REVIEW: Bring Me The Horizon – ‘That’s The Spirit’

Bring_Me_The_Horizon_umbrella

Artist: Bring Me The Horizon
Album: That’s The Spirit
Genre: Rock

Having cocooned themselves in the studio following a very successful touring cycle for Sempiternal, Bring Me The Horizon have emerged with a new sound and direction that is both challenging and exciting all at once.

That’s The Spirit is very much the point of no return for Bring Me The Horizon. After years spent developing their sound in the worlds of metal and hardcore, the UK-based band have fully embraced the alt-leaning, mainstream rock and roll-inspired sound that was first teased with the release of “Drown” in late 2014. That’s not to say their latest is work isn’t heavy, as it most certainly is, but this time around the heaviness comes in the form of unabashed lyricism and slow-burn anthems that barely resemble anything in the band’s back catalog. Some will no doubt be turned off by the change of direction, but anyone following the band over the last five years should have seen this coming. The writing has been on the walls since “Can You Feel My Heart” premiered, and now the evolution is complete.

Starting with “Doomed,” That’s The Spirit wastes no time embracing the electronics that made Sempiternal unique, adding them with dense layers of vocals and synth music flooding through your speakers well over a minute before a single guitar is heard. Frontman Oli Sykes speaks of being at the end of his rope–a common theme on the record–as he sings “Cut off my wings and come lock me up / Just pull the plug / yeah, I’ve had enough / Tear me to pieces / sell me for parts / You’re all vampires / so you can have my heart.” It’s a powerful message to open any record with, and it sets the bar for songwriting incredibly high for the rest of the album. Fortunately, Sykes and his cohorts are more than up to the challenge.

The intensity of the music and lyricism continues through “Happy Song,” which seems to take cues from Marilyn Manson’s “mOBSCENE” in its use of cheerleader-like backing vocals. It’s clear by this point in the album that Sykes’ signature scream will be limited to only the most dramatic of outbursts on the record, as the mid-tempo track provides ample room for the band to showcase their evolved take on sluggish rock songs, but something about Sykes’ wail keeps you entranced throughout. The music certainly doesn’t hurt, with layer after layer enveloping you in the world of BMTH with no chance of escape.

The slow-burn feel of the early material would wear on you if it was found on every track, but thanks to pitch perfect sequencing That’s The Spirit manages to keep things interesting. “True Friends,” for example, demands radio play from the opening lines. Sykes has always had a knack for writing short and memorable bursts of lyrics, and in this case it’s the chorus that grabs you. It’s the kind of short, ferocious hook that demands repetition, both while listening to the album and in everyday life, with a message that will no doubt spread amongst fans like a wildfire through brush in the height of summer. “Drown,” which appears much later on the record, boasts a similarly infectious quality, all while depicting a less-than-ideal series of events. It’s as if BMTH are at their best when exposing the worst in human nature, and on That’s The Spirit such material can be found on essentially every track.

With all the pessimism highlighted so far in this review it’s important to note that I don’t believe That’s The Spirit to be a pessimistic release. Quite the contrary, actually. Where previous Bring Me The Horizon releases have played like diary entries chronicling Sykes’ own struggles with the world around him in a very self-deprecating fashion, That’s The Spirit turns the focus of the music to life in general. There is no message of hope for the betterment of mankind, but rather a plea to listeners to not let the world get them down. The world owes us nothing, and Sykes recognizes that, so he’s doing the best with what he has been given in spite of whatever comes his way. He’s doing whatever he can to be a better person, but that doesn’t mean the world will give a shit. It never did and never will. The best you can do is be the best you possible, and even then the world is still going to be a place filled with chaos, crime, hate and senseless death. You can make a difference, sure, but if it comes at the cost of your soul then this world is not worth saving.

While I still believe Sempiternal to be the height of Bring Me The Horizon’s exploration of rock’s heavier side, That’s The Spirit is a far more interesting release. It’s rare for any band in the current alternative scene to step even a foot outside of their comfort zone–especially after several increasingly successful albums–but Bring Me The Horizon have found a new path to creative satisfaction and they show no signs of looking back anytime soon. There is still room for growth, but for an initial foray into a world of rock with the potential for mainstream exposure That’s The Spirit could be much, much worse. It’s dense, emotionally tiring, and littered with too many moments of musical brilliance to count. Even if you end up hating everything about BMTH’s new sound, you owe it to yourself to experience this album in full.

SCORE: 8/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Jake Fryland

    I agree with everything said in this review. Thank you for writing!

  • Great review! Totally agree with your analysis of change in sound direction. I’m really looking forward to see how well THAT’S THE SPIRIT does on the charts once it’s released this Friday, 9/11!

    Until then, I’ll keep watching video they put out for their single “Throne” … check it out! http://bit.ly/BMTHThrone

  • HaulixJames

    It’s a great video, and like the song it becomes better with repetition

  • HaulixJames

    Thank you for reading!

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  • Steve

    I’m glad you enjoyed the album more than I did. I think they have great tracks here, but some that are below par, which makes the album very inconsistent to me. Even so, I’m viewing this album as a kind of reboot to the band, similar to how “There is a Hell..” was. I’m very excited to hear what this band cooks up next.

    7/10

  • cocopunk1486

    I really liked the album, but in my opinion it’s not as good as Sempiternal. I don’t mind the band going for a more mainstream sound, it just seems kinda forced.

  • HaulixJames

    I like this summary. Good on you for seeing this as a transitional record and not necessarily a proper representation of the band they will soon become.

  • HaulixJames

    Fair point. I’m sure many will see it that way.

    Let me ask you this though – Where would you have liked to seen them go with this album? Heavier? More electronic?

  • BruceWillisFan

    Rad review. On my first couple of listens, I felt like the album as a whole was too light. Not in terms of the absence of down-tuned, heavy guitar but the verses felt thin and short-lived, and I felt like there was a certain meat lacking to nearly every song.

    However, there are so many infectious songs on this release and I haven’t been able to stop listening. Blasphemy, Avalanche, Follow You… So hooky and just…just good. I still think it’s a little light and I wish there were more guitar-oriented songs (mostly so I could play along to them) but it’s such a great release. Definitely gonna blast this on repeat the rest of the year.

  • BruceWillisFan

    “I need a cure for me cause the square doesn’t fit the circle/Give me a remedy cause my head wasn’t wired for this world” (Avalanche). I think that’s my favorite section of the entire album. Oil does good work.

  • Vinnie Vincent’s Dead Dog

    I would give this album about a 2/10 mostly because it’s just a boring rehash of better bands/songs. All the reviews i’ve seen act like they’ve reinvented the wheel or something. There’s no real musical maturity that i can hear. The lyrics are probably some of the worst he has ever penned and the song “Follow You” better be about ketamine because it’s pretty much a rapey white boy anthem. Then there’s “True Friends” where one has to wonder how exactly many Myspace pages Oli Sykes revisited to regale us with that amazing lyricism (total sarcasm by the way) but whatever. Either way, at least they were honest about writing for the radio. Shame they can’t play it live. Don’t believe me? Just watch their Reading performance.

  • Bob

    Terrible album. Bring Me The HEAVY METAL!

  • TomJonesBlade

    Being a Sheffielder and having seen this lot grow from a tiny local band to what they are now, I’m proud of what they’ve achieved and the new heights they’re reaching.

    Having said that, That’s The Spirit for me just isn’t very good. I had no problem with them tweaking and changing their sound as they went on but this time round just feels like a step too far. When we’ve been treated to powerful, anthemic tunes like It Never Ends and Sleepwalking over the years, tracks such as Avalanche and True Friends seem limp and whiny. Happy Song is so teen-angst that it’s almost as if they’re scrapping their older fan base to go after a much younger generation of fans, which is fair enough if that’s what they want to do but don’t expect too many of the old-timers to stick around.

    There are some gems in there. Throne and Drown are the stand-out tracks for me and I really liked Follow You (almost a hip-hop beat at first, very different). The rest is very hit and miss. Hearing saxophone in a BMTH tune (Oh No) was something I never hope to endure again.

    6/10

  • burconsult

    The boys have grown up! Is it good? is it bad? To each their own opinion. Enjoying the new album for now, looking forward to seeing them live in a couple of months. Well written review btw :)

  • HaulixJames

    Thanks!

  • Anarch

    Disappointing album for me. I like the band experimenting with their sound, but this album can’t even touch Sempiternal. The production quality of the songs are inconsistent. Some sound better than others, but they just do nothing for me. Very disappointing as BMTH was my favorite band. The first singles released were ok, but as I listened through the whole album my heart just sank by the end. What a turd.

  • Dominic

    Damn, I was really hoping this new album was going to be a return to the Count Your Blessings sound

  • Colton Bronk

    All in all I’m pretty disappointed with this album. When Drown first came out, I was hooked. I loved the lyrics, I loved the feel, even the music video was good, I didn’t much care that it was what many considered to be a ballet since some of my favorite bands experiment to no end nor direction, not to mention my tastes in music are as broad as they are diverse.

    And the hopes I held for the album held true for Happy Song.

    But then came out throne and while I did enjoy it, the music video for it, if you could call it that, more resembled something of an autistic fat boy’s vision of the military badass’s fan fiction.

    And when I found out that Oli was listening to JB and enjoying his shit? I’m pretty sure that was the nail.

    Most of the later stuff that feels like Oli had the most influence in, feels pretentious, mocked, and almost disgraceful of the source material they’re trying to imitate.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I love some of the synthetic songs of previous albums, Sleepwalking being the top of the list, but this is primarily because it still felt like it had that harder key, it still had guitar, bass you could feel, drumming I could nod to.

    But in the end, I’m not mad, I’m disappointed. A band that could have taken what they were doing, further experiment and come up with a sound of their own that would have garnered attention of its own for defying the genre and steryotype like what Kongos or Arctic Monkeys did, ended up seriously selling out to the most bland and generic main stream success stories on the aim of more appealing to a broader audience who will maybe listen to A song on the radio, think “That’s nice”, maybe buy the album or get it from their friend, but never attend any concerts, buy any merch or anything else to support to the band because they’ve moved onto the next AAA band they heard on the radio.

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