"Where the fuck have all the riffs gone?"
That?s what Matt Tuck wants to know. He and his fellow Bridgend band-mates have been listening to the radio, going to shows, and - for the last 7 years - answering that often-asked question with their own metal-clad minstrelsy known as ?Bullet for My Valentine? - one of the most intense acts to come out of Wales since mega-groups Funeral for a Friend and Lostprophets put that outer-rim of the musical galaxy on the map. But make no mistake: geography is where their similarities end. Chalk it up to teenage years spent worshipping the likes of Metallica, Testament, and the almighty Iron Maiden.
"We were all kind of bewildered by how huge those bands got," continues Tuck. "It wasn?t jealousy, but we didn?t see a reason why that couldn?t be us."
In fact, there is no reason, because this fearsome foursome?s supercharged riffage and soaring vocalsharken back to a time in the UK when how good you were had to do with how well you played - something they?re convinced is lost on too many of today?s flash-in-the-pan upstarts.
"We?re proud to say that there isn?t a single indie band in South Wales ," says guitarist
Michael ?Padge ?Paget. "I don?t see how a band can stand there for 40minutes and just sing bollocks. What?s the point? It?s about putting on a show!"
And that attitude?s already won Bullet? a coveted support-slot with American metal-beasts Chimaira on their recent stint in the UK, a tour gave them an unforgettable taste of life on the road, not to mention a bit of intimate time with each-other.
"There was the four of us stuffed in the back of arider," laughs Tuck. "We didn?t mind though, we?re completely committed to this, even if that did mean knowing each other a little better than we should."
But what really mattered was getting known on the road, and it wasn?t long before they got the call they?d been waiting for: an opening slot at the 2004 Download Festival. But where many bands would see their invitation to the legendary home of metal as a crowning achievement, these Welshmen saw it just the beginning. Not to say they didn?t "appreciate" a chance to obliterate the Barfly stage, but they?ve set their sights higher.
"We drove up there at dawn with music cranked right up to 11," beams bass-man Jason James. "There we were at 10 in the morning, standing on the main-stage with beers in our hands. It was like, ?well, this is it boys. This is where we?re meant to be."
If that sounds arrogant to you, think again. This foursome have already experienced the kind of setbacks that would have left a lesser-band in ruins. Bullet for my Valentine were formed from the ashes of Jeff Killed John, a band that - name aside - had everything going for it; great friends, good songs, and enough experience playing ?shitty gig after shitty gig with everyone telling us to fuck off? to last them a lifetime. That is, until one day two years ago their bassist decided to quit. His timing couldn?t have been worse.
"We were due to go in the studio on Saturday, and he quit on the Friday," sighs Tuck. "Everything went completely tits up, and it was a really big kick in the balls but it made us stronger."
Strong enough to recruit a new bass player, and strong enough to take a critical look at themselves and see what had gone wrong. The result was a new sound based on what they wanted to play rather than what the then nu-metal-loving media wanted to hear, a new name to fit Matt Tuck?s darkly romantic lyrics, and a new lease on a career they?re determined to pursue ?til the end of their days.
"Everyone?s been dumped, sure they have," says Tuck. " Not everyone?s been dumped by a psycho. Some of our music?s actually quite uplifting, but a lot of it isn?t. This IS supposed to be fun, right?"
Certainly fun enough to write songs like ?Hand of Blood?, a chugging, fist-throwing, chorus-laden anthem that?s already received a stunning visual treatment. Lacking the funds to put on the kind of big-budget Hollywood production they?d envisioned, the band unanimously opted for the next-best thing. That is, getting 150 people to crowd into a garage and have fake-blood rained down on them in a disco-bloodbath inspired by a scene from the Wesley Snipes Vampire flick ?Blade?. Indeed, Slayer would be proud. But like the classic-metal masterpieces that inspire them, Bullet for my Valentine don?t believe in re-inventing the wheel. They?ve discovered the power of the riff, and they?ve got the balls and the bravado to see that no one soon forgets it.