Sempiternal is the sound of Bring Me the Horizon shamelessly indulging in the bands of their youth to create their own niche.
From the moment Bring Me the Horizon released their 2006 full-length debut, Count Your Blessings, hatred reigned down upon this young British band. They were a bunch of swoopy-fringed teenagers, raised on Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, trying to rip off the riffs of At the Gates and other extreme metal royalty with no idea of what they were doing, or why. It was all style and no substance; and boy were they deservedly crucified for it.
The UK scene around 2008 had Gallows rejuvenating interest in English punk and Architects starting to gain momentum with their brand of fiery metalcore. Bring Me the Horizon, on the other hand, were tarred as the group that everyone loved to hate, both personally and musically. It was far from unwarranted and a change of public image and musical direction was needed, and it came with Suicide Season. The random song-structures and repulsive attempts at being “extreme” were replaced with discernible songs of the sturdy metalcore variety, similar in tone and style to Bury Your Dead. Vocalist Oli Sykes also changed his approach: out went the pig squeals and pitiful shrieks, and instead he adopted the hoarse accented shout of Gallow’s Frank Carter mixed with the hardcore scream of Architect’s Sam Carter. And, ironically, producer Fredrik Nordström (At the Gates) took to manning the controls. It was a blatant case of pillaging popular bands whose stock was growing at the time, and such thievery, although underhanded, set the band in motion.
Bring Me The Horizon's third full-length, There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret, experimented with different sonic textures by incorporating electronic and symphonic influences with more emphasis on melody, as well as inviting an array of guest musicians to contribute, including some from outside the scene (Canadian artist Lights being a welcome suprise). Even if you detested their very being, credit was due for the band's adventure in a genre not known for its dexterity, even if the execution was lacking. The record's success, in turn, signed Bring Me the Horizon to a major label, RCA, for their fourth effort Sempiternal.
The Sheffield-based band have now arrived in the big leagues. Will this record change the opinions of metal fans who continue to despise this band? Does Sempiternal justify the hype surrounding Bring Me the Horizon? As always, haters will continue to hate and the hype cannot be surpassed. This record will not appeal to hardened death metallers, “kvlt” black metal aficionados, or anyone else that tends to dismiss modern metal bands with hype attached to them. It will, however, appeal to those who enjoyed the last two records, as it's a massive improvement.
For Sempiternal, the group has acquired the production skills of Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones), lost Jona Weinhofen as a second guitarist (he joined prior to There Is a Hell...), and replaced him with a full-time keyboardist and programmer, Jordan Fish. And the result is the sound of Bring Me the Horizon shamelessly indulging in the bands of their youth to create their own niche. The re-shuffled five-piece -- completed by guitarist Lee Malia, drummer Matt Nicholls and bassist Matt Kean -- hit the hooks that Linkin Park made their trademark on "Go to Hell, For Heaven's Sake" and rejuvenate the stale dynamic for the year 2013. Meanwhile the influence of Sacramento alt-metal legends Deftones explicitly permeates the breathless "And the Snake Starts to Sing" and it works, as Sykes mimicks Chino Moreno's angsty croon without irony during the ambient chorus as the instrumentation swirls in the style associated with post White Pony Deftones.
Where the swathes of artifical electronica on There Is a Hell... sounded disengaged from the music, Jordan Fish's contributions here are seamlessly incorporated and audible from the bright beginnings of opener "Can You Feel My Heart". The acquisition of the keyboardist is Sempiternal's ace in the hole, and he really shows his worth by splashing colour upon the sparse sections of "Sleepwalking" and "And the Snake Starts to Sing". He also manages to hold his ground during the crunching riffs of the anthemic "Empire (Let Them Sing)" and Sempiternal's heaviest additions: "Shadow Moses" and "Anti-Vist". On these metallic songs in particular, Malia drops Slipknot-esque riffs and the band up the tempo in a ferocious display of modern metal with gang-chant choruses that show how far Oli Sykes has come since his days gurgling like a flem-filled hell-child. On "Anti-Vist" he actually screams with complete conviction, especially when delivering the incendiary line of, "If you really believe in the words that you preach, get off your screens and onto the streets!" It's a startling moment of reality-fuelled anger that may turn the heads of those who still believe the band are all style.
His singing voice has improved a great deal, too. "Seen It All Before" shows him stretching himself, but where the band aim for Thrice-like post-hardcore expanse, they miss the mark and end up in the shallow water of tepid bands like You Me at Six; the song's end being its only redeemer."Crooked Young", on the other hand, fares much better by taking "It Never Ends" from There Is a Hell... as starting point and turning into a sing-along for the disassociated youth. For every generation there needs to be a gateway band that captures the imagination and attention of those finding their footing on metal's imperial staircase. Those already at high altitude will undoubtedly refuse to look down at Sempiternal, but it cannot be denied that Bring Me the Horizon are on the cusp of becoming that gateway band for this decade. Sempiternal contains the best music this young group of musicians have ever created, and Bring Me the Horizon are now relevant in the grand scheme of things, whether you choose to admit it or not.