With full throttle aggression and an onslaught of six-string mayhem, the disc more than lives up to its name. Which was very much Bullet for My Valentine’s goal when they entered London’s Metropolis Studio earlier this year to record Venom. There was a general feeling that the band had lost some of their edge on their previous album, 2013’s Temper Temper.
“We kind of lost it a bit, from what the band had been—especially lyrically,” admits lead singer/rhythm guitarist Matt Tuck. “So we tried to get back to what we thought was lacking on Temper Temper. Which means that Venom is more angry, with more dark lyrical content, which is what we’re pretty much renowned for. It was just a matter of looking back retrospectively on what made us the band we are today, and revisiting that, but in a fresh and new way.”
The process of getting back to where he once belonged wasn’t entirely easy for Tuck. These days, he just isn’t as pissed off and anguished as he was back when Bullet for My Valentine first rocketed out of their U.K. town of Bridgend, Wales, with their 2005 debut album, The Poison.
“Life is good for me right now, so it’s really hard for me to write angry lyrics.” he says. “It’s not where my head’s at anymore. I have a beautiful family; I’m happily married. There’s really not that angst or anger anymore. So it was more about revisiting the place where I was in the late Nineties, when I was in my teens and nobody gave a shit about me or my music or my ambitions. It was hard to relive that, but once I got my headspace back there, things started sounding good.”
And while it was difficult for Tuck to revisit those days when nobody cared about him or his music, he says the process of writing Venom’s angry anthems has given him a new sense of perspective on his band’s decade long journey. He definitely counts himself among those whose lives were saved by rock and roll.
“It’s made me who I am, anyway,” he says. “And 10 years down the line, it was important for me to not forget that. We lost our edge for a bit, but it’s definitely back now.”
Knowing that a lot was riding on the new album, the band took extra care in preproduction. “We demoed everything at my house, where I’ve got a little home studio,” says Paget. “It took us about a year to demo everything. Me and Moose [BFMV drummer Michael “Moose” Thomas] were writing a lot. The whole band was writing a lot more than we’ve ever done before. I think the preparation and thought that went into it has really benefitted the album.”
“It’s the first time we’ve worked on songwriting this much as a group,” Tuck concurs, adding that tracking on home turf also had a positive influence on the project. “This is the first time since The Poison that we’ve recorded back in the U.K. We’ve done the last few away from home. But this time we wanted to keep it locked down in the U.K. It was just very relaxed. Everyone was in a good mood. There wasn’t that feeling of being locked in a studio a million miles from home and being pissed off because you don’t want to be there.”
Tuck handled rhythm guitar duties on Venom. “That’s what I do best,” he says, “and I’m proud of it. I’m a rhythm player. I didn’t play lead at all on the record, which is the first time that has happened. Although, for the last two records, Padge has really stepped into that role of being the lead guitar player. And I was more focused on writing songs and the lyrics this time. So it was good not to have to worry about that other stuff. Padge is such an amazing lead player in his own right.”
“Every album has been different for me, lead guitar-wise,” Paget notes. “And hopefully it’s getting better. A challenge is good. I don’t know the names of scales or anything like that. I just sort of put my fingers on the dots or between the dots. I just like that sort of fast, neck-pickup shredding, really.”