Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal

Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal
Epitaph / RCA
Release Date: April 1, 2013
Back in late 2010, it seemed like Sheffield, England's Bring Me The Horizon were headed down the right path.  With the release of their third album, There Is A Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It.  There Is A Heaven, Let's Keep It A Secret, the band had finally shed almost all of its ties to the deathcore genre, even moving away from the sound of Suicide Season.  Bring Me The Horizon experimented with more ambient and electronic elements, and brought in some surprising guest features with the most enlightening in the form of Canada-based electropop singer Lights.  Although There Is A Hell saw a huge leap of progression from the band, even in the one time juvenile lyrics of Oli Sykes, their new found maturity did as much to alienate old fans as it did to build an unexpected, new fanbase.

From the moment that the new album's lead single, "Shadow Moses," found its way online, the expectations for Sempiternal were shattered.  The track shows the band regressing back to their pre-There Is A Hell days, feeling like little more than a lost B-Side from the Suicide Season sessions.  The disappointment that met "Shadow Moses" seems minute when compared to the reaction to "Anti-Vist."  "Middle fingers up, if you don't give a fuck!" leads the auditory assault, followed later by the dreaded "C-word" to wrap things up.  Where "Shadow Moses" showed regression from a musical standpoint, "Anti-Vist" proved that the immense immaturity in Sykes' lyricism hadn't dissipated either.

Throughout Sempiternal, the band's fourth full length album, we see Bring Me The Horizon attempting to rein in the fans who had begun to shy away from their music while still trying to maintain their new found listeners.  The end result is a messy, uneven album that's sure to be one of the year's biggest disappointments.  There are scattered moments throughout Sempiternal where Bring Me The Horizon is still trying to build on the elements that made There Is A Hell the interesting album that it is, but holding together those bright spots is a mostly insufferable blend of songs that serve little purpose other than to incite "pit beef."

Tracks like "Can You Feel My Heart" and "And The Snake Starts To Sing" offer something of a logical "next step" from There Is A Hell, showcasing some of that experimentation and progression that inhabited the 2010 album.  But for every song that seems memorable, there is something like "The House of Wolves" or "Anti-Vist" that shatters any momentum that Sempiternal might have been trying to build.  Although Suicide Season had many faults, some of the song structures seemed slightly original or interesting, at least for their time.  Sempiternal's tracks that mirror the Suicide Season sound don't share the same qualities that made the album such a hit in certain crowds.  One part due to the unending recycling and regurgitation of the genre, the other to sheer lazy song writing, when Sempiternal isn't flat out bad ("Anti-Vist"), the songs are purely boring ("Empire (Let Them Sing)"), something that may be an even more egregious offense when it comes to heavy music.

For all the trash one must trudge through with Sempiternal, there are a few redeeming moments.  Aside from the moments where the album sounds like There Is A Hell-lite, Sykes has truly improved himself as a vocalist, especially as a singer.  Those guttural growls that filled Count Your Blessings are almost entirely gone, being replaced with a surprising amount of clean vocals.  As a singer, Sykes sounds much more fragile than the egotistical confidence that lingers with his aggressive scream.  Unfortunately, the moments where Sykes attempts to show off his new skill set, his backing musicianship doesn't lend itself to much benefit, notably on the band's effort to sound like metalcore's callback to 30 Seconds To Mars with album closer "Hospital For Souls."

Being only one album removed from There Is A Hell, it's difficult to tell if Sempiternal is simply wasted potential or if the former album was just dumb luck.  Bring Me The Horizon have clearly proven they can make more than decent music, but Sempiternal makes the band seem less interested in writing good songs and more interested in bringing back those that fawned over the Suicide Silence era.  Sempiternal not only fails to build on the shocking promise this band once showed, but it also showcases some of the laziest, least inventive song writing we've heard from Bring Me The Horizon since they were an unlistenable deathcore band in 2006.  When the thoughts that stick the most are about how awful something like "Anti-Vist" is, instead of how the album should have showcased more of the scattered atmospheric and, more simply, interesting moments of the album, you've certainly got a dud on your hands.  It will take at least one more album before it can be determined whether There Was A Hell was a one-off in the right direction or the shape of what might be to come, but for now, Sempiternal will be remembered as a soured return to the band's roots, if the album is even remember at all.


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