Decked out in varying textures of black clothing, faces masked in heavy makeup, and hair teased up in “glam metal” styles, Black Veil Brides definitely made an entrance when they introduced themselves to the world of music in 2009. The release of their first single, Knives and Pens, created mixed reactions from the public. There were those that grew a steady devotion for the band, and those who seemed to see them as the Nickelback of metal. They have since become familiar faces of Van’s Warped Tour, spokesmen for outcasts, and have won the Kerrang! Award for Best Live Band in 2013 and 2015.
On Jan. 12, Black Veil Brides returned to comfort outsiders in their fifth studio album Vale. According to Kerrang! magazine, lead vocalist Andy Biersack said that this is the “most complete and exciting” album they have done to date.
A twenty-two second intro, Incipiens Ad Finem, builds up the album into the foreboding piano of The Last One, which explodes into an energetic anthem backed by addictive, pounding drums. That’s a theme that carries throughout this album — many of the songs feel like an epic theme to a dark, enigmatic movie trailer or dream.
Wake Up is a call to arms that gets the blood pumping in its catchy chorus that listeners might not be able to resist singing along to. The Outsider kicks off with a monstrous guitar that ignites the flame in a track that seems to shout that it’s time for a war. The frenzied track The Last One features a thrashing guitar lead set against pounding drums to build the song into its climatic outro. Black Veil Brides dip into a more aggressive approach in the songs My Vow and Throw the First Stone, as well as a contrasting softer tone seen in When They Call My Name, where Biersack reflects on overcoming his own trials.
Throughout the album, the lyrics carry the central tone of perseverance in fighting one’s own individual challenges and demons. In Ballad of the Lonely Hearts, Biersack sings, “Here’s to the lonely hearts and the ones that never change/We will carry on,” reaching out to those who may feel deserted by society. “We won’t let them turn away/We’ll show them what they made,” he chants in the Wake Up, calling to fans to stand against those who may try to tear them down.
“We hope to continue to inspire our fans and friends to embrace their own individuality and inner strength. …This concept is one that is near to my heart and I believe will resonate with those that find themselves cast on the fringe of society,” Biersack said.
The album is signature Black Veil Brides in its bombastic array of “in your face” tracks. However, that is where a problem lies. Many songs follow a similar pattern, overtime making them less distinguishable. Songs Dead Man Walking and Our Destiny feel weak and a bit sluggish, especially as the two tracks follow each other and neither seem to reach exactly where they were intended to go. As the album continues, the songs can feel formulaic and seem to blend together.
It’s definitely a fun album filled with plenty of great hooks and shout-along choruses, but it comes across as safe from time to time and lacks daring risks. Vale is strong in that it features some of Biersack’s best vocals, and lead guitarist Jake Pitts’ work consistently shines through, but there seems to be a missing element from the record, as if it falls short of its true potential. It undoubtedly can be a great album for those who are already fans of the band, but those who aren’t might not be quite as eager to jump on the leather-studded bandwagon.