BLACK VEIL BRIDES – Tear Down The Cross

January 9, 2013, 4 years ago

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By: Aaron Small

Sitting in his hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, having only just begun the 65-date Church Of The Wild Ones Tour, BLACK VEIL BRIDES vocalist Andy Biersack called to discuss his band’s new album, Wretched And Divine. “I’m very proud of what we did, and I’m thrilled that it’s got such a positive reaction from our fans.”

The Wretched And Divine cover art, pictured below, is reminiscent of David and Goliath – a little guy facing off against a huge monster. “Certainly, that’s what Black Veil Brides have always been,” proclaims Andy. “We’re a band that from the beginning, were told by managers, labels, and booking agents that people would never want to hear this kind of music; we were living in the past. But we firmly believe that rebellion, fun, and being your own person, doing what you want to do is always going to be prevalent in rock ‘n roll music. And to our fans’ credit, they were able to create such a huge, strong following. Whether we might be David versus Goliath, we’ve always been able to come out on top; and that’s because of the fans.”

Wretched And Divine, the third full-length from Black Veil Brides, marks their first foray into the world of concept albums. In a nutshell, it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario in which a group of rebels, named The Wild Ones, take on a unified church/government leadership known as F.E.A.R. Essentially, The Wild Ones are an alter-ego for Black Veil Brides, as the band inspires their fans to be themselves and not take what’s spoon-fed to them; revolt, without causing anarchy.

“Our whole thing has always been, and the story is pretty much the same thing; the idea that people can openly tell you that you can’t do something, you can’t listen to what you want to, or dress the way you want to… it’s so laughable in this day and age. All of us (in BVB) grew up in small towns, and it doesn’t matter that it’s 2013, everyday there’s still people going to work or school, and being persecuted simply because they’re being the person they want to be. For me, growing up I was never the quiet, lonely kid. I certainly didn’t have very many friends, but my interest was always in creating my own reality and being my own person,” reveals Andy. “I wanted to carry that ethic onto our fans and say, you’re not alone in this, you’re not the outcast. You can be your own person and do your own thing. So going into this record and writing this concept, obviously we’re very heavily influenced by a lot of the visual medium like (George Orwell’s) Nineteen Eighty-Four. So we thought what if there was this kind of unified church government; all-knowing, all-seeing omnipotent power that wouldn’t let you do things you want to do? And wanted to remove all creativity, science, and intellect from society and just keep you in the shadows? How would you combat against that? We came up with this concept that there would be this legion of rebels that wanted to fight against it. That’s a story that’s gone on throughout history. I think there’s three stories that can be told: man versus the world, man versus man, and man versus himself. This is a story of man defeating his own demons, and at the same time defeating the outside demon.”

Black Veil Brides aren’t the first band to utilize F.E.A.R. In 2008, on their Formation Of Damnation album, TESTAMENT had a song called F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real. “I didn’t know this,” admits Andy. “But it’s also the name of a terrorist group! I was influenced as a kid by the (punk rock) band F.E.A.R. Seeing their spray-painted, upper case logo, it seemed almost Orwellian. It was kind of scary looking, just the shape of the letters. The Forever End All Religion acronym came from growing up and being around people that were political or religious, and not necessarily doing it for the right reasons. They had a smile on their face, and a knife behind their back. So the concept of this church government bad guy saying, ‘this is for everyone, come join us.’ But in reality, they’re trying to keep you down and they’ll tell you what to do.”

A 45-minute movie, Legion Of The Black, was filmed to accompany the release of Wretched And Divine. According to Andy, “It was just as simple and innocent as, hey, let’s make a movie; then reality set in. Who makes a movie with a rock band in this day and age? It’s not as if we have this unlimited budget at our disposal. So we came up with this concept, a story we believe can be told in a visual medium. We presented it to the label, and to our fortune, the label was behind the idea. We were able to pull in a lot of favours, but we kind of did this on our own. It was definitely a DIY operation, but everyone involved in it was behind it. It’s a tough thing to do. It wasn’t until after the record was completed that we got to shoot it. When you consider the short period of time between the beginning of shooting in September, and releasing the movie at the end of December; it’s very cool that we were able to get it done in that amount of time. Patrick Fogerty, our director and editor, I don’t think he slept; he literally looked like a ghost of a person. He spent a lot of nights working on stuff. But that’s always been the way. Everybody who’s been involved in Black Veil Brides since day one has really been behind the band. We’ve been very fortunate, people really want to help us; we definitely have a very strong core of support.”

Legion Of The Black was screened theatrically in Los Angeles in December, and will hit the silver screen in New York later this month; it’s also been shown online. But will it be released on DVD? “Absolutely, we also have a couple of songs from the story that we haven’t released yet. We’re going to be putting together the ultimate Wretched And Divine package for summer release. It’ll include the movie as well as the additional songs, a couple of other things, the making of documentary that comes with the special edition of the record.”

Much like vinyl releases have side A and B; Wretched And Divine is divided into two acts: Hope and Faith. “The lyrical themes of the songs are very hopeful in the beginning, like ‘I Am Bulletproof’. Then there’s the realization that you can’t always defeat your demons. The second act is definitely much bleaker in terms of the lyrical content, songs like ‘Lost It All’ and ‘Nobody’s Hero” are much darker.”

Not only is Wretched And Divine the title of the album, it’s also the name of track five. “That song was written before the record actually began. We had previously worked with a different producer on a few songs for the record that was going to be the follow-up to Set The World On Fire, which was not a concept album, just more of a straight ahead rock record. But none of us really felt comfortable with it. It wasn’t good enough; it didn’t feel exciting enough or challenging enough. So we wound up scrapping that, but Wretched And Divine was something that title-wise we loved, everyone has to have a little bit of dichotomy. It felt like the right title for this story.”

Andy’s girlfriend Juliet Sims, who was a contestant on the second season of NBC’s The Voice, makes a guest vocal appearance on ‘Lost It All’. Did the rest of the band have any qualms about his girlfriend appearing on the album? “Well, there’s two female voices on ‘Lost It All’ – Roberta Freeman, who has a more gospel, soul-sounding voice; she toured with GUNS N’ ROSES on Use Your Illusion. And Juliet Sims’ voice is more of a raspy JANIS JOPLIN. Roberta recorded first, and their two voices compliment so well. We were all sitting around talking and thinking Juliet has a perfect rock ‘n roll voice to go with this more angelic sounding high voice; it just felt right. I don’t think there was ever a moment in the studio where anybody ever said anything negative about it; it seemed like the logical thing. Her voice fit the part perfectly, it didn’t really matter that she’s my girlfriend.”

The third guest vocalist on Wretched And Divine is Bert McCracken from THE USED; singing on ‘Days Are Numbered’. “Again, it was one of those situations where we had written that song in its entirety and recorded it, but it didn’t really feel right yet. It was a little bit more bluesy, with kind of a rockabilly guitar initially. I knew that we wanted to go in a darker direction with it. Around that time, (producer) John Feldmann had a wedding renewal ceremony at his house, and he and Bert are very close friends. Bert and I were just standing around at the reception and got to talking about literature and music… I thought his voice would add a different tone to the record. He came in (to the studio) the next day and laid it down; from there we knew the direction we wanted to go in with the song.”

Another intriguing element of Wretched And Divine is the fact that BVB guitarist Jinxx wrote and performed all of the orchestration heard on the album. “Yes, all string arrangements were done live by Jinxx, which was important to us. I don’t particularly like when people have string instruments on a record and they’re just midi keyboard samples. It really takes away from it. Classical music is so important to the beginning of metal and hard rock music. We took it as an opportunity to let Jinxx go crazy with the violin and cello. I’m incredibly proud of him, and proud to say he’s a member of my band and that I get to watch that guy play all the time. It’s really cool.”

There are several short, spoken word passages that appear throughout the album, with ‘Abeyance’ being the most striking. It consists of Andy saying, ‘That God does not exist I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for a God I cannot forget.’ “It’s a quote that my Mom read to me when I was probably 12 or 13 years old, and it’s always stuck with me. I can’t remember the philosopher who said it? But I’ve always been conflicted… I love the idea of religion, and there’s a lot of religious themes on the record. I myself am not a believer or follower of Catholicism or Christianity, I just happen to be fascinated by it. In the moments when you have a really bad thing happen, or someone close to you dies. Those are the moments where I grew up to have the ability to forget my cynicism or forget my analytical part of my mind, and just say I’m going to pray that everything’s okay. I wish – there’s an ALKALINE TRIO lyric (from the song ‘In My Stomach’) that’s always stuck with me, ‘I prayed that I was all wrong about prayer’. That’s a very interesting line for me; I’ve always felt that way. I wish I could get down on my hands and knees and pray and feel better sometimes. But there’s parts of me that are just too analytical and think too much to allow for that. So I can’t necessarily say that there is a God, I wish to God that there was.”

Sticking with the topic of religion, Andy has the word Blasphemy, as well as an inverted cross, tattooed on his left arm. “The word Blasphemy on my arm is kind of meant to… I’ve always liked the idea that a word alone can upset people, and yet can also make other people feel a sense of strength. So if you’re blasphemous, there’s a certain element of people, the kind of people who like MARILYN MANSON, they feel very proud about their blasphemy; and there’s nothing wrong with that. Then there’s other people who think being blasphemous is the worst possible thing! The word to me is nothing more than a word. I don’t go around trying to be blasphemous; I’ve never tried to insult anyone’s religion. I just find words fascinating. The cross on my arm – I’m a singer. So I hold my arm in the air and it’s a regular cross, when I hold my arm down it’s an inverted cross; again, I like the dichotomy of that.”

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