Review Summary: Merely a graveyard of your former self
After a blistering five track EP, Bring Me the Horizon put out Count Your Blessings, an album that managed to become a deathcore classic despite essentially being barely above bedroom-level quality. It resulted in an almost unimaginable level of success for such a young band, and made them, for a brief period at least, the UK’s most popular heavy export. But their subsequent albums were less impressive, with 2008’s Suicide Season resulting in yet more fame but a notable drop in quality. Even without the grimace-inducing lyricism, the band’s second full record was still a horribly boring release, recycling riffs and breakdowns constantly and offering nothing to a genre quite obviously on the way out of style. And their third album, There Is a Hell… didn't remedy any of these problems, least of all how awful Oli Sykes’ voice became after his vocal operations. Overproduction was rife (as it is with all of Fredrik Nordstrom’s work) and the huge symphonic influence was merely a distraction from how mediocre the band’s instrumental ability had become.
Sempiternal, though, gives me hope that the band has not lost all of its ability. Whereas the clean vocals on There Is a Hell were gimmicky and provided by guests, now Sykes has included his very own brand of emotive crooning into his (vastly improved) vocal range. Rather than succumbing to half sung/half screamed vocals a la Architect’s Sam Carter, Sykes’ vocal inflections are soft but tinged with aggression, making for some excellent hooks. Infectious choruses have never really been the band’s strong point, but here they are what makes the album such a hit. Additionally, the absence of Weinhofen also leads to the absence of his dreadful backing vocals, which were always a terrible fit for Sykes’ faux-poeticism. Shadow Moses aside, none of the lyrics here are particularly memey, which is excellent because serious metalcore releases should always be accompanied by solid lyricism (something that the band’s other efforts have definitely lacked).
But the music isn't quite as consistent as Sykes’ performance. Now down to one guitarist, it’s no surprise that instrumental layering is now near ubiquitous. Compensating for a lack of guitar prowess (Jona Weinhofen was the best guitarist this band ever had) does not equate heaviness, and most of the songs pass by without displaying any stand-out riffs. Even when the guitars serve as a backdrop for the flashy synths cropping up on songs like opener Can You Feel My Heart, they don’t really carry any weight to them and feel pretty hollow. The bass is practically inaudible as the production now switches from compressed to overly beefy, and the drums, despite being snappy, are equally devoid of impact. Luckily, with new keyboardist Jordan Fish, the band compensate by perfecting the atmosphere that they attempted on There Is a Hell… with fantastic results. Antivist excluded, every song packs gorgeous keyboard work (think the Blessed With a Curse sound amplified) that makes songs like Seen It All Before the band’s strongest material to date.
Although they performed competently as a heavy band, Sykes and co sound significantly better when they capitalise on their chances to make brilliant amalgams of genres that genuinely are stupefying especially when you consider how one dimensional the band’s previous material was. This could have been a truly great record, but as it stands, it's another disappointing instalment, and the minimal replay value and inconsistent tracklist leaves a somewhat bad taste in the mouth.
I thought There is a Hell was a decent album for them. The songwriting in that was decent and showed some maturity not
present in their first two albums and Crucify Me is their best song for me. This, in comparison, is sonically more
interesting, but lacking in compelling songwriting.
Good review though and I agree with all the points made in the last paragraph. Pos'd
The improved vocals was the first thing I noticed as well. Oli has really revamped himself. But the album was really, really good overall. I don't really like synths, dubstep, etc., but those nuances really meshed with the style of the band. I like most of the songs, and I think they've found their calling as a band finally.
Good review, even though I don't agree with the rating.