Monday, 30 March 2009

Bring Me The Horizon - Suicide Season

Right, to provide context, I'm one of the few guys within the tr00 metal fraternity who gave BMTH's debut a good review (I'm also one of the few who finds it acceptable to replace letters with numbers; I suspect there's overlap). Count Your Blessings was an album that gave metalcore fangs; it didn't care about clean vocal choruses or dual harmonies to ease the tension, it cared about blast beats, guitars that sound like pitch-shifted chainsaws and the infamous Oli Sykes giving a vocal performance which must have stripped the lining from his throat. It was a near-unrelenting mass of churning riffs and the kind of crunching breakdowns which must have absolutely killed live (Of course, there's a school of thought which says that breakdowns actively detract from metal since they're from hardcore, but these people forget that they weren't so snippy about hardcore influence giving us metalheads thrash metal, so I let such self-indulgent nonces go fuck themselves). Plus those who criticise their aesthetic forget that when they started, emo was the big thing and everyone expected them to start crooning, so to hear brutal metalcore was a musical oxymoron unparalleled since Helmet; they were a band who you could not read by it's cover. Except now you can. Through the process of extensive calming-the-fuck-down, this album sounds exactly like how you'd expect a popular modern metal band to. One huge chunk of their charm is gone right from the start, and it doesn't end there.

Right, let's start at the top. Bring Me The Horizon have been touring extensively with Brighton hardcore mob Architects, and it seems to have rubbed off because Oli's new main vocal style is a weedy hardcore yelp not entirely dissimilar to Sam Carter's new vocal style (which has also mellowed from a more abrasive, and thus better, style, but that's a review for another time). This unfortunately makes the saccharine b-grade emo lyrics a hell of a lot harder to digest than when he sounded like he was trying to project his own blood onto the listener. Sure it's more accessible but one of the great points about this band was that they were unexpectedly inaccessible. Likewise, the superb guitar tone of CYB is absent, and filling in is a guitar tone which sounds like a synthesiser. Seriously, these guitars, combined with a new-found love of sampling and electronica, makes this sound like if Pendulum tried to make modern hardcore and failed miserably; the riffs' weight is GONE, the breakdowns' weight is GONE. Indeed, the riffs are gone; the guitars do nothing interesting throughout the entire album except try pathetically hard to mimic Bury Your Dead. That the drumming is equally insipid shows through one of the album's main flaws; Frederik Nordstrom has done an uncharacteristically horrible production job, particularly regarding the thin, baseless mixing (and that annoying problem with crash cymbals that sounds like you're listening to them through a cardboard tube).

However, maybe we need to adjust our expectations; even the band acknowledges that this is not a continuation of what they were doing before they smelt the wafting scent of faux-disaffected teens' money and vaginal juices. Maybe we should evaluate the album's purpose; if CYB was about screaming every bit of hurt back in the face of your ex and then punching her until all movement stopped, this is about making the alternative music equivalent of dance music. This is not deathcore; indeed, it was never ment to be. This is music purpose-built for stick-thin, immaculately groomed teens to ninja-pit to, and as such it's scarily effective. Though the horrible mix doesn't help, the songs are catchy as fuck, and every riff could pass enough for dance music that it achieves that metal's near constant failing of being genuinely danceable. On top of this, and I say this with bitter resentment, it grows on you like poison ivy, in my case about as welcomely as the analogy suggests (there's nothing more annoying to a snob such as myself as when something patently rubbish becomes enjoyable). It's made to entertain BMTH's target audience to the maximum degree, and bends over backwards to please the listeners. And that's where it fails more than anything.

You see, alternative music is there to fulfil the artist. All the great metal bands played the music that they wanted to hear, not what they thought other people wanted to hear. That's the difference between art and entertainment, and if you want to make musical entertainment, MAKE POP MUSIC. This CD was made to please the fans and as such feels distinctly lacking in the passion and energy of the debut. CYB have the impression that the band were hurling themselves round the recording space, whereas Suicide Season, in all its consummate professionalism, sounds like a band who aren't giving anything of themselves to the album. Bring Me The Horizon have become the elitist-perpetuated stereotype of themselves - a musical mess with the gaps usually containing conviction and passion filled with breakdowns and hairspray - and in doing so have both endeared the scenesters and alienated the more metal-orientated listeners who stuck to a derided but genuinely good metal band. The horrible - and uniquely genuine - mainstream-pandering that this album offers makes it the only time I've ever considered using the term "mallcore"; this is indeed both no longer metal and unabashedly commercially aimed. There's not the ignitive spark, the tangible fury of the debut, but even on it's own merits, it comes across as lifeless. Indeed, the best track is the suitably vicious "No Need for Introductions, I've Read About Girls Like You on the Backs of Toilet Doors", a grindcore-length burst of brutality which was purpose built as an outlet for Oli (concerning recent assault allegations), like they didn't want such feeling in their other songs. Maybe if this kind of explosive passion was still there, they could have made a much better album.

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