It’s been a while since I was last acquainted with Sheffield metallers Bring Me The Horizon. I believe it was four years ago when I heard ‘Anthem’, one of the songs from their 2010 album ‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret’. I liked the fact that one the song’s breakdowns made me want to GET THE FUCK UP and then I largely forgot about the band for the next few years. Their first three albums on my computer (2004’s ‘This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For’, 2006’s ‘Count Your Blessings’ and 2008’s breakthrough album ‘Suicide Season’) remained largely untouched as well.
When BMTH started releasing material from this latest album, I read that it represented quite a change in their sound. However, it wasn’t until I heard ‘Throne’ being played on the radio (yes, THE RADIO) that I realised how different this band sounded. The BMTH that I was familiar with started off as a deathcore band, complete with screaming, blast beats and breakdowns before progressing to catchy metalcore on ‘Suicide Season’. That sound has been replaced by something that seems to be mix of heavy rock, electro-pop and EDM. Allow to explain these elements.
High level distortion is one of the key ingredients to heavy metal music. Throughout this album, the guitars switch between slightly-heavier-than-rock distortion and clean. This occurred to me early on during the lead single ‘Happy Song’. In fact, the guitars are clean throughout the entirety of ‘Follow You’. Going back to their early days, another defining feature of deathcore is the lack of coherent chord progressions in favour of atonal, chaotic riffs. On this most recent album, the aforementioned riffs have given way to chord progressions that are pulled straight out of the Rock Music 101 textbook. Ok, maybe not Rock Music 101, probably Rock Music 201. Not to say that the music is boring, just that it definitely falls into the ‘rock’ category as opposed to ‘extreme metal’. This is particularly apparent on the song ‘What You Need’. The intro sounds like something that U2 would have written in the 1980s before progressing into a Linkin Parkesque chorus. The song ‘Drown’ is also an example of strong pop rock influences. Oli Sykes’ vocals switch between soft and harsh, high register singing. Full-on metal screaming isn’t present at all on this album.
Though there is no limit to the kinds of instruments that can be used in it, with a few exceptions, rock music has always been a guitar-driven style. I’ve already described how the guitars sound on this album, but these often takes a back seat to other instrumentations. The best example of this can be found on the song ‘True Friends’. While the chords are supplied by the guitars, the song itself is driven by a group of violins playing the song’s main motif. A similar arrangement occurs on ‘Avalanche’, except this time the motif comes from a keyboard. The album’s closing track ‘Oh No’ switches this around with the clean guitars playing the motif and the chords being supplied with keyboards. Taken out of the context of the whole album, one would be forgiven for thinking that this song was taken straight from an electropop album.
I’ve never really liked EDM as a genre (although this probably has more to do with bad experiences that have happened while this music has been playing in the background as opposed to the music itself). This most likely added to the surprise of hearing EMD influences on this album. Unlike the hard rock and electropop influences, the EMD parts are only really confined to certain parts of the songs. For example, the album’s opener ‘Doomed’ starts off as though it’s leading into an EDM track before the harsh singing and distorted guitars herald the arrival of the chorus. I’m guessing that the EMD influences including auto-tuned vocals and square-wave synthesizers on ‘Throne’ are part of that’s song’s success on radio stations. Similar synth sounds can also be heard on ‘Run’. Seeing as hard rock and heavy metal are very high energy styles of music, you can see why BMTH have incorporated elements of EDM (another high energy style of music) to make up for the abandonment of some of their metal traits.
Unlike so many metal elitists, I actually respect bands who incorporate new elements into their sound and take their music in a new direction. However, this doesn’t mean that I always like the outcome. In moving away from their metal roots, BMTH have taken electropop and EMD influences and combined them with their lightened music to form their new sound. Unfortunately, these often don’t blend too well. It’s almost seems like they took these new influences and mixed them into their sound just because of their mainstream appeal. While there are a few tracks that work really well such as ‘Run’ and ‘Follow You’, many of the others sound disjointed, like the various elements have been thrown together just for the sake of it. I initially thought that this was just the result of early experimentation. However, their previous album ‘Sempiternal’ contains a similar mixture, so the experimentation has largely been done. I should also point out that that album’s first track ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ is an incredibly good example of how metal and electropop can be blended. The main point that I’ll make about ‘That’s The Spirit’ is that it’s definitely innovative in its style blending and has produced a few really good songs (‘Run’, ‘Follow You’ and ‘What You Need’) but too often, the different elements fail to come together in a coherent manner.