Rock ain’t dead, but the Welsh shred­ders are breath­ing new life into it any­way.

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

What’s the first thing you en­vi­sion when Bul­let For My Valen­tine pop into your mind? Aside from, “Oh man, I need to bust out my Poi­son 12-inch again,” you prob­a­bly con­jure up a sweat-and-beer-stained im­age of a gruff, leather jack­eted gang from the al­ley­ways spew­ing thick, vis­ceral, no-f***s-given rock’n’roll, the likes of which your mum would wish you’d turn the­blood­y­hell­down,Jonathan!It’saschool­night!

But alas, that was the Bul­let of yore. Math class is over, you’ve long clocked out of your last shift at Mac­cas, and the Brid­gend blokes are now a shim­mer­ing bas­tion of heav­ily caf­feinated pop-rock. But y’know, a good one. The kind you’d ac­tu­ally want to show your mates, and not just furtively bop along to in your run­down ‘06 Mit­subishi Lancer (it’s okay Johnny, your se­cret’s safe with us). Their first record in this scary new land­scape – where glit­tery synths min­gle flirtily with raw gui­tars and pound­ing bass – is Grav­ity, 40 in­escapable min­utes of the band’s most paralysing mu­sic yet. It begs the ques­tion: how the hell did Bul­let end up here!?

“It just came from dis­sect­ing where we are in our ca­reer,” ex­plains (the in­hu­manly charis­matic) Matt Tuck, Bul­let’s long­time vo­cal­ist and res­i­dent rhyth­mic badass. “Y’know, analysing what we’ve done in the past and what we’d like to achieve in the fu­ture, and not want­ing to stand still and be stale or un­cre­ative. We’ve had a very spe­cific writ­ing for­mula for the last 20 years and five records, and that has done us very, very well – y’know, we’re never go­ing to be un­grate­ful for that and we’re never go­ing to for­get it – but we needed to look to­wards the fu­ture, and we didn’t want to write mu­sic that we’d al­ready done in the past any­more.

“We asked our­selves, ‘What haven’t we done, and how can we do it bet­ter than any­thing we have?’ It took a lot of time to get to Grav­ity! It took about three months of writ­ing be­fore we set­tled on a sin­gle track at all, so the shift in style wasn’t some­thing we took at all lightly. It was some­thing we re­ally took our time about to make sure that if we took our time about to make sure that if we were go­ing to take a bit of a di­rec­tion change, we would do it in the right way. And per­son­ally, I think we’ve done it. I think the bal­ance is spot on – there’s noth­ing too crazy or too dif­fer­ent, but it is dif­fer­ent enough that peo­ple will bring it up ev­ery time we talk to them.”

It comes at a strange point on the time­line for the three-time Ker­rang!Award re­cip­i­ents. Their last two records – 2013’s Tem­perTem­per and 2015’s

Venom – both de­liv­ered some of Bul­let’s most in­tense mu­sic to date, the lat­ter es­pe­cially div­ing deep into a world of spine-shat­ter­ing thrash and tooth-pulling met­al­core. But to hell with mak­ing LP6 a pre­dictable notch on the board, said the four­some. There’s no such thing as the “per­fect time” to take a risk that could change the course of your life there­after, af­ter all, and so 2018 seemed as good a year as any for Bul­let to shake things up. But of course, such an earth­quake didn’t come with­out a few shat­tered glasses.

“I just knew that it was the right time to take a leap like this,” Tuck as­serts. “I had a very clear vi­sion of where I wanted to go on this record. Try­ing to ex­plain that to the boys, but not hav­ing an ex­am­ple of what the vi­sion ac­tu­ally was – that was ob­vi­ously quite a dif­fi­cult process and a dif­fi­cult thing for them to un­der­stand. And a lot of the stuff that [Michael Paget, lead gui­tars] and Jamie [Mathias, bass] were writ­ing re­called a far older ver­sion of what this band used to be. It was very flashy and riff-based – which is great! Y’know, they were great riffs and it was a mas­sive vibe, but… It just felt like ev­ery other band had been there and done that – and us es­pe­cially.

“I wanted to change and I wanted to be pushed. I want to step out of my com­fort zone and chal­lenge my­self as a song­writer, and noth­ing that was hap­pen­ing were any of those things. It was just the same old shit, and it was re­ally scar­ing me to go down that road again. So yeah, it was dif­fi­cult. And it up­set peo­ple – there were a lot of egos be­ing dented in those first few weeks – but it was some­thing that I just felt so pas­sion­ate about. And thank­fully, af­ter we wrote a few songs and started to get some skele­tons to­gether for this al­bum, that’s when the penny dropped and the light­bulb mo­ment came for those guys.”

With a new sound in their pocket came some new record­ing tech­niques. Namely – and this is a bit of an ironic one, given the elec­tronic slick that coats

Grav­ity at ev­ery turn – the band were ea­ger to keep in­stru­ments un­scathed in the mix­ing booth. They’re dis­tinctly raw, with gui­tars un­fet­tered by out­landish ped­als and Tuck left sur­pris­ingly bare with his tal­ents on show.

“We tried a lot of our old tricks and we used a lot of the old ef­fects, just for a lit­tle bit of ear candy on cer­tain parts,” Tuck says, “But we ended up strip­ping it all back in the end. It just felt a bit too gim­micky. We did use some ef­fects when we thought it would be nec­es­sary, but we took a lot of them off be­cause we felt that they kind of in­ter­rupted or got in the way of the song’s foun­da­tions. The sim­plic­ity of the mu­sic is ac­tu­ally what makes this al­bum so f***ing heavy, and it be­came ap­par­ent re­ally quickly that when we tried to mess with that by putting in dif­fer­ent sounds and mess­ing with other tech­niques, it just didnt sound right.”

Of course, one thing that re­mained the same was Tuck’s im­pen­e­tra­ble love for the gui­tar. And like all great gui­tarists, there’s one spe­cific cat­e­gory of axe the young punk froths es­pe­cially hard over: the hum­ble Gib­son Les Paul. Tuck owns a whole suite of them, most equipped with cus­tom specs – al­most al­ways de­mand­ing some vari­a­tion of an EMG pickup.

“It’s just the her­itage,” Tuck gushes of his love the Les Paul – we can al­most see him drool­ing at the chin from over our shoddy phone line. “It’s the name, the his­tory, the way they feel when you play them, the sound… That snap you get when you open the case! Mate, it’s ev­ery­thing. It’s the holy grail of gui­tars, y’know – you’ve got your Les Pauls and you’ve got your Strats; those are the only two gui­tars that re­ally mat­ter when you think about it. When I was a kid, those were the gui­tars I never thought I’d be able to own. I used to dream about it ev­ery day when I was play­ing my shitty En­core and the kind of thrift shop gui­tars you have to have when you’re grow­ing up and you have no f***ing money. And the Les Pauls… They’re just icons of what we do, and they’re that for a rea­son.”

Any­one else feel like they need to burst into a stand­ing ova­tion?

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