Here’s some bad news for Mr. Lee Malia, Matt Kean, Matt Nicholis and Jordan Fish: you may be out of work soon. But that’s alright, because the rest of Bring Me the Horizon, including Oli Sykes and, well, Oli Sykes, might go on to become the next synth-abetted Gerard Way (the My Chemical Romance frontman who started a solo career and dropped a legacy).
That aside, BMTH’s new album, “That’s the Spirit,” is honestly kind of uncomfortable. It pits one’s technical, elitist sensibilities against the attraction to “catchiness” that resides within us all — the part that makes your foot tap to that new Taylor Swift chorus, regardless of how much of it is actually just a response to the autotuning, beat-dropping computer.
If you haven’t been following BMTH for a decade, this might surprise you. The band started off with deathcore and moved to electronic metalcore and post-hardcore before cutting the “core” and adopting a mellower, alternative sound. Pre-release singles “Happy Song” and “Throne” polarize the album’s mood: the former track dives into cryptic, pensive verse and chorus with respites via a cheerleader chant and pre-chorus while the latter features keyboard verses and melds Sykes’ vocals into an electronic melody reminiscent of BMTH’s last album’s “Can You Feel My Heart.” One may find the appeals to human emotion made by the computerized elements in this song and others on “That’s the Spirit” somewhat disturbing. The appeals are further enhanced when underpinning Sykes’ vocals, as in the pre-chorus of album opener “Doomed.”
When compared with the band’s prior efforts, the holistic quality of “That’s the Spirit” necessitates a discussion of the album’s hit-song-to-filler-track ratio. While BMTH’s 2008 and 2010 metalcore records each had approximately a 1:3 hit-to-filler ratio — forcing listeners to rifle through a hodgepodge for a few stellar singles — 2013 effort “Sempiternal” nearly broke even with a 1:1 ratio. “That’s the Spirit” charts a similar score. This is coming from someone whose personal preferences generally lie on the metalcore side of the spectrum. Of course, one caveat is that the metalcore hits, particularly those on 2010 album “There Is A Hell…,” have more replay value for those who listen for instrumental intricacy and vocal variety.
Indeed, “That’s the Spirit” suffers from its lack of technicality. While simplicity fosters catchiness, it kills the maniacal drive featured in past BMTH songs, such as the trippy breakdown of “It Never Ends,” the overlaid growls and screams in “Sleep with One Eye Open” and even the gnarly and atmospheric bass/keyboard dovetailing present in the verses of “Sleepwalking.” The band will probably achieve more sales with “That’s the Spirit,” but while mainstream music doesn’t exactly need new “talent,” metalcore will sorely miss its standard-bearers of cryptic, electronic brutality.