If the name doesn’t sound familiar, the sound of Oli Sykes’ fiendishly captivating shout will. Bring Me The Horizon are the golden boys of metalcore, (I will deliberately use this genre as a label for the band. Regardless of how much debate sub-genres of metal now cause; I’d rather it didn’t get in the way of any initial, musical and natural reactions to the way the album sounds) since their inception in 2004, the Yorkshire fringe toting pretty boys exploded off the bat and became immensely popular locally and with “Kerrang! kids”. Their earlier releases were somewhat generic however, featuring gnarly guitar solos and very common (although still impressive) growls and screams popular at the time.
BMTH’s second outing: Suicide Season (2008) allowed the band, with their impressive following, the space to discover a distinct and fantastically brutal sound, suddenly the guitars carried with them a unique chug, Matt Nicholls’ drums sounded much more impactful and arena fueled and Syke’s screams had become an unholy mixture of growls and flat out shouting. In 2010, it wasn’t just the kids in venues and black skinny jeans paying attention to BMTH. There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret (2010) was released to critical appraisal as well as the usual swell in the band’s popularity received with each release. This album isn’t just a good metalcore album; it’s a good album, mixing the band’s patented face kicking sound with some fantastic electronica mixing and some perfectly selected collaborators. Sempiternal (2013) then, has a tough act to follow; and the very premise of the album is a frightening project for any musician who would like to make progress in their music. There Is a Hell being such an enormously brave leap in terms of sound and development for the band has placed them in front of an enormous wall of expectation amongst fans and music lovers. Fortunately, Sempiternal brings with it an arsenal of noise, all masterfully crafted specifically to bring this wall down without relent.
There is no denying that Sempiternal is much more the sister album to it’s immediate predecessor than BMTH’s earlier albums, in that it continues to soar into the relatively unexplored sound-space of electro-metal. The album hammers this point forward hard from its opening. We’re re-introduced to the band through an aggressive but pleasantly melodic synth loop in Can You Feel My Heart, already the ambient and atmospheric malice of There Is a Hell can be heard, but in a much more developed and polished way. Much of the album employs this synth driven epic writing, and when the layers of guitars and synth collide alongside a conviction filled shout in the choruses of songs like Sleepwalking and Go To Hell, For Heavens Sake the new BMTH separate themselves from the dozens of unremarkable heavy bands that rival them. The album is not purely filled with these synth anthems however, the absolute raw power of the band reminiscent of Suicide Season is present in some of the albums heavier, and sometimes stronger tracks. Antivist sounds brilliantly brutal, in all senses of the word, and the album’s flagship song Shadow Moses (Which includes an orchestral introduction derived from the legendary Hideo Kojima playstation title Metal Gear Solid (1998)) hosts what may be the band’s most festival suited chorus yet. Musically, the band seem to improve drastically each time they release a full album in terms of production and technical ability. Guitars are no longer needlessly flashy, every note seems ‘necessary’, and pretentious solos are all but present in this album. The songs may be much more electronically produced, but live presentation has obviously gone into the writing process of them, cleverly accommodating bass lines in support of powerful choruses ensuring that drums assist with the structure of the, at times, complex songs (rather than bullying the rest of the band into thrashing out a track as some metalcore seems to sound). Lyrically BMTH deliver a curious mixture of songs about fame, and the tribulations that accompany this (Seen It All Before) and some tracks tackling faith and seemingly opposing organised religion (House Of Wolves). This writing provides songs with a sense of raw conviction, and plenty of meat to get listeners’ teeth into, having said this though; lyrics, I have found, are a very subjective element of songwriting to interpret (and thus analyse). To people unfamiliar to Bring Me The Horizon, the following statement will sound insane, and perhaps deter readers from listening to the band. Please believe me when I say that the albums prior to Sempiternal are not poor, regardless of their absence of their singer’s ability to sing. That’s right, in many of Sempiternal‘s 11 tracks (13 if you count the Deluxe version of the album): Oliver Sykes sings (and he’s not bad either). If there was one thing There Is a Hell lacked; it was a consistent sense of voice, some of the more emotionally driven songs needed a singer, and not a stand in (although Josh Franceschi and Sam Carter have provided great vocal samples for BMTH in the past). Oli Sykes’ singing is put to use very carefully alongside his screams in this album; and this combination absolutely dominates the album in finale track Hospital For Souls in a heart wrenching crescendo of convincing and raw passion.
Sempiternal may not be as grand a leap as There Is a Hell was for the Steel City lads, but it takes the voice they had established in the latter and applies it to the stellar level of songwriting that they have acquired through rigorous touring and constantly being thrust into the limelight of modern heavy music. This is what metal sounds like now. Old school Pantera fans will moan, mums will give their radios confused looks as Shadow Moses tears up the insides of their cars; but these guys are going nowhere.