Within one single day of being released, Bring Me The Horizon’s Sempiternal has topped the Australian iTunes album sale charts at #1. But you can’t just write that off to the hype that has been building since the release of the ridiculously titled There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret two years prior – which accomplished the same feat. No, there’s something about this UK five-piece metalcore outfit that the world just can’t seem to get enough of. Whatever that is, Sempiternal delivers it like a shot straight to the veins to relieve the addiction, and it’s spectacular.
Can You Feel My Heart is the perfect synopsis of the entire album. We hear more intelligible screams, a shift of guitar emphasis from riffage to rhythm, and an absolute metric shitload of synth. On closer inspection it becomes apparent that each of these very distinct changes appear not to bring a new face to the band, but to perhaps preserve a unique sound and longevity within the rapidly growing rabble of mediocre metalcore bands.
The release of Sempiternal saw the departure of rhythm guitarist Jona Weinhofen and the addition of Jordan Fish on keys/programming. With this change, we hear a shift in lead guitarist Lee Malia’s style from the raw, riff-focused playing to the more rhythmic, noise-infused, destructive flow of guitar distortion that tears through tracks like Empire (Let Them Sing), the heaviest and most guitar orientated song on the album.
Frontman and vocalist Oli Sykes delivers the closest thing to clean vocals we’ve ever heard from this band. It seems Mr. Sykes is not only capable of amassing the largest following of fan girls of anyone on the planet, but wielding a surprising amount of vocal versatility too.
Consider how far he’s come: from the unintelligible white-noise and demonic howls that erupted from his throat during the band’s debut album Count Your Blessings, to where he is now, on tracks like And The Snakes Start To Sing, seamlessly floating between brutal screams and legitimately decent cleans. Sykes, album after album, continues to solidify his place as one of the genre’s leading vocalists, and Sempiternal is no exception
The electro-atmospheric sound that has been growing within the BMTH mix since Suicide Season takes a large step towards centre stage in Sempiternal with the addition of Fish. It’s omnipresent and often forms entire intro sections or melodic bridges, such as the ones we hear in Sleepwalking (for which the band has already released a music video).
Fish’s presence on keys is also a welcome addition within the quieter segments of the record. Piano accompaniment has given the band quite a large amount of emotional breadth in that department.
Then, of course, we’re ripped right back into the madness, because this is still a metalcore record, after all. Sykes has started singing cleaner, Malia has taken a less hands-on approach to leads and now they’ve even tossed in a keyboardist, but despite all that, this is still a very heavy record. Sure, it’s no longer a kick-your-grandma-in-the-face, relentlessly brutal attack on the ears, but the group has gathered the tools to create a dramatic contrast between aggression and sadness that truly brings each sound, individually, into focus. This is a much more balanced record than we’ve heard from BMTH before.
Weak points are few and far between for Sempiternal. Foremost of these is the lyricism. Horizon are renowned for their incredibly memorable gang vocals/chants, and though the album goes to lengths to continue the trend, on tracks such as Anti-Vist this unfortunately comes across as a little forced.
The only other gripe you might find with this record is the seemingly lackluster finale found in Hospital For Souls. It’s not a bad tune by any means, but at this point in the album you’re given the expectation of something amazing, and it just doesn’t eventuate in that song. We can’t help wonder if one of the singles, Shadow Moses perhaps, may have been more apt in concluding the record.
Sempiternal takes on a tone that is largely more political than the narrative sadness of previous records. Despite that, it still gels enthusiastically with the BMTH sound. For fans of old though – never fear. Emo ballads haven’t disappeared completely (and we doubt they ever will).
This record is a gem amidst the genre’s releases in recent years. It’s that mix of electro-glitch, dark lyricism and rolling guitar chug that you can’t get enough of. It’s something you need to own.