It happens to a lot of metal bands; they grow older, they get softer. Some call it selling out, some call it maturing. I’ve got to give Bring Me the Horizon credit for how they’ve handled this transition. A lot of bands claim nothing has changed, that they’re still the same band, these statements often as thin as their hairlines are becoming. In interviews leading up to the release of That’s the Spirit!, the band has actually owned up to the change. They’ve said they’re no longer angry teenagers, and it would be disingenuous of them to try and continue on that path; they feared their music would sound fake. At the very least, they get a slow golf clap for owning up to it.
So now on to the important part, the music. Every once in a while, when a band mellows out, there’s a unicorn of an album that marks the transition, an album that is accessible enough to draw in new fans, but keeps enough of the band’s essence to please old fans. I like to call them ‘black albums;’ I hope that requires no explanation. Think Alexisonfire’s Crisis or Rise Against’s Sufferer and the Witness. Sempiternal was Bring Me the Horizon’s ‘black album,’ where they somehow stumbled on the sound Linkin Park has been attempting (and failing) to create in the post Meteora days.
Both new fans and old were waiting to see if the band could pull off the feat of producing an ever-elusive second ‘black album,’ or would they turn in a Load? A couple of months ago, anticipation dropped when the band released “Drown.” They released a video where even a seemingly castrated Oli Sykes seemed completely disinterested in the song he was singing. There seemed to be no trace left of the band that had torn up stages across the world. If the stand-alone release with no album announcement seemed odd, perhaps it served as a litmus test to see how far down the rabbit hole fans were willing to follow. Maybe the song’s ending, with Sykes whining without music, “Save me from myself, don’t let me drown” was a plea.
Fast forward eight months and it seemed the band had gotten the message. The release of “Happy Song” and the single “Throne” brought anticipation back up. Both tracks were in line with the spirit of Sempiternal, and reception by fans had their rock horns up.
Well, the wait is over; That’s the Spirit! is upon us. Opener “Doomed” makes it clear that there is more experimentation coming with beats reminiscent of 90s trip-hop (if you have no clue what that is, go listen to Tricky’s Maxinquaye, I’ll wait). It’s followed by the two tracks the band released as promos, “Happy Song” and “Throne.” Did you rock out to those? Good, cause that’s the last you’re getting of that. If these tracks and Sempiternal sound like what Linkin Park was trying to capture but failed, the rest of the album sounds like what Linkin Park has been doing: melodies laid over ambient electro-laden beats with plenty of keyboards.
It’s not terrible, it just falls short of being another ‘black album,’ while staying authentic enough to not be considered a Load. Old-school fans are sure to look at the rest of the album and wonder what happened, but the band clearly explained it. Newer fans who jumped on board in 2012 should appreciate some of the experimentation. It’s a much tamer collection in tone, but don’t mistake it for cookie-cutter rock. Oli Sykes still delivers some clever and dark lyrics, and will occasionally strain his vocal chords on some choruses. They said it; they aren’t angsty teens anymore. I’ll give this album bonus points for being straightforward with their fans without being apologetic.
Like it or not, Bring Me the Horizon is dead; long live Bring Me the Horizon. The transition is complete. If you don’t dig it, just be thankful you got one transitional gem before the new sound came.
Written by Richard Brunette
*edited by Kate Erickson