Reinvention can be a weird thing, especially within the realms of so-called ‘heavy’ music. Most successful hardcore metal bands of today cut their teeth spewing out absolutely brutal riffs, ferocious breakdowns and earth shattering vocals. Most of them continue to do this for the rest of their careers, yet some decide that they want to try out new things and see where it takes them. Sheffield’s Bring Me the Horizon falls under the latter category. Following some years of travelling down the “same old story” metalcore path, Oli Sykes and co. decided it was time for change. 2013’s stunning Sempiternal was the first step, combining brute force and ethereal serenity effortlessly, with the band now following it up on That’s the Spirit. For anybody who expects the record to feature any hallmarks of the old-BMTH, prepare to be disappointed. For anybody who likes change and evolution, prepare to be satisfied wholly. Read on for our full opinion.
The record opens in a subdued fashion on Doomed, which tackles frontman Oli Sykes’ former ketamine addiction head-on. The lyrics come across as a personal letter to the drug which almost made him want to die, with lyrics such as “tear me to pieces, sell me for parts” and “I asked for death, but instead I’m awake” emphasizing the effect ketamine had on him. Musically, it’s a combination of downbeat electronic wobbles and light synths, both of which are overpowered by a thundering chorus later on. Sykes may have been almost forced how to sing (his vocal chords were on the verge of ceasing to work), but it’s definitely paid off in the long term. Where the frontman used to vocalise his feelings through screams, he now puts on a raw, radio FM metal drawl. By the end of Doomed, it’s very clear that That’s the Spirit will be like nothing the band have ever done before. Comeback track Happy Song somewhat follows up this trend, utilizing a cheerleader troupe to cheer the phrase, “Spirit, let’s hear it!” Once the riff kicks in, Jordan Fish’s haunting underlying synths sprawl and accompany Sykes’ moody vocals in a euphoric fashion. The final part of the track seems made for the direction Bring Me the Horizon are going in – arenas, festival headline slots and eventually stadiums. If Happy Song isn’t the perfect epitome of what the band are currently about, then god knows what is. Recent single Throne harks back to the older Linkin Park days, with a huge electro riff and haunting vocals intertwining. A passing reference to Sempiternal (“so you can throw me to the wolves”) cements itself just before the massive chorus, one which sounds less like a standard chorus and more like an electronic drop. Although the track is probably too short for its potential, True Friends makes up for this with an even huger ‘proper’ chorus and radio friendly riffs. It’s probably the only track on That’s the Spirit which sounds remotely like anything the band have done before, something which is particularly down to the use of strings during the riff and the heavy section before the chorus. It’s a song which has been tailor cut for the radio, with Sykes declaring, “true friends stab you in the front”.
The first four songs on That’s the Spirit are what essentially sets the scene for how Bring Me the Horizon have changed, with the following seven tracks further emphasizing this point and incorporating new elements. Follow You is the softest track that the band have ever released, centring on a handclap-esque electronic drum beat and synth-y flourishes. “So you can drag me through hell” sings Sykes melodically during the chorus, showcasing his newfound ability to sing instead of scream. It’s the closest BMTH will ever get to releasing a love song, particularly one which is so stripped back. Follow You’s quiet undertones are immediately countered by the in-your-face power rock of What You Need, one of the record’s standout tracks. It’s a song which has also been ready made for the airwaves, encompassing bundles of energy and riffs. Sykes’ vocals in the chorus sound extremely urgent, with Lee Malia’s guitar work on this track deserving a special mention. Although it’s not what we’ve come to expect from the band, they really do manage to pull it off well. Hints of heavy Muse and Linkin Park are most prevalent, with the latter band’s influence very much present throughout the whole record. As you reach the halfway point on That’s the Spirit, it’s very clear that each song manages to showcase each band member’s unique ability one song at a time. Follow You let Fish’s electronics stand out, True Friends showcased Sykes’ singing ability, and What You Need saw Malia’s guitars flourish. Following track Avalanche is an equally powerful song, with drummer Matt Nicholls going in at full force from the word go. “It’s like an avalanche, I feel myself go under” sings Sykes during the anthemic chorus, before Run utilizes an eerie piano melody and chaotic, drawn-out chorus. “’Cause this is not enough” he screams, before the breakdown goes down an extremely melodic path. As the track comes to an end, another hint of Sempiternal-era BMTH enters the frame by means of one-toned church choir vocals. The lyrics focus on running away, which might be a hint to Sykes’ stint in rehab as he (successfully) overcame his ketamine addiction.
By this point, the double header of Avalanche and Run has set the scene quite moodily, meaning that it was up to Drown to introduce confetti-ready moments and the biggest chorus on the record. From the off, Drown (which was originally released in late 2014) is a powerful anthem that sums up modern day Bring Me the Horizon in one word – euphoric. As the song builds up during its breakdown, a young choir accompanies the band and helps the song kick back into force. “’Cause you know that I can’t do this on my own” sings the choir, before Drown comes to a cataclysmically powerful ending. The menacing Blasphemy follows, utilizing an interesting instrumental lick which ends up being the track’s signature moment. “You’ve got hell to pay, but you already sold your soul” declares Sykes throughout the track, helping That’s the Spirit career towards an epic close. This epic close comes in the form of electronica-led banger Oh No, the first Bring Me the Horizon song to feature a saxophone solo. “Don’t call it a party, ‘cause it never stops” sings Sykes during the chorus, with the majority of the track going down a path not too dissimilar to that of Chvrches. As the saxophone enters, the mood is set as such to reflect on the band that Bring Me the Horizon have become. Gone are the 180km/h riffs and breakdowns, having been replaced by flourishing electro and moody bridges. Gone too are Sykes’ brutal vocals, having been replaced by clean singing and the occasional raw scream. The fact that neither of those things are present doesn’t really matter, though, because the new Bring Me the Horizon are still the same band in a new jacket. Commercially they’ve become far more accessible than before, which will only dissatisfy more and more older fans as time goes by. The thing is, though, that this band are not going to put out the same record time after time just to satisfy Aaron from Wyoming because he loves Count Your Blessings. No, the band are going to keep reinventing themselves because they see opportunity in different genres that they equally love. To be successful in the heavy scene, reinvention is key, and Bring Me the Horizon have opened the lock to success. Jack Parker.
That’s the Spirit is out now. Listen to True Friends below.