Bring Me The Horizon

Sempiternal

Written by: AP on 02/04/2013 20:55:13

No band has irked quite as many British fans of metal, nor courted quite as much controversy as the infamous Bring Me the Horizon. Bursting onto the scene with the brash simplicity of "Count Your Blessings", the Sheffield quintet were in the right place at the right time, spearheading a style of music in their native land that had garnered as much disapproval as it had popularity in its birthplace, the United States of America. That style is known as deathcore of course, and foretold for many a metal-head the impending demise of the entire genre, and the plague now spreading over the Atlantic made it far too easy for BMTH to be stigmatised as superficial, fad-following fashionistas with no place in the UK metal scene; various instances of adolescent behavior and perceived displays of arrogance - often blown out of proportion by the media - made the matter worse. But as hard as the decriers tried to damage BMTH's reputation, as dramatically did their popularity rise - and with it the notion that these youngsters actually had more to offer than swooping fringes, neon-infested t-shirts and tight jeans.

Indeed, the sophomore effort "Suicide Season" surprised even the initially skeptical Fredrik Nordström, one of the first reputable representatives of the music industry to detect the talent and growing maturity of this British metal phenomenon; so much that he instantly agreed to produce its successor "There Is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret". Within the space of these two albums, vocalist Oli Sykes went from supposed drunken maniac spewing profanity left and right to an honest and visibly troubled musician searching for a cathartic outlet for his own struggles, cultivating a more personal vocal style in the process; whilst his companions Lee Malia (lead guitar), Matt Kean (bass guitar) and Matt Nicholls (drums) embraced a songwriting approach that toned down the intensity, darkened the atmosphere, and allowed the band to develop a highly unique style and sound that remains, to this day, unparalleled by any of their contemporaries. BMTH realised their potential and grew up.

But where I thought "There Is a Hell..." presented some interesting ideas and certainly capitalised on Nordström's skills at the mixing desk, the end product felt somewhat disjointed, the songs coming across as less memorable in general, and the frequent ambient and electronic interludes coming too often and sounding too awkward at times to provide the brilliant "Suicide Season" the successor it deserved. It did, however, clarify the direction in which BMTH were hoping to steer their sound, and on this fourth album "Sempiternal" the promise seems fulfilled at last. It is an album that has BMTH teetering on the edge to enormity with songs that come full circle; the sonic texture of electronic and symphonic infusions deployed to formidable results, and the interplay between crushing, metallic fury and mainstream appeal combined with exceptional skill.

Whether it is the introspective melancholia of "Can You Feel My Heart" and "Sleepwalking", or the spiteful hostility of "The House of Wolves" and "Antivist", there is growth evident in every facet of the band. Sykes now beams with enough confidence to handle the emotive singing himself (it was previously delivered by guest vocalists such as Architects' Sam Carter and You Me At Six's Josh Franceschi) to afford his self-reflection on the consequences of his actions on people's lives a deeply personal edge, with the result that the lyrics come across almost as apologies for past misdemeanors. Indeed, the atmosphere that reigns over "Sempiternal" is one of near-constant melancholia - blown into epic proportions. There are nuggets of past animus scattered amongst as well, most notably the aforementioned "Antivist", which recalls the unforgiving blitz of songs like "Football Season Is Over", "Diamonds Aren't Forever" and "Alligator Blood" - albeit with an actual message this time, directed at the current deluge of shallow Internet activism, rather than raging about drunken benders as was the custom on those tracks: "Middle fingers up / if you don't give a fuck! / I'm sick to death of swallowing / every single thing I'm fed! / Middle fingers up / if you don't give a fuck! / You think you're changing anything? / Question everything!" It sounds coarse, I know, but the sheer vitriol with which the words are delivered is quite convincing, and the song stands as one of the most memorable on the album as a result – a sure shot live staple at shows to come.

There are songs on "Sempiternal" that are borderline unreal, such is their ambition and execution. One of those tracks is the already mentioned "Sleepwalking"; its soundscape awash with freezing synths and elaborate rhythm shifts, and Sykes' singing/screaming duality sounding every bit like a coming of age. Seriously, his and his colleagues' (including newest member Jordan Fish on synths, programming and backing vocals) performances here, as well as on the following "Go to Hell, for Heaven's Sake" and "Shadow Moses" immortalise the songs as some of the best BMTH have ever written. Even more so than their counterparts on "There is a Hell...", these songs are structured upon (often collectively sung) chori of a monolithic scale, the kind that will shake the floor of an arena even without the combined power of an enthusiastic audience.

The most divisive piece on the album will likely emerge as "And the Snakes Will Sing", an earnest and inspired ballad that lingers in sorrowful ambiance for most of its 5-minute running length before soaring toward the skies lead by Sykes' anguished signature screams and flowing with ease into "Seen It All Before", which snatches the award for the poppiest song by BMTH to date, its heart-wrenching words "Every second's soaked in sadness / Every weekend is a war / And I'm drowning in the déjà vu / We've seen it all before / I don't wanna do this by myself / I don't wanna live like a broken record / I've heard these lines a thousand times / And I've seen it all before" instilling such gloom you'll need to be chiseled out of stone to not feel empathy and reflect on your own life and choices. That "Antivist" follows immediately in its wake mimics the curious juxtaposition of anger and mourning that flows as the red chord through the entire record.

That there exists such a relationship between all of the songs makes it extremely difficult to favoritise specific tracks, for even those songs which do not emerge as definitive highlights, such as "Crooked Young" (curiously similar in its use of orchestral synths to "It Never Ends" from "There is a Hell...") and "Empire (Let Them Sing)", stand strong when considered in the greater context of the album. The true quality of "Sempiternal" stems not from the strength of its singles, but from the stone solid consistency that reveals itself when the album is let run from beginning to end. And what an end it is, "Hospital for Souls" discharging a inferno of emotion amid a progressive tide, concluding, of course, with a crescendo of despair.

9

Download: Sleepwalking; Go to Hell, for Heaven's Sake; Shadow Moses; Seen It All Before; Antivist
For the fans of: Architects, While She Sleeps
Listen: Facebook

Release date 01.04.2013
RCA/Epitaph

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