Next week Bullet For My Valentine go out on their first arena tour, playing five of the UK‘s enormodomes. That’s an astonishing milestone. Not only are Bullet are a metal band, but a British one. You have to back to the 1980s, for the last time a metal band made the step up. And that was Iron Maiden.
Can you think of another band who‘ve done it since? Any that looked like they could, fell way short. Funeral For A Friend looked odds-on, but their career stalled. Lostprophets dodged the question by becoming an indie band. Cradle of Filth, huge in Eastern Europe, never made the same impact at home.
What’s with the drought? It’s not that no-one’s been good enough, nor are the venues unsuitable. Metal is actually best in arenas – huge guitar riffs never sound better than when they’re played out of enormous speakers over pyrotechnics.
The main reason, I would argue, is metal has a closer relationship with its history. It takes a long time to become a legend in metal, but once you do, it’s arenas for the rest of your life and a new crop of fans every year. If you want proof, look at the Download headliners of recent years and you see bands like AC/DC, Kiss and Metallica.
This festival is supposed to be for the under 30s, but those bands were well into their careers while most of the punters were at nursery. And you only have to look at the treatment that the festival’s organisers got when they booked My Chemical Romance to headline. Bile was poured from a thousand keyboards and the organisers even had to organise a special reception to placate fans.
It’s just weird. Fans seem to expect bands to give twenty years before they’re ready to headline a festival and grace arena stages. But that’s how it seems to go. Stick it out and there’s a very good living to be had – but it’ll take a while.
Which brings us back to Bullet and why they‘ve managed to get to arenas. Principally, it’s because they make well-crafted metal, with guitars that sound like entire orchestras and crushing choruses that ring round your head like battle cries. They’re also big in America, where they‘ve sold over 500 000 albums.
Maybe this increased profile has fast-tracked them to the bigger stages and given them a gravitas the others have lacked. Perhaps it’s also because they haven’t done a Lostprophets and starting telling everyone how much they love The Rakes.
Bullet talk about Pantera in interviews and still wear leather trousers. Maybe that’s the template for Gallows or Bring Me The Horizon to repeat the trick. Or, more likely, we’ll be waiting a least another decade for a breakthrough. Either way, Bullet’s ascent to arenas is one worth celebrating.