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Black Veil Brides - The Phantom Tomorrow (Album Review)

Friday, 12 November 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Embrace this new concept album by Black Veil Brides as a powerhouse arena-rock juggernaut, where massive hooks and stirring sentiments are rigged to explode at regular intervals, and you’ll be treated to a raging inferno of rousing pop-metal. Invest heavily in the record’s rock-operatic pretensions, however, and you may end up stuck on a dystopian wasteland feeling a tad chilly and confused.

When conceptual efforts disappear up their own backsides, it’s usually because narrative exposition has taken precedence over the inclusion of consistently memorable songs. The trick is to convey dramatic details through tracks that function on their own, while also being essential cogs in a storytelling machine.

Song for song, there isn’t a weak moment here as Black Veil Brides again do a convincing job of rendering Avenged Sevenfold covering Mötley Crüe in the style of a bombastic, angst-ridden emo gang.

Dispensing anthem after anthem fuelled by razor-edged guitars and a whirlwind of rhythmic fire, Scarlett Cross blazes ‘80s hair metal riffage, Born Again and Kill The Hero sling walloping major key choruses and Blackbird offers a fine example of this record’s stadium-flattening refrains.

There’s a valid argument to be made that these consistently histrionic cuts have been over-refined, are structurally predictable, and route one in their execution.  Yet, within each composition the band flex their textural muscles, adding colourful, moody detail to epic bangers such as Field of Bones, the smouldering Torch and metalcore-flecked Crimson Sky. 

But, despite boasting a dark, prescient concept with huge scope, one that chronicles  false heroes—politicians, celebs, religious figures—rising up as saviours, the ambitious and detailed world building discussed by singer Andy Biersack isn’t clearly rendered on record.  

To fill in the blanks, follow the accompanying short films on YouTube, and browse the forthcoming comic book, because the beats, acts, characters and ideologies aren’t sharply defined here. Although Biersack’s powerful sentiments about becoming your own hero come across loud and clear, ’The Phantom Tomorrow’ doesn’t establish the kind of pleasingly crafted narrative and stylistic ebb and flow that would allow the story to breathe and important plot points to be fleshed out.  

Unleashing fist-flinging banger after banger, when the odd slow number would be welcome, it’s like watching John Wick with the rare quiet bits edited out, leaving one relentless shock and awe set piece after the next. Listen to a master of the form such as Neal Morse and you’ll hear how exposition and character development, without spelling everything out, can be detailed and musical at the same time. 

More in line with the band’s self-titled effort and ‘Set The World On Fire’ than previous conceptual offerings, the album’s overarching message of self-empowerment does add gallons of spirit and passion to songs that more than stand on their own two feet as grandiose anthems with gripping contemporary resonance. Black Veil Brides come so close to nailing this.


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