Go big or go home, that’s what they say. And when you’re on a course for world domination, simultaneously splitting the masses as you do so, what bigger challenge is there than the dreaded phrase: a rock opera concept album? Black Veil Brides have never been ones to cower under scrutiny, and accordingly tackled their third offering ‘Wretched And Divine – The Story of the Wild Ones’ with everything they had.
Fearless and uncompromising, Black Veil Brides open with a religion fuelled sermon from Andy in ‘Exordium’, bleeding into ‘I Am Bulletproof’. Pushing themselves into the hard rock territory with unshakable catchiness in the chorus, the band set the tone for compliments that rear their heads repetitively. ‘New Year’s Day’ is a banging track, despite it featuring less technical guitar work; big and grabbing, this is one that you hear and instantly go “Yes! This will kill live.”
It also features the other main draw of the record, the string enhancement. What opera would be complete without violins to add dimension to the performance? No finer example of this comes than the ‘F.E.A.R.’ transmissions, all of which are portrayed through the looming, poetic words of Aiden’s own William Francis. Backed by a Victorian-esque backdrop, he offers a solid progression in narrative, from being unable to escape fear to admitting defeat to the uprising.
These parts work within the concept, moving everything forward. Though, where we found ourselves following the emotion and plot through music with, say, Stone Sour’s latest offering, it isn’t quite so easy here. On a first listen, with no knowledge of the idea, too much relied on these fleeting spoken interactions.
Every record makes time for a slow number, and as Andy breathlessly opens ‘Done For You’, it feels too slowed and restrained, to the point of feeling a bit dull. This is an anomaly though, as the majority of the record brings to life a new era in their short-lived but explosive story. Black Veil Brides have challenged themselves, with the likes of ‘Shadows Die’ – in its intertwining of heaviness and operatic stylings – it seems like this is what the record was set to encompass, and it’s fantastic. ‘Days Are Numbered’ is another blinding hit, while the musical closer ‘In The End’ brings everything together from the orchestra and the hard rock direction to the youthful choir and anthemic feel – it’s all there, and the band’s qualities are laid bare.
Do the concept and music flow seamlessly together? Personally, I’m still waiting on that to click. Will this please everyone? Sadly, a large percentage have probably already written this album off purely because of the name behind it. But this is everything they promised in the sense of it being a performance, a new version of the band, and a stark progression. Through aesthetics, people have overlooked that the band are packed with truly talented musicians, shown seamlessly through this record.
When they’ve pushed themselves so far in so little time, one can only question where their next album will take them. Frankly, that’s always going to be an exciting prospect from a band who challenges themselves as dramatically as Black Veil Brides.