When the Black Veil Brides first burst upon the scene last summer with their studio debut, We Stitch These Wounds, it was a pretty massive commercial success, selling over 10,000 copies in its first week, placing them at #36 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and hitting #1 on the Billboard Independent chart. The kids ate up their KISS-inspired persona, coupled with serious metal riffs and emo-influenced lyrics.
They were Hot Topic sweethearts, making bank off merchandise and touring incessantly (they're still going, and Black Veil Brides will be on the entire 2011 Vans Warped Tour), delivering a solid metalcore sound with an emotional bent and a heavy dose of glam. While it was never that innovative, or even always that interesting, the musicianship was proficient, and it wasn't the worst thing kids were listening to (that would be Brokencyde).
With Set the World On Fire, the melodramatic models are back, shedding much of their emo pretensions and going for an album that's much more metal and even more generic.
Musically, the band is solid, delivering tight metal riffs that hold up to the best of them. The dual guitar line of Jake Pitts and Jinxx deliver admirable onslaughts throughout the album, driving melodies and solos that carry the band, from the album's opener "New Religion" (Listen/Download), which just starts punching with a fast, thick guitar line, accented with fast licks up and down the frets. Yeah, it's pretty metal, and it's a pervasive element throughout the record, a string-propelled engine giving energy to tracks like "Love Isn't Always Fair" (Listen/Download) and "Die For You" (Listen/Download).
The guitars aren't the only source of energy, either. Drummer Christian "CC" Coma is a blistering powerhouse, most evident on "The Legacy" (Listen/Download) and "Youth & Whiskey" (Listen/Download), tracks where he hammers out a machine gun staccato of percussive beats that is simply incredible.
But even with the amazing musicianship on Set the World On Fire, the album is flat and uninteresting, reflecting a sound that's tired and past. And the guy most responsible for the album's tired nature is frontman Andy Six, whose delivery is often monotone and yet overly dramatic, based on someone trying to deliver an image that's dark, but in a purely suburban mallrat gothic sort of way.
He's like a bad James Hetfield clone in black nail polish, and his reliance on a sound that is more metal and less emo than his earlier sound makes him even less interesting, and much more derivative of a sound that should have been set aside a while back.
While Six manages to make much of the album less than memorable by way of his vocals, the most dreadful track on Set the World On Fire is "Savior" (Listen/Download), a song that, for most of its four-minute existence, chugs along like a tired metal ballad before Six devolves into a screaming mess, going for something between screamo and death metal and coming up short on all counts, like the band couldn't even take the most peaceful track on the album and allow it to have a peaceful death.
If there is a redeeming track on the record, it's the album's closer, "Smoke and Mirrors." This is a song with a solid, gritty hook, accented with solos that are never gratuitous and a fist-pumping chorus, but even so, Six manages to help drag it into a morass of unremarkable metallic pablum.
Set the World On Fire is partly a throwback to '80s hair bands like Mötley Crüe, Skid Row and of course KISS, bands that had their place at one time, but not any more. It's also a perfect example of what's wrong with the current crawl of metalcore into the mainstream, the production of music that's slickly commodifed and delivered in a slick, consumer-friendly package devoid of anything remarkable.
Release date: June 14, 2011