After over a decade of injecting the scene with a cutting edge brand of extreme metal since 2006, British rockers Bring Me the Horizon have climbed the totem pole after massive touring, internet buzz, and being musical chameleons. Originally starting out as a deathcore band (a moniker for the fusion of traditional death metal riffs, hardcore breakdowns, and growling vocals), BMTH clawed their way to the digital forefront of internet buzz and controversy with their image, music, and frontman, Oliver “Oli” Sykes. Evolving over their career, the band has transcended deathcore, exploring the territories of metalcore and progressive metal with their last two albums. Now, that 2014 has come to a close, BMTH once again reinvents their sound.
I used to despise this band. I know, harsh. I remember my junior year of high school when I was first getting into metal and this band was all the rage at the time. Their record, Suicide Season, was a lighting rod for polarizing feelings about the band’s style, image, and their fan base. While the music was “intense”, I wasn’t too big on it because it felt forced. While my opinion of that hasn’t necessarily changed, I can acknowledge the fact that this band was one of the figureheads of a subgenre. Oli’s antics for drug abuse and sheer debauchery didn’t help their case either. With all things I considered about their fan base (which was unreasonable) and Oli’s character, my opinion of this band was low. Album cycles came and went, singles flooded iTunes, and then Sempiternal dropped in 2013. Me being unreasonably cynical (in retrospect *spoiler) about this band, I ignored it, until one of my best friends from back home implored me to listen to this album.
Eventually, I decided out of inkling curiosity to put the headphones in and finally give this band a chance… I was… actually surprised. That album actually did some genre bending. Elements of instrumental post rock, electronica, metalcore, and hardcore punk could be found in that album. Sempiternal was decorated with originality, is exploratory, and broke stereotypes that many, including myself, had with this band. With that said, I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan, so I let the album saturate. Oli also spent a month in rehab for Ketamine, which made him much more of a likable front man and allowed the band to write this album.Then the end of 2014 gave us this new single, Drown.
Considering this is a single, this section will provide all content otherwise covered in my track reviews (for future reference). Drown is another sonic departure from the previous album cycle and a jump over the Grand Canyon compared to their first records. With atmospheric like keyboards wrapped around the guitar, bass, and an organic sounding percussion section, this song’s style is in lineage of bands like A Day to Remember. With pop-punk like swagger and the ethereal DNA of post rock, this song offers dynamism and tasteful layers that don’t feel overbearing. For me, the drum work in this song helps give the verses build up and aid in the musical crescendo that leads into the chorus. It’s perhaps one of the strongest elements of this track and something I appreciate for this style of rock (which is usually something I see lacking in this sub genre of rock music). As previously stated, the keyboards give this song life. Along with guitar work reminiscent of This Will Destroy You, the keyboards gives the song depth and dimension. Vocals. There is no screaming in this song. Wait, what? A deathcore band at its roots not screaming? Believe it, people. For the first time in BMTH’s eleven year career as a band, this is the first song that features Oli singing through three minutes and forty one seconds.
After listening to Sempiternal, I caught a glimpse of Oli’s singing voice, which is naturally guttural, passionate, and suitable for the genre the band is in. On this track, Oli ranges from a gentle lullaby in the verses and the bridge to a seemingly tormented plea through his higher range of harsher melodies. Drown showcases Oli’s tremendous ability as a vocalist, especially when you contrast it against older work off Suicide Season, like Pray For Plagues. This potpourri of elements give Drown an emo lie vibe that could join the ranks of Senses Fail and The Used.
In my opinion, Scene and Emo rock (mostly in the stages of the genre’s decline in the mid 2000’s, before its recent revival) have a tendency to be slaves to plastic and melodramatic lyrical content. Not true of the whole, but the moments where front men whine over the instrumentals irk me, because they push the boundary of anguish to a point where it’s not believable. Drown is an epistle soaked in desperation for understanding and absolution in a person’s life seemingly affected by depression. Depression can be a difficult subject to write about because of the condition’s intricacy and the fact that it affects people so differently. With that said, the lyrics actually paint a good picture of reaching rock bottom and pleading for a turning point. Not only that, but the chorus’ catchy melody is sure to incite sing-alongs live. Though the lyrics are not the most original or novel, they are relative and grasp a feeling that many have in that position.
With the instrumental depth of this song, there are a lot of elements to balance. Thankfully, this song’s dynamic layers don’t overpower one another – they actually compliment each other in a tactful manner that feels easy and accessible to listen to. For me, the way that the guitar reverb is captured, especially in the parts where the lines transition into the delicate pick in the verses and the bridge are highlights in the production. It gives this song much more of an aesthetic quality. I also liked that for such well complimented drum work, the kit sounds very organic.
With a new album set to release this year, Bring Me the Horizon have set Drown at the tip of their spear to potentially shatter more musical boundaries. Though this song feels radio friendly and ultra accessible, strong instrumentals and using this as a contrast to their previous work give Drown novelty. Seeing it as a point of exploration for the band, this song is catchy, infectious, and has execution that makes this a good for a band like BMTH. While this song (nor listening to Sempitneral for that matter) does not make me an automatic fan of this band, I can appreciate the effort. I can say however, that my disdain for this group is no longer there after giving this band a chance.