Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Monica Strut, The Last Martyr – Bring Me The Horizon, Sempiternal, (2013)
There is not a heavy-music-loving soul in the modern world that wouldn’t recognise the synth-and-drum intro of ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ from Bring Me The Horizon’s iconic 2013 album, Sempiternal. The way the song builds throughout is the perfect introduction to the album and from the very first listen, I knew it would be one of my forever favourites.
There are two stand-out tracks on Sempiternal for me. The first is ‘Shadow Moses,’ a song that had left a lasting impression a couple of months prior when I first heard it live at Soundwave. Bring Me played on one of the smaller stages — their audience nowhere near what they can pull now — but we were led by the band in singing the intro together. The lyrics “Can you tell from the look in our eyes? We’re going nowhere…” echoed through the thick and sweaty star-lit air and it was nothing but magical.
The second stand-out for me is, ‘Sleepwalking’; a song I’ve related to during some low moments in my life. There are many things I love about Oli Sykes’ lyrics. I love that they’re simple yet emotive at the same time and that type of writing is something I strive for within my own songs. The line, ‘Your eyes are swallowing me,’ for example is painfully gorgeous.
I grew up Catholic so I’ve always loved the subtle religious references Oli puts in almost all his songs. It brings a sense of grandeur and darkness at the same time and repurposes ancient writing in a new way. It’s quite the juxtaposition considering metal music has been seen in the past as ‘evil.’
Sykes also uses a lot of common phrases. Lyrics such as “The wolves are at my door,” in ‘Empire’ and “Was I your knight in shining armour? Or the apple of your eye?” in ‘And The Snakes Start to Sing’ are based on familiar sayings. As a lyricist, although I’ve always loved the emo-in-nature lyrics to Bring Me The Horizon’s songs, using such stock-standard sayings seemed cliché and lazy to me for a long time. But I’ve since realised there is a power in it. It helps your audience to feel like they know the song or can relate to it the moment they hear it. It’s the difference between writing solely for yourself and realising that you’re writing for an audience as well.
Lyrics aside, there’s no doubt the production, arrangements and writing on this album influenced a whole generation of heavy bands and nearly a decade on, still stands up today. Bring Me The Horizon have always been tastemakers and by the time other bands have attempted to emulate their sound, they’ve already moved on to the next thing. This can be a dangerous game for many acts to play, but somehow, they manage to pull it off and it’s definitely a principle that I hope to take into my own music career as it grows.
Bring Me’s 2015 album, That’s The Spirit, nearly found its way as the centre of this piece, as did 2010’s There is a Hell… which was the undeniable soundtrack to a very poignant time in my life. But Sempiternal had to be the one. It was the first time Oli’s cleans took centre stage given the previous record used guests, but it’s less pop than the next. It’s this mid-way point in their career that encapsulates the type of music I love – heavy, hooky, melodic and emotive.
When I think of Sempiternal, I think of road trips with a friend where we listened to it on repeat. I think of the numerous times I’ve seen the band live – many with my little brother, Michael, who introduced me to heavy music as a teen. I think of many late-night pensive walks with the synth-laden tracks blasting in my ears. Sempiternal is one of the records that reminds me that music will always be here for me, and for us all.
The Last Martyr are a heavy outfit from Melbourne who’ve just unleashed their new EP ‘Purgatory’ upon the world. Stream it below!