Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal (Deluxe Edition)

Bring Me The Horizon
Sempiternal (Deluxe Edition)
RCA Records/Sony Music Australia

When Sheffield (U.K.) based act Bring Me The Horizon released their debut full-length effort ‘Count Your Blessings’ (2006), I can’t say that I was all that impressed with what they had to offer. Their take on the metalcore sound didn’t resonate with me one bit, and instead led me to believe that the band were just another in a long line of hyped-up acts that amounted to nothing when you judged the band based on their musical offerings. In the years that followed, Bring Me The Horizon did alter their sound, but their follow-up efforts (2008’s ‘Suicide Season’ and 2010’s ridiculously named ‘There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret.’) did little to sway my original opinion. So when the band’s fourth full-length effort ‘Sempiternal’ flitted across my desk, I can’t say that I was expecting all that much in the way of a change of sound from the band, let alone a change of mind from myself in terms of what I really thought of the band.
But lo and behold, something has changed within Bring Me The Horizon. Yes, the band is still primarily a metalcore act, but on ‘Sempiternal’, they offer something beyond the one dimensional sound, with elements of post-hardcore clearly infiltrating the band’s song writing this time around. And while the band hasn’t quite succeeded in a complete transformation, I can at least listen to ‘Sempiternal’ and appreciate the direction they are heading in. And given my aversion to listening to the band’s former efforts, I think that says a lot.
Part of this newfound transformation can be attributed to the change of line-up whilst making the album. The introduction of Worship keyboardist/programmer/backing vocalist Jordan Fish, and the departure of rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist Jona Weinhofen has had a huge influence on the band’s song writing and sound, giving ‘Sempiternal’ an overall direction that couldn’t have been possible without the change.
Another big change worth noting is on the vocal front. Although I’ve never really thought much of Oliver Sykes’ vocals, his broadening clean vocals alongside the lessening of screamed vocals makes for a far more appealing and varied sound than anything he’s attempted in the past, and matches the push into uncharted territory the band are clearly aiming for on the new album. In short, he adds a lot more variation to the album, which makes listening to ‘Sempiternal’ a pleasure rather than a chore.
The first taste of the band’s new direction can be found immediately on the opening track ‘Can You Feel My Heart’. Fish’s use of keyboards and effects are in full force here, with his contributions providing the framework on which the whole song is constructed. Sykes also showcases a much cleaner vocal throughout, which allows a bit more feeling to come through, while the remainder of the band (Lead guitarist/backing vocalist Lee Malia, bassist Matt Kean and drummer Matt Nicholls) provide the necessary groove required to pull off the new sound. As a song, it’s an interesting one to lead the album off, and perhaps one of the examples of where the band isn’t completely comfortable with the direction they’re going in. But that’s not to say it’s a bad track. On the contrary, it’s a good song, but one that will definitely divide opinions amongst long time followers.
The follow-up track ‘The House Of Wolves’ is a slight step back in the band’s past with its raw aggression and heavy guitar work, but with choruses that emphasise the band’s greater focus on hooks, while ‘Empire (Let Them Sing)’ seems to lie somewhere between the old and new sounds, with Sykes’ anger-driven vocals representing the older approach, and the use of keyboard orchestration and effects on the gang vocals giving the song that something special and new.
In terms of straightforward accessibility in song writing, ‘Sleepwalking’ is by far the album’s most accessible and melodic song, and not surprisingly released as a single. Again, the orchestration helps lift the song to a whole new level, and Sykes’ emphasis on melodic hooks works well. Other tracks that work in a somewhat similar fashion are ‘Seen It All Before’ (Which features members of Immanu El on backing vocals), ‘Go To Hell, For Heaven’s Sake’ and ‘Shadow Moses’, all of which feature strong melodies, soaring choruses and cleaner vocals. As expected, the latter two tracks were also released as singles.  ‘And The Snakes Start To Sing’ is an interesting detour into atmospheric territory in the vein of Deftones, and one that works for the most part. But where the band really shine in this direction is on the album closer ‘Hospital For Souls’, where the brooding atmosphere, the mix of orchestrated keyboards and piano and Sykes’ fragile vocal performance are combined to create what is undoubtedly the album’s crowning masterpiece. At just under the seven minute mark, the song may have a slow build, but when it eventually gets underway, it’s dramatic, passionate and captivating.
Of course, the album isn’t all about melody and creating a moody vibe, with ‘Antivist’ and ‘Crooked Young’ standing out as aggressive and guitar driven as anything the band have done in the recent past, albeit with a sparser production and with a bit more melody. Both tracks will no doubt become favourites amongst those who prefer the band’s older metalcore sound.
As mentioned earlier, this is a review of the deluxe edition of the album, which comes with an additional disc containing three tracks. Titled ‘The Deathbeds EP’, the disc begins with ‘Join The Club’, which is a great track, and could have easily slotted on the album with its catchy choruses, guitar driven sound and cleaner vocals from Sykes. The second track ‘Chasing Rainbows’ is again another solid enough track, but lacking a bit of something to elevate it to something great. Finishing up the disc is the title track ‘Deathbeds’, which not unlike ‘And The Snakes Start To Sing’ and ‘Hospital For Souls’, is more atmospheric and spaced out. Of the three tracks, this is by far the stand out, with Hannah Snowdon (A tattooist, model and Sykes’ girlfriend) co-lead vocals along Sykes giving the song a whole new dimension.
Overall, ‘Sempiternal’ is a huge departure from Bring Me The Horizon’s old sound, and a step in the right direction for the band. No, not everything on the album works quite as well as hoped, but if the band continue along the same lines and push themselves further song writing wise, I’ll definitely be interested in hearing what the band have to offer.

For more information on Bring Me The Horizon, check out - http://www.bringmethehorizon.co.uk/

© Justin Donnelly