It seems like every time Bring Me The Horizon release a new album, the heavy music world goes into a frenzy; it’s almost like an event nowadays. Like them or not, they’re such a huge and important band now, though. Any post about them is pretty much guaranteed to generate plenty of discussion, featuring varying extremes of opinions. (This very piece included.) So much so that I felt many were suffering from what I’d label “BMTH-fatigue” in the weeks leading up to and following the release of this year’s new album, ‘Amo‘. Not just from dullards whinging that it wasn’t heavy anymore and that it was too poppy, but from the insufferable stans who were talking it up as some sort of grandiose musical awakening.
More to the point, with the band recently touring Australia the other week, and in me catching said tours Melbourne stopover, I really wanted to knuckle down and rank all of the U.K. group’s six albums, from ‘Count Your Blessings’ up to the aforementioned ‘Amo. (Not including their debut EP, ‘This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For’.) Because why the hell not? And because god knows there haven’t been enough of those lists already in 2019. Let’s get it on.
#6. ‘Count Your Blessings’ (2006)
Okay, now that the ‘Count Your Blessing‘ sweaters have adjusted their rose-tinted glasses and clicked away, let’s talk about BMTH’s deathcore-loving 2006 debut LP. For ‘Count Your Blessings‘ definitely feels and sounds like a band’s very first full-length. It’s brash and silly with it’s song titles, the lyrics aren’t anywhere near as clever or as compelling as what Oli would later share, it’s all over the place in terms of songwriting and noodling metal guitars, and the mix is just abhorrent too. It sure is youthful, and while there can be a certain energy and magic in that, this was – and still is – immature and inexperienced.
For a band who loved their heavy chugs and booming breakdowns, this album implements uninspired uses of such ideas. (Things that ‘Suicide Season‘ would pull off much better two years later.) Which is interesting, because this album does have a lot going on in the guitar department, what with cool little licks and busy diminished runs. However, whilst things have gotten much simpler with the band’s guitar work on recent albums, those parts are more memorable and effective. Here, everything’s a mess. The production and songwriting are so eerily dated, and other deathcore-centric records from that era (your Carnifex’s, your Whitechapel’s, your Suicide Silence’s, you All Shall Perish’s, your Despised Icon’s) are a real cut above this poor bastard. Just because it’s deathcore or “heavy” doesn’t mean it’s good.
Thankfully, it’s all an upward climb past ‘Count Your Blessing‘ in terms of quality from here onward.
#5. ‘Suicide Season’ (2008)
When seeing BMTH perform at Rod Laver Arena during their recent Australian tour, the band, quite surprisingly, pulled out their “deathcore medley“; a four-song medley of ‘The Comedown‘, ‘I Used To Make Out With Medusa‘, ‘Diamonds Aren’t Forever‘, and ‘They Have No Reflections‘. During it, Oli declared just before the breakdown in ‘Diamonds…‘, that it was, and I quote, “the greatest breakdown of 2008“. (Him jokingly adding after said medley ended that, “that’s another ruptured vocal chord… you fucking bastards.“) In a way, funnily enough, old mate isn’t wrong!
2008’s ‘Suicide Season‘ was everywhere when it came out; it was a big fucking deal! You couldn’t not hear about the record or the band that made it in some form. And not just for nothing either; it had some real bangers to it’s very real cred. ‘Chelsea Smile‘, ‘The Comedown‘, ‘The Sadness Will Never End‘ (featuring their good friend, Architects‘ Sam Carter, for one truly killer vocal hook), the lengthy and atmospheric, electronic-tinged title track, and even the melancholic and emotive ‘It Was Written In Blood‘ are all great tunes. Songs that really helped BMTH grab the attention of press and listeners alike, making them one of the hottest new bands in metal back then. And yes, those breakdowns were, and still are, pretty damn mint.
The polished Euro-metal production – courtesy of producers and engineers Fredrik Nordström and Henrik Udd – is one of the album’s strongest aspects. Plus, the band’s transition from deathcore to metalcore would impart the ethos behind each new subsequent release: never do the exact same thing twice. Something that, whether you love BMTH or not, makes them such an intriguing band; going from tech-metal, to deathcore, to metalcore, to more alternative and poppier flourishes nowadays. While this LP definitely does sound like it came out over ten years ago, and while tracks like ‘Football Season Is Over‘ and ‘No Need For Introductions…‘ are just cringe, as well as ‘Death Breath‘ being entirely forgettable, it’s still nowhere near the time-capsule their debut is. This is absolutely a solid album through and through. (If you want some more chit-chat about ‘Suicide Season‘, read my ten-year retrospective here.)
#4. ‘Amo’ (2019)
‘Amo‘ is a very weird, very confused record, but not a bad one at all. This mostly comes down to BMTH being really opened-minded people and musicians, creating whatever they wish to at any given point in time. Which is a major blessing but also somewhat of a curse too; it always makes things interesting and exciting, but that creates room for some potential inconsistency.
For instance, ‘mother tongue‘ is just way too saccharine in its lyrics and choruses. ‘wonderful life‘ is a weird hodgepodge of thoughts on excess and waste, with some really grating high-pitched screams, yet comes packaged with some sick low-octave riffage and an awesome if far too brief guest vocal from Dani Filth. The fuzzy, semi-metalcore-rock vibes of ‘mantra‘ are cool, if not as impactful over time once the initial release wears off. And ‘I don’t know what to say‘, written about a very good friend of Oli’s who sadly passed away from cancer (and whom also inspired ‘Drown‘) sees the emotional intent of the track outweigh the actual music, orchestral parts and all.
‘Amo‘ is an album that people staunchly defend but also vehemently despise. However, even when it does fall into an odd middle-ground (like on ‘why you gotta kick me when i’m down?‘), it definitely hits more than it misses. It’s more than got it’s strong moments. Interludes like ‘fresh bruises‘ and ‘ouch‘ are great little numbers, as is the atmospheric and dreamy opener of ‘i apologise if you feel something‘ with it’s weird, layered electro-percussion. (I’d honestly love a full record of tracks like this from BMTH or as a side-gig from Jordan Fish.) Then there’s fully-fledged gems like the Grimes-featured EDM jam of ‘nihilist blues‘ – since becoming one of my fave BMTH tunes, with a wicked drop no less – and there’s the excellent moulding of heavy rock, big choruses, and poppy riffs via the infectious ‘sugar honey ice & tea‘. ‘Medicine‘ and the quirky ‘in the dark‘ are the band’s latest entry into the pop sphere, but both come out the other side lean and strong. ‘Heavy Metal‘, featuring rapper/beat-boxer Rahzel is a great troll song towards close-minded fans, slammed with big guitars and heavier deathcore screams come its end.
Again, this album is a little all over the shop, yet that’s the strangest part: that it’s main issue and also it’s biggest charm too. Still, ‘Amo‘ more than has it’s strong merits, and is easily their most divisive release. Well, until their next album drops in about three more years.
#3. ‘That’s The Spirit’ (2015)
Oh boy, this was a big one! Produced by Jordan Fish, 2015’s ‘That’s The Spirit‘ is such a stacked album in terms of not just the huge singles it spawned, but for the equally huge things it did for BMTH. Something you could say for any album they’ve released since ‘Suicide Season‘, honestly.
However, ‘That’s The Spirit‘ has some faceless songs to its name as well as tunes that aren’t necessarily bad… but aren’t all that great either. ‘True Friends‘ is painfully average on many lyrical and vocal fronts. People surprised by the band’s recent, pop-leaning album clearly didn’t take note of the pitch-shifting during the soft electro sounds of ‘Run‘, nor the massive arena-targeted hooks that drive ‘Avalanche‘ forward. Then there’s ‘Throne‘, one of the biggest Linkin Park ‘Meteora‘ worships around, with it’s chopped-up vocal edits becoming so annoying long before it ends and it’s radio-rock vibe sounding scarily over-polished. And as for ‘Blasphemy‘? I bet that no one really remembers how that one goes without having to hear it again first.
Even so, the good far outweighs any of the lacklustre tracks, showing ‘That’s The Spirit‘ to be one of the band’s better albums. For it indeed had real spirit!
‘Doomed‘ is a layered and subversive opener, showing off their dynamic intent, Oli’s higher vocal range (that Jordan now picks up slack for), and the band’s expansive musical ambition. It’s a brilliant example of what BMTH could do with newer, larger arrangements, as seen on that jaw-dropping Royal Albert Hall orchestral performance of ‘Doomed‘. ‘Happy Song‘ is this gargantuan riffy and catchy piece that nailed the band’s successful intersection of pop, rock, post-hardcore, and heaps of synths and sing-alongs. ‘Follow You‘ is their key pop hit, one they pulled off better than most of the ‘Amo‘ material at times too. Same goes for the stupendous Panic At The Disco-esque closing jam, ‘Oh No‘. The fuzzy bass lines and laid-back pop-rock of ‘What You Need‘ was the band kicking into the distorted Brit-rock world well before ‘Amo‘ arrived. And what of ‘Drown‘? There are no words for how monolithic and well-written that particular composition is. Just wow.
#2. ‘Sempiternal’ (2013)
While its title means unchanging – which is amusing given the track-record of the band who created it – 2013’s ‘Sempiternal‘ is a truly special record. It’s a world-class album that even the most off-put of fans could still agree is one of the band’s best, or maybe even their very peak. It’s an album that newer fans still adore to no end, and some of it’s high-ranking songs still take up a decent chunk of their current live sets too. This was the first release to also feature the songwriting contributions of Jordan on keyboards, programming, samples, and some added percussion and backing vocals, with his skills and experience really shining through in the final product.
More than that, however, ‘Sempiternal‘ was a personal record too, about admitting there’s a problem and a longing to heal; seeing Oli lyrically open up, be more positive and introspective, and really vent about his ketamine addiction, as well as muse on politics and religion. It was dramatic and honest; it had both substance and style.
The album’s first four-track-run is easily one of the best song flows of any BMTH release. Going from the electro-loops and well-edited sounds of ‘Can You Feel My Heart‘, to the quick-paced anti-religious rager of ‘The House of Wolves‘ and tectonic standout of ‘Empire (Let Them Sing)‘, concluding with the haunting, majestic gut-punch of ‘Sleepwalking‘. Elsewhere, the anthemic ‘Shadow Moses‘ is one of the most well-known and quintessential BMTH songs alongside ‘Drown‘, ‘Throne‘, ‘Chelsea Smile‘ and ‘Pray For Plagues‘.
‘And The Snakes Start To Sing’, ‘Seen It All Before’ and the highly ambitious and moving ‘Hospital For Souls’ all showcased that Oli could sing, and sing well (back then, at least), gelling with the rest of the band’s genre-mashing sound superbly. Then, when considering the social-activist call-out nature of ‘Antivist‘ and the internal faith-based conflict of ‘Crooked Young‘, this becomes one of the most out-spoken BMTH records. And the album’s mammoth, well-layered gang vocals are some of the best in the biz, sitting loftily next to A Day To Remember’s ‘Homesick‘ and 30 Seconds To Mars‘ ‘This Is War‘.
This may be hyperbole, but I really don’t think it’s a stretch to label ‘Sempiternal‘ as one of the most important metalcore records for this decade of heavy music. Not just what it did for BMTH, but for others too. We’re still seeing bands pull from the songwriting, tones and patterns of ‘Sempiternal‘ even now (some Bad Omens material, anyone?), seven bloody years on from release. It’s been so influential, but also so important for BMTH’s trajectory. It doesn’t get better than this. Well, except for one other record of theirs…
#1. ‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret.’ (2010)
Despite the “make or break” stress of album number three, ‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret.‘ is the greatest BMTH album of ’em all. It’s a true sweat spot of not just their career, but also their sonic vision; the band existing at their most consistent and most competent. This was back when Oli could still genuinely scream and have it feel so palpable and gripping. There’s Lee Malia’s hectic drop A chugs and awesomely driving riffs everywhere, and the breakdowns are instantly gratifying and mosh-ready, aided by Matt Nicholls’s air-tight drumming. Then there’s just how well the band’s subtle atmospheric, electronic and melodic tendencies were all expertly expanded upon; growing bolder and seeing them pervade into bigger arrangements. Along with Oli really wearing his heart on his sleeve vocally and lyrically, all of this created a perfect storm that saw the band write their best work; seeing their success and popularity propel forward immensely too.
The only BMTH album to feature Jona Weinhofen, the band returning to work with Fredrik Nordström and Henrik Udd again lends the album an incredibly polished sound; one that holds up today. It’s a mix that never feels too artificial or derivative. In fact, it sounds just right, hitting a grand happy-medium. Musically, the album is exceptionally consistent and cohesive, right down to those cleaner, sparse guitar figures that drift into nearly every song. Even the sample-heavy, keyboard instrumental of ‘Memorial‘ is neither disposable or superfluous; slotting into the record’s final moments beautifully by being a minimal but captivating piece. It was exciting to see the band incorporate wider experimentation with ‘There Is A Hell…‘, from symphonic elements, more electronics, cleaner vocal parts, choral samples, acoustic forays, and strings. There’s just so much going on! Even at the album’s “weakest”, like ‘Blacklist‘ and ‘Home Sweet Hole‘, things were still fuckin’ great.
‘Crucify Me‘ is one of the most interesting tracks, not just due to how good it is and much there is to unpack, but also because of it’s pitched, highly-edited vocal refrains from Lights. This was a precursor to what BMTH would experiment later on, yet it’s one of their best uses of said effects; Lights‘ vocals defines the song. Vastly heavier moments like the chugging pit-eruptions of ‘Alligator Blood‘ and the war-cry of the ‘Suicide Season‘-esque and Skrillex-co-written ‘Visions‘ are pure, unadulterated mosh bangers. Then, huge cuts like the bouncy ‘Anthem‘ and the pressing vibes of ‘It Never Ends‘ (detailing gruelling touring, press cycles, and band pressures) are full of not just great hooks and surging walls of instrumentals, but an undeniable urgency. The mourning strings and drifting keys of the yearning ‘Don’t Go‘ walks you through pitch-black shadows as the drums and guitars build to Oli reaching a harrowing emotional point as Lights gives an honest guest performance, stemming from a kid the vocalist knew in high-school who was horribly murdered during a school camp trip. Whereas ‘Blessed With A Curse‘ showed they could be vulnerable and dynamic but not sacrifice all of the heaviness. This grim pair were something else entirely; eerie moments about difficult life experiences about coming far too close to the vicinity of death and our own worst demons, all represented by varied instrumentation and darker moods. An intimacy found all over BMTH’s third LP.
This isn’t to even mention the litany of guest features that bolster up the record as well. From Josh Scogin (ex-Chariot, ‘68) guesting on the drug-fuelled, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hardcore punk closer ‘The Fox and the Wolf‘, Lights lending tuned but affecting, chopped-up singing to ‘Crucify Me‘ (and more stripped-back takes on ‘Don’t Go‘), to Josh Franceschi’s sweet vocal hook acting as a real respite during ‘Fuck‘ was just sublime; that track shifting between brutal and beautiful.
The first time I heard ‘There Is A Hell…‘, I was left speechless. It’s a fucking ride! This was BMTH really proving themselves, a big chip on their collective shoulders they’d carry onto the ‘Sempiternal‘ era as well. This was the crossroads between the metal underground the band had conquered and the mainstream world they were about to trail-blaze right through. There’s not a single poor or lacking song present here. Nothing is out of place. ‘There Is A Hell…‘ was a career best, and then some.