A look back on ‘Suicide Season’, the album where Bring Me The Horizon really grabbed the world’s attention.
Whenever I do these types of retrospective articles, it’s for records that I’ve loved ever since first hearing them. Records that I’ve been consistently revisiting over the years. Pieces written about bands that are maybe no longer together who I miss dearly and wish to make sure their art is remembered and still spoken of highly in some way. It’s a matter of love, more than anything else. Except, that isn’t quite the case for Bring Me The Horizon’s second album, ‘Suicide Season‘, which recently hit the big 1-0 milestone in late September. Here, lemme explain.
Circa 2008-2010, mid-teenager-me jammed this sophomore Bring Me The Horizon record fucking hard. At the time, I loved it. It was on constant rotation for my iPod back then. This was the album that put a bunch of young English lads from South Yorkshire, who just loved playing heavy music, right on the map. In 2008 and 2009, you couldn’t escape from seeing this band’s moniker, their press promos (like the one above), and the title or cover of this LP. If this record and their music wasn’t talked about at high school by metalcore fans who thought breakdowns were the peak of music, or by those balls-deep into their coloured-hair scene-phase, then it was discussed over Myspace. Didn’t have friends or Myspace? No worries! You’d see the heavily tattooed band all over Blunt posters and within the pages of Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Rock Sound, Alternative Press, the aforementioned Blunt, and a wide range of other music publications. In 2008, and well into 09, the band was just fucking exploding in popularity and success, and one could never be free of fact. This isn’t even considering the Drop Dead merch line that’d soon take off, nor that the success of ‘Suicide Season‘ netted the band a terrible remix LP called ‘Suicide Season: Cut Up!‘ in 2009. (I was very glad to have forgotten about that one).
For me, the last time I properly heard ‘Suicide Season‘ was about six years ago, and it’s still a decent record. Though it’s definitely not anywhere near as good as I remembered it to be. Just as how this band’s music has evolved over time, so too have my listening tastes from when I was younger. Much like the poppier, commercially successful ‘That’s The Spirit‘, I feel that this now decade-old album still sits behind ‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret.‘ (peak BMTH, really) and ‘Sempiternal‘ as their strongest works. That being said, there are some great songs here, to be sure: ‘The Comedown‘, ‘Chelsea Smile‘, ‘The Sadness Will Never End‘, and the title track are all stand-outs. Yet there are songs here that I legitimately forgot existed until I went back to the album recently in light of its ten-year anniversary; tracks like ‘It Was Written In Blood‘, ‘Death Breath‘ and ‘Sleep With One Eye Open‘. Hearing these particular three songs again in 2018 was pretty weird; like listening to a new-old song you know you’ve heard before but can’t remember how it goes. Can’t say I missed them.
‘Suicide Season‘ only ever wanted a handful of things: drop-tuned chugs, moshable breakdowns, and big gang vocal chants. And that’s all most fans wanted too. It didn’t ask for much and it doesn’t want much thought from you as a listener either. Yet that was (and maybe still is) the key to its success: it was an entry-level record for not only Bring Me The Horizon’s music but for other music like it as well. We’ve all gotta start somewhere in our listening habits, and for many, ‘Suicide Season‘ was that beginning.
Produced by the legendary duo of Henrik Udd and Fredrik Nordström, ‘Suicide Season‘ was a massive change from the band’s debut LP; the less-polished yet flashy guitar antics of the deathcore-centric ‘Count Your Blessings‘ (2006). Other than just being a cleaner, tighter sounding record sonically, it also wasn’t as heavy as their debut either; an integral factor in why it went so much further for the band. Matt Kean’s bass playing was actually distinguishable on this record, which is something I’ve always loved about it. Lee Malia’s riff writing, palm-mutes and tone were fuckin’ golden, and he built off each so well on their following record too. The added mix polish meant that everything cut through so much better, and the grooves could set in harder as well. (This was also the last release with rhythm guitarist Curtis Ward, as an aside for anyone who remembers or cares about his contribution to the band’s output).
Excluding certain older songs – ‘Pray For Plagues‘ – there was always angst and high-emotions running through the lyricism and themes of BMTH’s early work. No matter how dated the music was and is. (“I guess some kids are just born with tragedy in their blood” – ‘Black & Blue‘). But with Oli’s vocal delivery shifting away from his more extreme highs and low-growls, and from the band’s style changeover to metalcore from deathcore, the lyrical content became more coherent. Thus, more relatable too. A surprisingly emotionally honest and relentlessly-paced song like ‘The Comedown‘, despite the silly Predator-loving video, just wouldn’t have worked as well had it been apart of ‘Count Your Blessings‘. Or god forbid, their first EP, back when BMTH wanted to be a clone of SikTh and Botch.
Looking back now, the emotive, “spacier” melodic guitar leads heard during the end of ‘Death Breath‘ and ‘It Was Written In Blood‘ hinted at what they would do next in terms of atmospherics and arrangements. For instance, that lengthy electronic/atmospheric bridge section on ‘Chelsea Smile‘ was new territory for the band back then. Same with that spine-tingling two-minute bridge passage in the title track that just eerily repeats whispers of “this is a suicide season…“, electronic drums, and dropping in-and-out guitars, all of which was just so cool! These moments were so different for them at the time and almost a little off-putting whilst still drawing you deeper into the respective tracks. People were (and are) very quick to shit all over BMTH’s music, but there were plenty of examples here that proved they could be so much more than what the public pigeonholed them as, both musically and in terms of their image. Songs that proved they were worth people’s time; that they weren’t just a flash-in-the-pan. ‘The Comedown‘ is absolutely one of these tracks, becoming more or less an underrated throwback ever since the album’s release.
Beyond being my own personal favourite, another song that did this was ‘Chelsea Smile‘, which has become one of the most quintessential BMTH songs from this era. It survived the longest in their older discography when it came to live set material too. Those flowing double-kick-snare-flams, the easily followable riffs, the tasteful use of electronics, and that memorable vocal hook of “I’ve got a secret…“: it just had a lot of simple yet great aspects that made it a truly awesome track. Now, maybe you could argue that the track’s accompanying video is all about using partying and excess as a way to cope with anxiety, depression or other issues bubbling below the surface? Or maybe it was just because the band thought it was a good idea and it’s all they had to work with? Who knows? What I know at least is that it’s pretty fuckin’ cool that all of the guys from Cancer Bats can be seen in this film clip:
As stated, some of this record just hasn’t aged all that well. For instance, ‘Sleep With One Eye Open‘ is such an ignorant-sounding, “fuck you” deathcore-tinged metalcore song. I’d love to tell you that it’s solid and that it has aged well like a fine wine but… no. It’s definitely a time capsule piece about where much of heavy music like this was at that time: betrayal, friendships ending, watching your back, hard riffs, heavy breakdowns, etc. In some ways, the scene has grown up, and in other ways, it really hasn’t.
Then there’s ‘Diamonds Aren’t Forever‘. 14-year-old me may have thought that the song’s mantra of “we will never sleep, cause sleep is for the weak/we will never rest until we’re all fucking dead” was cool at the time of release. But now? It’s sorta cringey. Kinda glad they don’t play this one live anymore.
On the flipside, though, ‘The Sadness Will Never End‘ is still one of the best BMTH songs from this long-gone period. No contest. And no, you can’t change my mind. In retrospect, this song’s riffage, form and tempo definitely make it feel like the start of what would be later cultivated on ‘There Is A Hell…‘ just two years later. Play this track and then go straight into a tune like ‘It Never Ends‘, and it all just flows so well together. Also, the soothing, emotional clean-singing from Sam Carter of Architects adds so much to this track as a guest feature. Oli and his harsh, throaty screams could never really carry a chorus like this by himself, but his vocal style complimented so well with Sam’s melodic vocals here. Their back-and-forth is just so catchy; adding to the palpable “Symphony of sympathy” lyrics of not wanting to give up on someone who is succumbing to substance abuse to numb whatever pain is going on in their lives. (Also, do you remember the fake Sam–Oli beef back in the day, where they faked a fight and people thought they’d beaten one another up? God, what a time).
The past, heavier Bring Me The Horizon leaps forward on the quickie, ‘Football Season Is Over‘. This is really just the band having fun and goofing off. Mainly via a guest vocal spot from Deez Nuts frontman JJ Peters helping to deliver the song’s mission statement: “Party to you pass out, drink to your dead/dance all night till you can’t feel your legs“. Classy. However, it’s still far the worst song here. Yes, even with that super corny, “rowdy” drunk band banter left in at the end of the song that’s totally real and totally not fake, you guys. No, that dishonourable award goes to ‘No Need For Introductions, I’ve Read About Girls Like You On The Back Of Toiler Doors‘. (I kinda love how the official Epitaph Records album stream linked below is titled ‘No Need For Instructions…‘. Whoever uploaded that stream had one job).
Okay, context. Before this record was announced, a young teenage female fan alleged that Oli had urinated on her during an incident one night in Nottingham. He denied it, it was never proven, no one knows what happened to that young woman, and the world just moved on from it. After starting with a piano interlude sample from an old Prada ad, it suddenly becomes the usually explosive metalcore BMTH. The verse is rightfully defensive and aggressive: “For people like you, there is no such thing as an early grave/You wanted to gut my dreams till I was empty/And show everyone my remains“. Had it all been left there, you wouldn’t think much more of it. Yet the song’s bridge contains the key contentious lyric: “And after everything you put me through/I should’ve fucking pissed on you“. Instead of playing the bigger man, Oli and the band couldn’t resist adding this part in; making Oli look foolish in the process. While there’s something to be said about addressing real-life shit in the music – and hopefully making it more interesting, despite time-stapping it to that alleged incident – it’s still the cringiest moment of ‘Suicide Season‘.
It’s just such an odd inclusion as this brief one-minute song is sandwiched between the polar-opposite mood of ‘The Sadness Will Never End‘ and the album’s gritty, eight-minute titular track. The latter of which is one of the most sorrowful BMTH songs from this period. With longing, lump-in-your-throat lyrics like, “If only sorrow could build a staircase or tears could show the way/We would climb our way to heaven to bring him back home again“. Heartfelt lyrics all supposedly written about a close friend of Oli’s whose father died, with this loss completely changing his friend’s outlook and attitude. Through him losing his father, Oli then lost his friend due to that grief, and the song comes in hard with that element of frustration and bargaining; that wishing to bring somebody back to return a light to a loved ones life.
With all of that in mind, this is the one prevalent thing about ‘Suicide Season‘: it has and always been a tonally inconsistent listen, thematically speaking. As it just makes these huge leaps from serious content about personal battles and mental health to these rowdy, edgy songs and it all comes off as messy. Again, it goes from great, meaningful songs like ‘Chelsea Grin‘, ‘The Sadness Will Never End‘, ‘The Comedown‘ and ‘Suicide Season‘, to vapid, weaker cuts like ‘Football Season Is Over‘ and ‘No Need For Introductions…‘. Though I think we can sum this all up to the band being much younger when they created this record, and therefore being more immature with lyrics, call-outs, and presentation.
But hey, you know what? All of that almost doesn’t matter, as this is the record that made Bring Me The Horizon. It’s definitely not their best release, but perhaps one of their most important records. As without it, they might not be at the stratospheric height they currently exist at nowadays; thus maybe not even going into a record like 2019’s ‘Amo‘ without this album coming way beforehand. If requiring ‘Suicide Season‘ so we could get this, this and this, then that’s a bullet I’d happily cop in the head time after time.