WORDS: ALISDAIR GRICE
Metalcore behemoths and genre chameleons Bring Me The Horizon are not unfamiliar with avoiding the line of best fit, having been the poster boys of innovation in an expansive genre for over 10 years, their impact on the modern scene they occupy is not only a culmination of their razor sharp sound, the endearing personality of frontman Oli Sykes and an eye for an open market, but a blueprint for young modern bands to follow suit.
Before headlining the O2 Arena and similar house name global venues, the Steel City stompers had humble beginnings, receiving a mixed press response following their seminal distinctly deathcore EP “This Is What the Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For”. After a handful of defining albums over the next few years and cutting their teeth on the circuit we were presented with “There Is A Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There is a Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret”, a truly career-defining album for the band, combining the heavy chaos of Suicide Season with a more pensive, reflective and sensitive side, brought into the limelight by the crisp production and growing budget of a band on the rise.
“Metalcore behemoths and genre chameleons Bring Me The Horizon are not unfamiliar with avoiding the line of best fit…”
The subsequent World Tour post album release is testament to the reach BMTH had gained, with “There Is A Hell..” cementing their spot on any rock festival that was trying to draw large crowds of disenfranchised youth. The record itself received high praise from Kerrang and Rock Sound, but falling flat with genre-spanning publications, with Pitchfork to this day still not gracing a BMTH album with a review. Not quite fitting the pop or rock mould soon became BMTH’s calling card, polarising audiences and leaving behind only die hard fans or unjustified haters.
Although on the surface the album appears to tap into heavily religious imagery, questioning faith, behind the veil is allegory for addiction. Specifically vocalists Oli’s reliance on substance throughout the early years of the band.
With nearly every track directly addressing Oli’s addiction and his journey therein, we the listener became party to the stories of a far more real character than Suicide Season’s superficial chatterbox. Specifically citing the dangers of ketamine and the subsequent breakdown of his relationships with family and friends (addressed in this 2014 APMA’s speech). ‘Home Sweet Hole’ gives a first person account of a “K-Hole” whilst “Crucify Me” drove home the impact drugs had on his interpersonal relationships. This marked change in the way Sykes spoke about his mental health and addiction opened up the floor to his contemporaries to follow suit without shame or stigma. Catharsis via musical release was soon to become the industry standard, and the anecdotal openness of theses tracks struck a chord both in the listener and the industry.
Sonically, the production of Fredrik Nordström is crisp but raw, allowing the intricacies of guitarist Weinhofen’s solos to come across and the clinical double bass pummeling to never feel tired. Although not fully developed into its current anthemic state, Oli’s strained delivery of some of his most passionate and interesting lyricism to date is truly haunting, whilst his deathcore growls never feel out of place. Startlingly ahead of their time, the pensive, dynamic moments soon came to be a key aspect to metalcore. Despite numerous noughties metalcore bands adopting this technique (pioneered by Ohio’s Attack Attack), BMTH did it with a superlative elegance, allowing the songs to ebb and flow without the overused stop-start chorus trope. Contrasting the storm with the calm is a skill, and “There Is A Hell..” was the masterclass.
“Contrasting the storm with the calm is a skill, and “There Is A Hell..” was the masterclass….”
Teasing their eventual ascension into stadium superstars, they joined forces with You Me At Six’s heartthrob frontman Josh Franceschi on the inventively named 4th track “Fuck:. Combining the pacey downtuned thrashing of guitarist’s Lee Malia’s technical fingers with Franceschi’s drawn out vocals was a colliding of two worlds that although doesn’t get much modern playtime, but certainly laid down a foundation for future cross-genre excursions.
Although an album of contrasting shades, bright moments of hope on Visions marred with the sordid reality of Syke’s fight with addiction on Crucify Me and Alligator Blood, we are blessed with the band’s innate ability to fuse their sound into a coherent record. Unexpectedly the darkest moments are found in the softer songs, with the minimal background music laying a foreboding foundation for the unforgettable “Tell me that you need me, cause I love you so much” call and repeat lines in Don’t Go featuring the glossy vocals of pop collaborator Lights.
From the swooping string movements of It Never Ends (which has since been performed live at the Royal Albert Hall with a live Orchestra) to the filthy forgotten breakdowns in Anthem and Blacklist, they couldn’t help but carve out a blueprint for their contemporaries. The introduction of a more synth leaning sounds, peppered with simplistic but effective electronic elements allowed them to introduce their modern sound piece by piece, slowly building up the bigger picture to become the formidable rockstars we know them as today.
“HAVING NO EXPIRY DATE IS WHAT EVERY BAND STRIVES FOR…”
Although leaning heavily on their idiosyncratic style of downtuned breakdowns with heavy pauses, pick slides and reverb-heavy electro-acoustic passages, this record holds up to listen ten years down the line, still eliciting chills as Oli utters the “Every second, every minute every hour, every day” passage during the outro of “It Never Ends”.
It’s a struggle not to feel the influence of this formative album on the metal music scene in 2020. It’s hard not to see them becoming this generation’s Metallica, booking continuous world tours, playing the hits over and over and having hundreds of hours of discography for fans to nerd out over. Having no expiry date is what every band strives for, and now 16 years into their career, this is a wholly deserved realisation for BMTH. “There Is A Hell…” was a hugely influential album, coloured by the self-expression of dealing with addiction, fortified by the furious sledgehammer and chisel approach of each musician’s unique capabilities.