Here’s the weather forecast for Download Festival 2023
How will the weather hold up for the 20th anniversary of Download Festival? Let’s take a look…
From Count Your Blessings to Post Human, we chart Bring Me The Horizon’s biggest bangers…
Since the release of their brutalising This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For EP all the way back in 2004, Bring Me The Horizon have reinvented themselves again and again – turning their hands to deathcore, alt.pop and even flipping metalcore on its head with Sempiternal, leaving countless bands in their dust. Such constant evolution has seen them rise to the top of the British rock pantheon, with festival headliner status confirmed for this year's Reading & Leeds, performing with Ed bloody Sheeran at the BRIT Awards and staging their own all-day event in Malta.
Picking just 20 tracks from their career isn't an easy one, and with another addition to their Post Human EP series mooted for later this year, we might have to tear it all up and start again. But for the time being, this is the definitive rundown of BMTH, balancing the importance of their progression with some all-out bangers.
If 2010’s There Is A Hell… suggested a breakthrough to British rock’s upper echelon, Sempiternal was the true turning point for Bring Me The Horizon. With electronic all-rounder Jordan Fish (previously of Worship) coming aboard, their definitive line-up was solidified and they began to crank out sounds that would truly change the game. This first of six cuts from that LP on our top 20 is perhaps the most straightforwardly slamming, overflowing with vitriol at half-hearted ‘slacktivists’ without the courage of their convictions. It also features what Oli once described as “the most nu-metal mosher lyrics of all time”. All together now: ‘Middle fingers up, if you don't give a fuck!’
If Sempiternal felt like the turning point, 2015’s That’s The Spirit was BMTH’s first full-frontal assault on the mainstream. That record’s opening track served as a compelling segue, its breathy vocals and rippling synths evoking so much of mainstream pop while Oli’s vibrant lyrics (‘The Devil told me, no room for cheats / I thought I sold my soul, but he kept the receipt…’) layer on the darkness. Originally titled What A State and featuring crashing guitars over the chorus, there were gritty echoes of the past but a more indulgently melancholic attitude, and most of its intriguing soundscape promised fans that this was the future: a listening experience unlike anything they’d heard before.
Re-working well-worn atheist themes with a remarkable sense of innovation and urgency, this was an atmospheric highlight on Sempiternal. Jordan’s airy synthwork emphasises the universality of the themes at play in the early part before more serrated guitars and aggressively articulated opinions (‘You're not a shepherd, you're just a sheep: a combined effort of everyone you meet’) explode to the fore at its furious climax. Moreover, this felt like proof that the band – who’d been dogged by accusations of empty-headedness earlier in the career – were able to grapple with even the grandest themes.
The first taste of BMTH’s Post Human series came in 2020 with the pandemic-adjacent Parasite Eve, which goes hard from the opening Bulgarian choir vocals into a sneeze and a slamming breakdown – no wonder you guys voted as your favourite song of the year in our Readers’ Poll. Anyone who was worried the Steel City slayers were ditching their roots needn’t have worried with the crunching heaviness and infectious chorus here as Oli screams bloody murder. “When it goes into the first verse it’s all about that up-close, claustrophobic feeling,” he told Kerrang! at the time. “it’s that four-to-the-floor beat: it’s very atonal and in your face like an alarm’s gone off. It’s trying to embody the lyrics and the illustration I’m trying to give with the words.”
If, on the release of their third album, there were whispers that Bring Me might be selling out and moving on from the unhinged savagery of their past, the four-and-a-half minute assault of Alligator Blood felt like an unhinged riposte. Starting at a rattle and refusing to let up, it uses the potent metaphor of Russian Roulette for a reckoning on the self-destructive nature of so many characters on the scene, with Oli screaming, ‘My alligator blood is starting to show I know that you know that I know that you know.’ We won’t forget.
Another definitive moment from Sempiternal, Sleepwalking felt like the closest BMTH had thus far strayed towards the mainstream, with crystalline synthwork and a breathtaking chorus laying the bait for a legion of new fans for whom the record would be their gateway. The song is a standout, however, for its simultaneous refusal to sacrifice even an ounce of the grit and uncompromising attitude that had gotten them this far, with an impossibly delicate bridge (‘Your eyes are swallowing me, mirrors start to whisper, shadows start to see…’) feeling somehow like it could only ever have come from one band.
BMTH’s deathcore early days feel almost like an in-joke now, following their mainstream-crushing crossover and subsequent spiral out into alt. experimentalism. Indeed, that there is only one song on this list from 2006 debut Count Your Blessings (and only a couple from 2008’s vastly-superior Suicide Season) should be an indication of how far they’ve come. Still, there’s a ragged, uncut-diamond quality about this early standout that endures even 14 years down the line. All blunt-force and monstrous appetite, it sounds like Bring Me infected by rage virus with the benefit of all those years’ retrospect.
‘Crucify me, nail my hands to a wooden cross,’ Oli screams on this inexplicably often overlooked classic. ‘There is nothing above, there is nothing below, Heaven and Hell lives in all of us and I have been cast astray.’ Playing out an ambient guitar line before crashing headlong into one of the heaviest and most chaotic compositions of their career, with scant, juddering electronics and input from Canadian songstress Lights providing passages of relief, Crucify Me saw BMTH perfecting a British metalcore template that would be adhered to by contemporaries like Architects and While She Sleeps long after its authors had moved onto more populist, less aggressive sounds.
Twelve years and so many bends in the road further along, it can be difficult to appreciate just how much of a quantum leap Suicide Season felt like on release. Bringing aboard legendary Swedish producer Fredrik Nordström – who’d overseen classic releases by many of the melodic death metal elite – BMTH's sound was wrangled under control and streamlined, with that strident force and fury channelled into bigger hooks and a more anthemic whole. Still a buzzsaw of a song, Diamonds Aren’t Forever counterbalanced that with enough gritty attitude to create a banger that’s influenced a thousand ripoffs but still somehow feels one of a kind.
Yet another absolute classic from the bountiful Sempiternal era, House Of Wolves was never released as a single but remains a firm favourite with the BMTH hardcore. Channelling the record’s prevalent atheism into an unforgettable parable on how there is no unearthly salvation from the titular existential doghouse, it features one of the band’s most memorable slogans: ‘The house of wolves you built will burn just like a thousand suns / And when you die the only kingdom you’ll see is two feet wide and six feet deep.’ Ooooft! Even better, it’s backed by one of their most interesting instrumental arrangements with discordant riffs and layered-vocals undulating over a deceptively economic 202-second run time.
There’s just so much going on in wonderful life. Released as the second single from sixth album amo (but still over three months before the full record’s release), fans had little idea of the uber-divisive direction in which the band were about to head. Its spring-loaded central riff (taken, apparently, from sessions with Limp Bizkit), lyrical musings on encroaching middle-age, and that guest spot from Cradle Of Filth mainman Dani Filth were the signs of artists growing bored and shifting from their comfort zone. An unforgettable Theo Watkins-directed video only ramped up the self-referential silliness. Eighteen months down the line, it still feels utterly inspired.
‘Ever since this began, I was blessed with a curse and for better or for worse I was born into a hearse.’ Having specialised almost exclusively in fiery aggro up until that point, the penultimate track on BMTH’s third album arrived as something of a swerve. Blessed With A Curse felt like the first time Oli ever seemed truly exposed, on the face of things declaring himself unworthy of some unnamed relationship while also metaphorically laying bare the stresses and particular demands of fronting this divisive band. Bleak, but quite beautiful.
If Doomed was the introduction to That’s The Spirit for listeners sitting down to spin the LP, lead single Happy Song was the unveiling of that new era to fans who’d been waiting anxiously to see how they’d follow Sempiternal. Many will remember its repeat-plays on BBC Radio 1 after a grand unveiling, and the whirlwind of excitement the song whipped up. Led in by that unforgettable cheerleaders’ ‘S-P-I-R-I-T’ chant (invoking the, er, spirits of rock revolutionaries like Marilyn Manson and Faith No More) and overflowing with pointed sarcasm, it depicts a world caught up in the superficial and ignoring the significant.
Another breakthrough moment from There Is A Hell…, It Never Ends felt like the first time BMTH fully embraced the atmospheric potential opened up by electronica, marrying it to one of their most aggressive runaway riffs to thrilling effect. Continuing the album’s intimate personal insight, Oli reckons again on the costs of life in the spotlight, delivering some of his most memorable ever lyrics: ‘I've said it once, I've said it twice, I've said it a thousand fucking times / That I'm okay, that I'm fine, that it's all just in my mind.’ The music video – featuring an ambulance-riding Oli attempting to escape his demons before skirting a little too close to the pearly gates – is another inspired addition. ‘You say this is suicide? I SAY THIS IS A WAR!’
‘Can you hear the silence? Can you see the dark? Can you fix the broken? Can you feel, can you feel my heart?’ True to its words, the first track and fourth single from Sempiternal laid bare BMTH’s intentions for the future: to be grow bigger, smoother, catchier and more anthemic. Relatively straightforward by their standards, this stretches and swells over its sub-four-minute run, with pulsating, panicked synths dragging themselves to the top of the mix. One of the few unadulterated arms-in-the-air moments in their catalogue.
When Drown dropped, as a rare standalone single back in 2014, it sounded like it could’ve been the work of another band entirely. Far more straightforwardly melodic than BMTH had been before, yet unbelievably accomplished in its execution of arena-rocking ambitions, it was the strongest indication to date that they had outgrown the grubby scene that’d spawned them. Characteristically damaged, introspective lyrics (‘What doesn't destroy you leaves you broken instead’) were offset by a shimmering, hopeful musicality that felt like light on the horizon. The accompanying video – featuring the band performing to a TV audience before taking a dark twist and conflating the ideas of demonic possession and lycanthropy – is every bit as unforgettable.
The rough-hewn crown jewel of their guttural era, Chelsea Smile is one of the few BMTH songs pre-2010 that can stand toe-to-toe with everything that’s come since. Named after a form of facial disfiguration – and matching up with its own sonic savagery – this is still somehow one of the catchiest songs in their repertoire. ‘I've got a secret / It's on the tip of my tongue, it's on the back of my lungs, and I'm gonna keep it / I know something you don't know!’ Anyone who’s been caught in the mosh over the 12 years since will know just how hard-hitting those words can be.
Having delivered jaw-dropping reinventions with each of the three previous releases, there was a worry that Bring Me The Horizon fans could be a little fatigued by album number six, in need of a statement to make them sit up and pay attention. Although its pivotal lyrical message (‘’Cause all you ever do is chant the same old mantra…’) follows along the same lines as Happy Song, MANTRA’s more twisted humour, unashamedly high production, sprung riffage and use of automated voice clip – deployed before a spectacular six-string crunch – took things to a whole other level.
As with MANTRA, the best of Bring Me’s latter-day work has arrived with a sense of pulsating, breathless immediacy burning bright and fast with true vibrancy. Like a younger, transatlantic cousin to Linkin Park’s Faint (the late Chester Bennington was a huge influence on Oli, who featured prominently in his 2017 tribute concert at The Hollywood Bowl), Throne comes on as a machine-tooled electro pop-rock hybrid determined to level the mainstream, invade arenas and carry its authors to modern rock’s top seat. With the benefit of hindsight, it managed all that pretty well.
‘Can you tell from the look in our eyes?’ begged Sempiternal’s standout track. ‘We're going nowhere…’ Rarely have lyrics felt more knowingly misleading. Shadow Moses felt like a culmination, not just for Bring Me The Horizon, but for the broader metalcore scene of which they’d become figureheads, leading a thousand followers out of the wilderness to a musical promised land. Striking a balance between the jagged edges of those earliest iterations, the gouging riffage that’d been fine-tuned each release into something truly detonative, and the more sensitive deployment of electronics/emotional ideas that would become their path forward, these furious four minutes crystallised a pivotal moment in time: the craggy, exposed apex of their endlessly intriguing arc. Will the Sheffield supremos ever feel this raw, this revolutionary, this unequivocally thrilling again? Only time will tell…
How will the weather hold up for the 20th anniversary of Download Festival? Let’s take a look…
Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes joined Machine Gun Kelly onstage in Germany this weekend as the pair performed their 2022 collab Maybe live together for the first time.
The Kerrang! Chart
The ultimate new music countdown – every Friday!
Surprise! Bring Me The Horizon have teamed up with Lil Uzi Vert and Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo – listen to their heavy new single AmEN! now.
Watch the video for SLANDER’s new single Wish I Could Forget, which features guest vocals from blackbear and Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes.
Due out this Friday (May 19), SLANDER are teaming up with blackbear and Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes for new single Wish I Could Forget.
On the release of new track LosT, we catch up with Bring Me The Horizon’s Jordan Fish to chat about their new emo anthem…