Based in Hollywood, California, Black Veil Brides' third full-length release Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, is styled as a concept rock opera. The first single from the record, “In The End,” was one of the theme songs for WWE's Hell in a Cell and earlier this year, their track “Unbroken” appeared on the Avengers soundtrack.
The story within the album is as follows: “The Wild Ones” are a band of rebels battling a sinister organization known as F.E.A.R. The record's narrative serves as a parable about resisting dominant hegemony, especially against forces of institutionalized conformity. This suits the band's general commitment to “scene” culture and the often extreme fashion that accompanies it. A full-length film is planned to be released as a companion to the album, expanding the mythology.
So I can say this about Wretched and Divine: it is not quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. Black Veil Brides have built their career with what is honestly not a terrible recipe for mainstream success: taking anthemic, hook-heavy, pop-influenced hard rock of the most palatable variety, mixing in the barest hint of metallic influence in the form of distorted guitars and screams, and take all of the overwrought emotion of emo and ratchet it up about a thousand notches. I would also make an eyeliner joke right now if it wasn't so painfully easy.
With Wretched and Divine, they have perfected this formula. It's huge, bombastic, and carnivalesque. The album takes all of the over-the-top theatricality that both defines the band and makes it endlessly easy to scoff at and intensifies it to operatic proportions.
There are undeniably catchy moments, especially the single “In The End,” which would be more enjoyable if the pulsating vastness of the band's ego wasn't palpable in every self-satisfied note. The guitar leads are totally acceptable, and there are over-the-top moments of dragons-and-unicorns epic glory that are pleasing to the power metal ear for all their extreme cheesiness.
Ultimately, I am not sure that there is much value in Wretched and Divine. Listening to the record is a lot like dipping an oreo in salsa: less horrible and offensive to eat than you expected, but not so much that you would ever want to try it again.
If anything, I can appreciate Black Veil Brides for their role as a gateway band, popular enough to attract some kids to aggressive music and gradually leading them down the path of discovering heavier bands. For anyone with a real appreciation for heavy metal, there is not much here but empty calories.
(released January 8, 2012 on Lava Records)