Sheffield’s metal titans take their first tentative step backwards, which is not necessarily a bad thing...

With the (hopefully temporary) death of live music in 2020, bands have been hitting the studio hard, and listeners have started getting inundated with new material from artists whose tour cycles should have occupied them for years to come. Hell, COVID-19 has done what a full decade of fan pressure couldn’t and got Rammstein and potentially even Tool recording music again, and their last record dropped in 2019 (which is actually just last year).

2019 also saw the release of Bring Me the Horizon’s first UK number one album, ‘amo’, a record that was divisive even by their audience-splitting standards. Dani Filth cameo aside, ‘amo’ was viewed as something of a kick in the teeth to the band’s older, smaller fanbase, with singer Oli Sykes firing a parting shot on ‘Heavy Metal’ at the ‘Black Dahlia tank’-wearing metal purists who either wanted the band to return to their amateurish deathcore roots or just never liked them much in the first place.

Bring Me The Horizon have always been a forward-facing band, which makes their intention to release four EPs as part of this ‘POST HUMAN’ project relatively unsurprising. After all, if there was one group of people you could imagine watching Spotify CEO Daniel Ek speech about ‘continuous engagement’ and taking notes, it’s Sykes and co. What is surprising is that BMTH, a band who have become reliably less heavy with every release, have given in to the clamouring of the ‘why doesn’t Oli scream anymore?’ brigade and released their heaviest record since ‘Suicide Silence’. Well, maybe their heaviest record since ‘There Is A Hell…’. OK, almost certainly their heaviest record since ‘Sempiternal’.

This is not to say that going back to their brutal roots is a bad move. Sykes recently described heavy music as the band’s ‘bread and butter’, and there’s definitely a sense that BMTH are playing on home turf with ‘SURVIVAL HORROR’. The often-underused Lee Malia is allowed to turn his guitars up to 11 for pretty much the entire runtime, while Jordan Fish’s hyper-processed electronics generally compliment, rather than compromise, the crunchiness of the beatdowns. There is an honest-to-god guitar solo on opener ‘Dear Diary’, a two-and-a-half-minute explosion of fury that finds Sykes, yes, screaming his lungs out for the first time in years.

There are also obvious downsides to this regression, however. For one thing, BMTH haven’t been the ones pushing heavy music forward since 2013, so when they’re not writing conservative, Linkin Park- indebted radio fodder like ‘Teardrops’ or ‘1x1’ then they resort (not for the first time) to pinching ideas from more inventive bands. While they can be excused for borrowing heavily from a ground- breaking band like Code Orange on the digitally-defaced ‘Ludens’ and the cybernetic video for ‘Parasite Eve’, there is absolutely no excuse for interpolating the iconic riff from Deftones’ ‘Swerve City’ at the end of track one, and then again less than a minute later on track two!

At least they make up for a previous theft (Grimes collab ‘Nihilist Blues’ lifted its melody straight from Evanescance’s ‘Never Go Back’) by inviting Amy Lee to duet on the closing track. This is one of three female guest spots on the record, and BMTH should be given props for quietly amplifying female voices in metal with the massive platform they have. Also I don’t think anyone expected them to revisit their deathcore roots on a Babymetal collaboration of all places, but they do and it rips so fair fucks to them.

As indicated by its title, track names and the Death Stranding tie-in, this record boasts some serious Big Video Game Energy, elevated by the presence of Doom (the game, not the genre) composer Mick Gordon. Gordon helps the band inject some high-octane ferocity back into their music, and tracks like ‘Obey’ and ‘Ludens’ sound huge when paired with the rattle of your bullets mowing down wave after wave of aliens/zombies/Animal Crossing villagers. ‘SURVIVAL HORROR’ is Bring Me the Horizon’s invitation for you to regress with them for a while. I suggest you boot up your console and join them.


Words: Josh Gray

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