Overall Score: 6.8/10 Musicianship: 8/10 Energy: 6/10 Album Flow: 5/10 Pros: Band as a unit are performing much better | Oli’s vocals continue to improve Cons: Album lacks the energy of old efforts | Album’s track order lacks cohesion
Bring Me the Horizon have been in ascendancy with every release since their controversial inception in 2004. Initial deathcore releases “This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For” and “Count Your Blessings” earned the group a negative reputation as the example of all that is wrong with deathcore, before subsequent releases “Suicide Season” and “There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret” began to win over critics as they became one of the leading lights of modern metalcore.
After losing Jona Weinhofen in a bad blooded split and replacing him with keyboardist Jordan Fish, the group released their most experimental effort to date, “Sempiternal”, which saw the quintet soften their sound and move into a more alternative metal sound, earning critical acclaim, but that wasn’t enough for Oli Sykes and co. New album “That’s the Spirit” sees Bring Me the Horizon erasing almost every trace of metalcore from their sound, and while it does sometimes work, there is a real sense that the band have lost the very thing that made them unique.
There are times which ape the pattern of “Sempiternal”, with opener Doomed showing similarities to “Sempiternal” opener Can You Feel My Heart, with glitchy sampling driving the track, however the sampling in Doomed is considerably more jarring and damages an otherwise good track. When the album really goes for it, such as in lead single Throne or the Deftones-esque Happy Song, the album excels in a way that “Sempiternal” failed, but these moments are too rare to have an impact. The band has gone in an altogether more pop-rock direction on this album and it really stifles the energy that the lyrical themes are trying to produce. Throne has everything done right: the electronics are on point, the live instruments provide a punch and Oli’s vocals have an air of urgency about them.
While the feel of the album is somewhat restrained, it must be said that Oli Sykes’s vocals are better than they’ve ever been. The harsh vocals are reduced to mere cameos now, but his clean singing is stronger than ever, including the high notes of Doomed and the poppy melodies of Follow You, and particularly latter tracks Blasphemy and Oh No. With the input of Jordan Fish, who previously played in indie band Worship, the band has really mastered how to create a catchy hook and Fish’s production is spot on. The electronics that were introduced in “Sempiternal” are a much smoother fit than they were on the previous effort, where it felt like the band were still getting used to their inclusion at times, and instead they become almost the focal point of Bring Me the Horizon’s music nowadays.
The main problem is something that has all too often plagued Bring Me the Horizon: the track order. The lack of energy in some tracks is only highlighted by the placement in the album, where the second half is met with a real lull, only the rerecorded Drown really standing out from it. If the track order had been amended, with Drown as the album closer, the album’s flow may have perhaps suited the tracks with stronger context leading me to understand how the tracks were meant to be heard better. However, the album is again too front-loaded, and it seems too disjointed with slower tracks piled together before a sudden burst which feels out of place. It makes it a real challenge to listen to at times.
With all this said, however, this is not a bad album. Bring Me the Horizon have improved their musicianship once again and it shows in every track. The problem, though, is that it comes at the expense of the raw energy that they used to show, and that was what made so many disillusioned teenagers able to connect with their music. While the band has much more accessible music and a more broad appeal, you can’t help but feel that they’ve lost their identity a little bit. There’s little doubt that the quintet will come back stronger with their next effort but in hindsight, I expect many to look back on this album as more of a step back in their progression. I may be in the minority, though, and Bring Me the Horizon will continue to grow into one of Britain’s biggest rock bands regardless, and their fanbase will continue to change. Let’s just hope that they can retain what brought them this far as they go forward.
Bring Me the Horizon’s new album “That’s the Spirit” is out now via RCA/Columbia. Follow the band on Facebook for tour dates in support of the new album.