It’s no surprise to see well established bands head toward more commercial sounds when releasing new records. Marketability is a huge factor in shifts like this and you honestly can’t blame a band for wanting to make more money and reach more ears. Bands pull off these new records with great success by choosing to retain the elements that set them apart from their peers in the first place while expanding their personal sphere of influence, creating a new sound from the ground up and wowing listeners with their unique sonic creation or reinterpreting an already existing sound and molding it to their liking. The latest Bring Me the Horizon effort That’s the Spirit dabbles in a little bit of each. However, their newly established sound is in its infancy, so in the process of learning to walk there’s bound to be more than a few missteps.
The album opens in spectacular fashion with ‘Doomed’, which is the arguably the best song on the record and a breathtaking opener. Just like ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ from their previous album Sempiternal, it sets everything ahead of you up for greatness. The song is dark and brooding but is not overbearingly so, relying on a steady stream of electronic thumps and Oli’s lyrics exploring the ins and outs of doom and gloom to maintain a certain level of melancholy. These are juxtaposed with a mysterious pitched up vocal sample throughout in order to create an atmosphere that’s both foreboding and welcoming all at once. It seems that after this track, the band could and will do anything. Sadly, the rest of the tracklist sees the band hindering their supposed progress, with only a few more stunning high notes along the way.
The next track, ‘Happy Song’, sounds like a Deftones throwaway and not in the endearing b-side type of way. It’s meant to be an earworm, which isn’t a terrible thing, but after ‘Doomed’ it just feels far too vanilla. That’s the pit this record can’t seem to claw it’s way out for more than a song or two at a time. Songs like ‘Throne’, ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Follow You’ have glimmers of hope with interesting synth/string work, but they all ultimately end up being tracks that are just meant to showcase how different this new sound is for Bring Me the Horizon, not how Bring Me the Horizon can make this sound different which makes you feel like you’ve heard most of it before. When they nail it they really nail it, though, showing that familiarity can be friendly and not simply derivative. The three song streak with ‘Drown’, ‘Blasphemy’ and ‘Oh No’ really showcases what the band are capable of doing when they give it their all to doing something interesting in a genre that’s heard it all. ‘Drown’ is as great as when we were first introduced to it but now has been treated to a better mix, ‘Blasphemy’ uses the main guitar line for background vocals and has a very tasteful mini guitar solo that hits just the right notes, while ‘Oh No’ sees the band going full pop and including a stunning interlude that even includes a small amount of saxophone that feels perfectly placed and never would have been present on any BMTH album before it. These three songs are the stunning crescendo of a symphony that played halfheartedly.
For all these gripes about missed potential, Oliver Sykes really stepped up as a front-man and is transforming into something that I think most people were hesitant to believe that he could become. He can hold his own performance wise and is at least fairly competent lyrically. Hell, his performance on the album is one of the best parts about it and since Sempiternal he’s been continuing to head in the right direction vocally. He’ll keep improving as he goes along, which is something to look forward to. The album’s mix is also another highlight that carried over from Sempiternal, only this time it feels a lot larger and fits the arena rock vibe they were shooting for.
That’s the Spirit sees the band continuing to push into their new sound, but they inevitably end up being held back by their inexperience in navigating it. The album is worth a listen for the sole fact that it’s Bring Me the Horizon doing something that isn’t the usual for them and that it’s enjoyable enough, but don’t expect to be blown away or even caught off guard for more than a track or two. No amount of chantable choruses can hide that this album was supposed to be something more. Hopefully they’ll come closer to what they were envisioning for this album with their next release or the one after that.
Bring Me the Horizon’s That’s the Spirit gets…