Bullet for My Valentine @ Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham – 31 October 2021

Following a headline appearance at Download Pilot, best of British metal goliaths Bullet for My Valentine begin their run of post-COVID shows in Nottingham this hallowed evening.

With live music decimated by pandemic restrictions, I recall this time last year being at home, getting excited about a Mr. Bungle livestream. In addition today marks one year, seven months and twenty five days since I was last at an actual live show. It’s all been pretty incomprehensible. So, while the festival of Samhain gives rise to modern day festivities, just walking into the Motorpoint Arena feels like my raison d’être. To attend an ongoing celebration – that is the live music industry slowly kicking back into life.

There’s no damp squibs on this bill, with Scottish deathcore powerhouse Bleed From Within and Milton Keynes progressive metallers TessearcT providing a diverse and comprehensive account of themselves. Their combined emotion, intensity and technical quality is the perfect precedent for what’s to come.

Matt Tuck strolls out centre stage and is welcomed with delight. I guess the burly gentleman behind me screaming “C’mon you sexy bastard!” is voicing a popular opinion. Flanked by Michael ​‘Padge’ Paget and Jamie Mathias, the three up front, along with man at the back and percussive time lord Jason Bowld, thunder into the ferocious ‘Parasite’. Taken from the eponymous new album, due out in five days time, this is definitely “Bullet 2.0” – a far heavier offering than the previous era.

The set includes great picks from the catalogue – which since 2018’s ‘Gravity’ has surpassed 1 billion streams in the US alone. From that album comes the angry and energetic ‘Piece of Me’, before we’re taken “back to the very beginning” with ‘4 Words’ from the 2005 debut ‘The Poison’.

With a yearning from old-school BFMV fans for a return to heavier material, ‘Shatter’ is exactly that. A brutal tour de force, it twists and turns with technicality and melody. As the circle pit opens up with vigour and pace, I’m struck by how heavy this bullet is.

There’s impressive twin screen visuals and a vibrant lighting show, but the focus is on steamrolling the crowd with a powerful, riff-laden return. Aside from polite thank-yous in-between songs, and for being at the “first show back, after a fucked up 18 months”, Tuck allows the music to speak for itself.

Through the full tilt of ‘Scream Aim Fire’, the anthemic ‘You Want a Battle?’ and a brawny ‘The Last Fight’, the Nottingham audience is treated to that aggressive and buoyant therapy, which only the very best in live metal shows can offer.

With COVID related delays pushing back the new album, the four singles have had fans clamouring for more. Tuck shows his appreciation for pre-sales before introducing ‘Rainbow Veins’, a visceral, passionate track and one of the bands favourites from the upcoming release.

For the heavy as you like it ‘Knives’, Bleed From Within vocalist Scott Kennedy gets involved. This is another absolute banger, which as one YouTuber commented: “makes me want to ride my bike without the training wheels.” Hear, hear!

‘Tears Don’t Fall’ and ‘Waking the Demon’ are a couple of big ones to wrap up what has been an exhilarating return to the live arena for Bullet For My Valentine. For myself, and no doubt for many others in Nottingham tonight, it heralds a real feeling of pre-pandemic normality. Cheers BFMV et al. it was much needed and appreciated.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Bullet For My Valentine