Bring Me the Horizon have changed a lot over the years, but never like this. When they formed in 2003, the band played thrashy, breakdown-studded songs influenced by the screaming, slashing sound of American metalcore. Gradually, the Sheffield, England, group began incorporating electronic passages, acoustic strumming, ominous keyboards and orchestral elements into their music, and the band became all the more popular for it. Yet, despite their experimentation, Bring Me the Horizon remained undeniably rooted in metal – until now.
The band's fifth album, That's the Spirit (out September 11th), sounds more Muse and Linkin Park than Metallica and Lamb of God. Vocalist Oli Sykes sings on most of it instead of shouting as in the past, and the band follows suit with a layered, textural sound full of ebb-and-flow dynamics inspired by indie rock, alternative music and pop.
While Bring Me the Horizon have already released two tracks from That's the Spirit, "Drown" and "Happy Song," the first official single is "Throne," which the band unveiled today. (You can hear the song and watch its video below.) Upbeat, melodic and loud without being aggressive, the track succinctly captures the essence of the entire album.
"We don't listen to extreme deathcore anymore," keyboardist and primary songwriter Jordan Fish explains of the shift in direction. "We still like some heavy music, but I also like Justin Bieber. My wife told me the other day I have the music taste of a teenage girl."
In part, the evolution from artsy metalcore to cinematic pop rock marks a desire to establish a larger, more mainstream following. At the same time, Bring Me the Horizon aren't the same furious youngsters they were when they wrote albums like 2008's Suicide Season. "We don't want to carry on and pretend we're still full of angst," Fish says. "I think people would see right through that."
"Throne" reflects the group's current state of mind, both musically and emotionally. "It's one of the most simple and straightforward songs we did," Fish says. "It's got some elements we had on the last album [2013's Sempiternal], with an up-tempo rhythm and really strong melodies. So it seemed like an obvious choice for the first single because it's so immediately catchy and has such a good level of energy."
Like many Bring Me the Horizon tunes, "Throne" is about overcoming adversity: "You can throw me to the wolves/Tomorrow I will come back leader of the whole pack/Beat me black and blue/Every wound will shape me/Every scar will build my throne."
An even more prevalent theme on That's the Spirit is the burden of melancholy; as Fish explains, even when life is going well, there's sometimes a nagging sadness that's hard to shake. "I think most people have that," he says. "It's a slightly incomplete feeling that's always there, and that comes from real life. Everyone has their own issues and anxieties, and mostly the new songs are about accepting them and trying to remain positive because there's nothing else you can do."
Bring Me the Horizon have more reason to feel a little overwhelmed than most. For the band, the past couple years have been a whirlwind of adaption and transformation. Before the group started working on the wildly eclectic Sempiternal – the band's first album to feature Fish – Sykes was addicted to the mind-altering drug ketamine, most commonly used to tranquilize animals. He went to rehab for treatment and emerged ready to tell his story of abuse and survival. In contrast, on That's the Spirit, Sykes wrote about what it's like to live life when he's not burying his emotions in a drug-induced haze.
"Someone said, 'That's the spirit' to Oli and he jumped on it," Fish says. "The phrase usually comes up when things are a bit shitty. It's like, 'Oh, come on, chin up. That's the spirit.' We all felt that sums up the record, which has a slightly positive, but also somewhat miserable feel."
One way Bring Me the Horizon have found to chase away the blues is to spend time on the lively, picturesque Greek island Santorini, where they recorded the new album, at Black Rock Studios. When they weren't working, they rode ATVs, went clubbing and chilled in the clean, clear ocean water.
"We found the place while doing a search for 'most amazing recording studios in the world,'" Fish says. "I e-mailed our management as a bit of joke and said, 'Why don't we do the record here?' And they emailed us back and said, "Yeah, we could do that.' The studio, the city, everything was unbelievable."
Much of Bring Me the Horizon's established metal-loving fan base may use the same word to describe That's the Spirit – if not in such a positive way. Fish is well aware of the likelihood that the band will have alienated some of its audience, but it's a calculated and, to some extent, familiar risk.
"Every time we release an album there's always a bit of resistance," he says. "You just have to have faith in yourself and be proud of what you've made and hope that eventually people come around to it."
Bring Me the Horizon tour dates:
October 1 – Orlando, FL @ Hard Rock Live
October 2 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
October 3 – Louisville, KY @ Louder Than Life Festival
October 5 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
October 7 – Worcester, MA @ Palladium
October 8 – Toronto, ON @ Sound Academy
October 9 – Montreal, QC @ Métropolis
October 10 – Chester, PA @ Monster Energy Rock Allegiance 2015
October 12 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
October 13 – Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom
October 14 – St. Paul, MN @ Myth Event Center
October 16 – Dallas, TX @ South Side Ballroom
October 18 – Austin, TX @ Austin Music Hall
October 19 – Wichita, KS @ The Cotillion
October 20 – Denver, CO @ The Fillmore Auditorium
October 22 – Mesa, AZ @ Mesa Amphitheater
October 24 – Sacramento, CA @ Monster Energy Aftershock 2015
October 25 – San Bernardino, CA @ Knotfest 2015