I’ve recently wondered if I’ve been “going soft” in my reviews. My number of favourable reviews has vastly been outnumbering those on the contrary, and I’ve been pretty stoked to throw on most of the new music sent my way. I would say that perhaps publicists have a better sense of my preferences, but that sounds quite conceited. I think more believable though is that my own filter has kicked in with regards to what I pay attention to in my inbox – that and the number of physical releases that cross my desk have been steadily dwindled over the past couple years, and subsequently I’ve barely come in contact with the darker side of labels like Epitaph, and bands that take me too far from my comfort zone – like Bring Me The Horizon.
In fact, I’ve actively avoided the UK metalcore act since my first run in with 2008’s Suicide Season. The encounter was so unremarkable that despite the eventual follow up, There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret, garnering a shockingly favourable review from ThePunkSite.com’s fearless leader, I blacklisted the 2010 album altogether. Sure enough the boss passesBring Me The Horizon’s third full length, Sempiternal, my way and it’s time to take my head out of the sand. Expecting the worst, I fired up the album and brace myself for forty-five minutes of grunts, growls, and tasteless breakdowns.
The painful, ear-splitting knife never landed.
Instead, what followed was remarkably audible. Sure, the core mechanics remain the same, but there’s a sense of post-hardcore infused into these once stagnant metalcore thrashers. For starters, Oliver Sykes’s vocals vary from the volumous cries of “Empire Let Them Sing” to the haunting, Brand New-esque whispers of “Seen It All Before,” and everything in between (such as the Linkin Park-like play through framing “Go To Hell, For Heaven’s Sake”). There’s more to making music than just screaming into a mic for half and hour, and Bring Me The Horizon seems to get that.
Instrumentally they’re also on the right track. The album is very well produced, but not overly so. The chillingly clear guitar work of “Seen It All Before” helps it overcome the track’s otherwise limited scope, much like how the intended experimental reserve of album closer “Hospital For Souls” actually makes me want to revisit the disc soon rather than simply shove it back on the shelve. Even the heaviest, crunchiest moments on “Shadow Moses” unfold as a passing phase that seeps effortlessly into the murky sonic haze of “And The Snakes Start To Sing.” It’s worth noting that the album’s final half really rings out the best inBring Me The Horizon, driving home that the quintet has become a post-hardcore band with a metalcore past. That isn’t to say that “Antivist,” “Sleepwalking” and “Empire (Let Them Sing)” don’t relapse to their former grunts, growls, and breakdowns – but hey, that’s only three out of the album’s eleven tracks, not bad bearing in mind that they entirely defined Suicide Season.
Considering how ready I was to write off Sempiternal before ever pressing play, skeptics and naysayers stand to reconsider Bring Me The Horizon. I didn’t expect to find enjoyment from an album so far from my comfort zone, but for sizeable chunks of time Sempiternal made a genuine connection. The first half is largely inconsistent, but once it hits its groove, it really pans out. Bring Me The Horizon has steadily climbed the charts since Suicide Season, and it’s hardly surprising in light of such a bump in musicianship.