The tomorrow that arrives in yesterday’s attire.
Whoever said that a tiger never changes his stripes has never encountered the Cincinnati-born metalcore turned modern rock with a lot of twists juggernaut known as Black Veil Brides. Originally cutting their teeth in the studio circa 2010 with a sound fairly reminiscent of contemporary albums out of the likes of All That Remains, As I Lay Dying and In Flames, their track record has since included a number of evolutionary leaps, including but not limited to a glam/shock rock stint and a foray into classically-tinged, metal-adjacent complexity that has since seen this quintet practically all over the hard rock map. If nothing else, they are a band with a sense of artistic ambition that is at least equal to their extremely flamboyant image, which has often found them compared to the likes of Alice Cooper, Kiss and Marilyn Manson, and their sixth studio LP is a testament to a band that knows how to put a collection of radio-friendly bangers into a storybook experience.
In many respects, “The Phantom Tomorrow” is a continuation of the conceptual scheme that this outfit had previously adopted on 2013’s “Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones” and it’s 2018 prequel “Vale”, but with a darker and more sinister tone. Buoyed by a rock solid rhythm section performance turned in by veteran kit man Christian “CC” Coma and newly recruited bassist Lonny Eagleton, it’s an album largely built off hook-oriented bangers with a familiar and highly methodical sense of structure. Then again, the devil is always in the details, and it is in the ornamentation and deviation provided by lead guitarist Jake Pitts and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jinxx that turns an otherwise by-the-numbers arena rock affair with some metallic flourishes into a formidable creation that often mimics the theatrically charged and impact-based albums one might expect from the likes of Solution .45 or The Unguided.
Naturally one would be remiss not to note the impressive vocal display turned in by Andy Biersack, whose clean cut yet fairly forceful approach could be likened to a less melodramatic rendition of Howard Jones’ cleaner moments during his tenure with Killswitch Engage or that of less raspy Philip Labonte. The level of consistency that comes with what he brings to each of these compact yet dynamic songs has a bolstering effect on the whole arrangement, perhaps coming off as static when compared against the music going on around it, but also providing the sort of melancholy narrator persona that fits the story being conveyed. Whether the flavor of the moment be a mid-paced riff machine such as leadoff single “Scarlet Cross”, a mellower pop/rock infused romp with a strong keyboard backdrop in “Born Again”, or a blistering metallic assault such as “Crimson Skies”, Biersack proves a consistently well-rounded presence, going with the flow and prepping to inspire plenty of sing-along moments on future tour dates with his accessible melodic swagger.
Perhaps the most notable improvement that this album makes with regard to this band’s last entries into conceptual territory is a less abrupt and more organic employment of instrumental passages and interludes. The title track and opening prelude has a decidedly cinematic flavor to it that manages to be both Hollywood-like and displays Jinxx’s flair for composing neo-classical fanfare, yet also makes room for some strategic guitar usage. Likewise, the mid-album interlude “Spectres” sees some of his signature violin work providing an additional layer of vividness upon an album that frequently flirts with a European metal sound. Even within proper rockers such as “Torch” and “Fields Of Bone”, the energetic drive that functions as the band’s preferred cadence point is accompanied by frequent atmospheric breaks for added contrast, which is developed further on the punchy, high-impact metallic bluster of “Shadows Rise”. But interestingly enough, the biggest standout moment occurs on one of the more basic melodic numbers “Kill The Hero”, which is where Pitt’s guitar work just crushes it from start to finish.
Arguably the only downside to this album, which is yet another way in which it mirrors their original excursion into rock opera territory in 2013, is that this album’s release was plagued with delays due to ongoing lockdowns hampering promotion efforts and subsequent touring. Suffice it to say, the wait will prove well worth it for existing fans of the band, which has always been an area where Black Veil Brides has excelled in spite of their frequent shifts in both sonic and visual aesthetics. Contrary to what some naysayers in the critical field have thrown this band’s way, there is a level of appeal beyond the mainstream rock and fickle pop world to this band, and this particular album may prove highly attractive to more rock-ribbed metalcore and melodic groove metal fans who prefer their infectious tunes to pack a harder punch. The songs may be short and the cliché hooks plentiful, but there is absolutely a credibility to this that transcends the flashy stage getup.
Released By: Sumerian Records
Release Date: October 29th, 2021
- Andy Biersack / Lead vocals
- Jinxx / Rhythm guitar, violin, backing vocals
- Jake Pitts / Lead guitar
- Christian “CC” Coma / Drums
- Lonny Eagleton / Bass, backing vocals
“The Phantom Tomorrow” Track-list:
- The Phantom Tomorrow (Introduction)
- Scarlet Cross
- Born Again
- Spectres (Interlude)
- The Wicked One
- Shadows Rise
- Fields Of Bone
- Crimson Skies
- Kill The Hero
- Fall Eternal
Pre-order the album here.
Metalcore upstarts turned hard rock titans Black Veil Brides continue their rapid paced artistic evolution with a highly ambitious conceptual work that blurs the lines between their glam-tinged rocking past and a more metal-adjacent sense of forcefulness, all the while still keeping the focus on compact bangers with a tastefully technical edge