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It was late 2006, and Matt Tuck was living the rock and roll dream. His band, Bullet for My Valentine, had spent the good part of two years traveling the world and playing music off of their 2005 smash The Poison. The album had sold more than a million copies worldwide and helped the Welsh group break through to U.S. audiences.
But Tuck, the band's lead guitarist and singer, soon found out the hard way how that level of success comes with a cost. By the end of the year, while still in the early stages of working on Bullet's sophomore effort, Scream Aim Fire, Tuck began to suffer every vocalist's worst fear: voice problems. And they continued, leading to tonsillitis and other health issues, with the band's future hanging in the balance.
"My schedule was so hectic, and touring every day for months and months, I was getting vocal fatigue," Tuck says by phone from the road, traveling with the Rockstar Taste of Chaos Tour, on which his band is a headliner. "I didn't realize it was happening until it was too late, when I got onstage and had nothing come out."
Tuck, now 28 years old, spent a year struggling, recovering, and working with a vocal coach. Through it all, his bandmates, Michael Paget (guitar), Michael Thomas (drums), and Jason James (bass), were supportive.
"There wasn't anything anybody could do, apart from being patient," Tuck says. "We're not a negative band in any sense and never have been. We tried to enjoy the time even though we weren't able to do what we love, which is going on the road and tour. We spent it with family and friends, who did everything they could to help, which is all you can ask for."
Meanwhile, the band finished up the instrumental music for the record, completing it eight months before Tuck resumed recording vocals for Scream Aim Fire. The album's producer, Colin Richardson, returned to work with them for this second phase, at the Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Texas.
"The band and I have had a great relationship over the last three years with an album and EP; it just made sense for everyone to pick up where we left off on the last record," says Richardson, who has also worked with Machinehead and Funeral for a Friend. "I trust the band implicitly, and they're the same with me.... Nobody is too precious about pulling any ideas apart if they are not quite working. We all just dig in and don't stop until it feels right."
This combination obviously worked magically: Scream Aim Fire debuted at number four on the Billboard 200, with sales topping more than 50,000 in its first week. Tuck himself is especially proud of what the band put together. "All the songs mean the world to me," he says. "They're like children for me. They're a lot more personal ... than the last album."
And the band has landed a superhigh-profile slot, on the Taste of Chaos tour, to celebrate being back in full swing. While some days are struggles, Tuck says, he's happy to be back on the road. "It's been stable and the stamina is good. I'm actually sounding better tone-wise than I ever have.
"Psychologically I'm always going to be a little messed up," he continues, "but I think that's kind of healthy. It just makes me keep up with everything and makes me look after myself more than I did. It's something that gave me more appreciation for what I do. It's the positive to take from quite a big negative."
And despite the bad luck Tuck and his bandmates have experienced, they have emerged from the dark tunnel of the rock highway stronger than ever. Charged up by past gigs with legends such as Iron Maiden and Metallica, the group has evolved into one of the premier bands on today's metal scene. Getting exposure on major tours is a great learning experience, but Tuck believes the band paved its own way and takes pride in Bullet's individuality.
"We don't want to do something someone else has done," he says. "We want to do things our way."
And they're hardly letting up. Following the Taste of Chaos tour, the group will get just 10 days off before it begins another string of dates in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Europe. Aside from the occasional homesickness, the band couldn't be happier about being back in action.
"I don't think it will ever sink in what we've done," says Tuck. "It's just an amazing achievement." The Bullet train shows no signs of stopping.