Bring Me The Horizon‘s That’s The Spirit album was released in 2015, but we wanted to review it, given the impact that it has had on us as well as other fans of the British rock band. We’re also seeing Bring Me The Horizon when they tour Melbourne next month.
Bring Me The Horizon are Oliver Sykes (vocals), Matt Kean (bass guitar), Lee Malia (guitar and backing vocals), Jordan Fish (keyboards & vocals) and Matt Nicholls (drums).
Forming in 2004, the band’s name came from Captain Jack Sparrow’s final line of the movie Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl: “Now bring me that horizon”. It’s an arrogant/cheeky quote filled with expectation of great things, yet it seems to have translated into actuality for the band, who’ve achieved international success with their unique metalcore sound that’s influenced by classical as well as electronic music.
Prior to the album release, Sykes shared insight into That’s The Spirit along with a preview of the album art, cover and design. He referred to the ‘shadow self’; the part of us we’d rather not acknowledge, yet surfaces in one way or another. He described how the combination of splashes of vibrant colour along with stark black (with a white umbrella logo) reflecting the concept of integrating all parts of us; dark and colour:
“The greatest power comes from having accepted your shadow parts & integrated them as components of your Self. Everyone carries a shadow, & the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
This album is a celebration of the darkness, because everything may seem bleak & black on the outside, but inside us all is a world of colour & emotion that we NEED to let take over & not ignore”.
So with this shadow self concept already setting the scene, we begin That’s The Spirit with the first track, “Doomed”. “Doomed” begins with a collection of sound samples: breaths, moans, gasps, zaps, before a pulsing electro beat starts. To me it’s a snapshot of life and aliveness. The first chorus draws us back to rock, with the electronics less noticeable. Lyrically, “Doomed” describes a bleakness and a giving up (“You can have my heart”), before moving into a state of acceptance in the screamed fourth verse, which seems to reflect Sykes’ quote about embracing the shadow self:
“So leave a light on I’m coming home
It’s getting darker but I’ll carry on
The sun don’t shine but it never did
And when it rains it fucking pours
But I think I like it
And you know that I’m in love with the mess
I think I like it”
“Happy Song” is track two of That’s The Spirit. This song is a spectacular anthem, and could not be more extravagant by way of sound. It includes a children’s choir chanting (“S-P-I-R-I-T! Spirit! Let’s hear it!”) as well as joining in on the chorus. There are elements which sound orchestral, a heavy beat, sexy guitar riffs as well as electronics.
But what’s notable aside from the massiveness, is the message of the song. Each verse tells a tale of a feeling of inadequacy or even suicide (ie “I’ve had enough / There’s a voice in my head says I’m better off dead”), and with each verse we are reminded of the remedy: To sing along (“a little fucking louder”) to a happy song.
To me this concept communicates with simplicity the importance of music in keeping people going, in lifting spirits, and in making them feel better. In terms of the ‘shadow self’ concept, going deep into heavy music and singing along with it may seem at odds with enlightenment, but if the lyrics relate to parts of us that we believe are “fucked in the head”, we are acknowledging those parts in the process of engaging with the lyrics and the music. Singing it louder and making it heard!
However deeply you want to take “Happy Song”, it’s a kickass anthem for people who have felt at any point that music; helped them, was there for them, understood them or spoke on behalf of how they felt. “Happy Song” is one that gets heavy rotation by me, that’s for sure.
“Throne” as track three does an excellent job at offering what feels like a balance of light and shade: A combination of heavier sound with screams and growls, and more delicate and melodic sections. It’s aggressive and vitriolic, but there’s also tender and honest elements.
The track seems to be referring to a person scorned that has gone on to use the opportunity to grow and make something even better of themselves – the ultimate revenge:
So 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
The music video for “Throne” kicks ass also, portraying that warrior and survivor vibe.
The next track, “True Friends” continues a similar theme of someone wronging them, figuratively backstabbing, we can assume (“True friends stab you in the front”). This time Sykes is referring to his good friend Karma coming in to play. It’s far less electronically influenced than “Throne”, and carries an anthem sound with the background mob calls (“Hey!”). This is such an impressive track musically and I find myself mesmerised by the combination of what sounds like crisp violin and distorted guitar. The drumming in this track is as punishing as the lyrics.
“Follow You” is soft and mellow; a love song, Bring Me The Horizon style. Hip hop beats and keys launch the track. The gentle vocals we hear from the first verse could be easily at home in a boy band. It’s in the pre-chorus when the drums and guitars join in and Sykes’ voice strengthens, before the chorus expands out into a more powerful broad rock sound, yet still very dreamy. “Follow You” was written for Sykes’ partner Hannah (who he later separated from) during a rough patch in their relationship.
So you can drag me through Hell
If it meant I could hold your hand
Track six “What You Need” starts with a guitar conversation and relaxed drum beats. Sykes’ vocals are light and breathy, until the chorus where all instruments and vocals amp up and it’s more confrontation than commentary.
So don’t tell me what I can’t see
Cause we both know it’s you, not me
You don’t want this but it’s what you need
And you’ll see it when you believe
Lyrically the song speaks like a frustrating exchange with a person that’s blind/stuck/resistant, yet desperately needs a wake-up call. The dark, suicidal-esque bridge expresses the sheer frustration that this person is putting him through, and the impossibility of the situation. By way of this song, Sykes shared that he thinks the world is “full of magical things waiting for our senses to become sharper,” something that would not be possible to be seen or accepted by those that are closed-minded.
The next track, “Avalanche”, is just as catchy to me as “Happy Song” is. It’s BIG musically and it’s hard not to pay attention to what’s being said. The verses are smooth and sultry and vulnerable. The song is heavy, along with the heavy concept of not fitting in and not finding answers to the things that cause confusion and pain (“Give me a cure for me cause a square doesn’t fit in a circle”). The heavy layers of the chorus almost taking over Sykes’ vocals echo the sentiment of being overwhelmed. Sykes shared that this relates to symptoms of ADHD he felt prior to diagnosis.
“Run” comes across musically as an electronicore anthem. The combination of pounding drums, escalating chords and echoing vocals has he effect of feeling dire, chasing, relentless. Lyrically we’re drawn back to the shadow self concept again, with the lyrics referring to ‘seeing it all’ in the black hole and ‘seeing the sun’ in the darkness; the enlightenment by way of acknowledging one’s darker side. This is conflicting to the instruction to run by way of escape, unless it’s to move away from the usual approach which doesn’t work (in which they become complacent and ‘cut up’ by ‘them’) into something new and better.
“Drown” starts immediately and we have music pouring down upon us. Dark lyrics rain down on us too:
What doesn’t kill you makes you wish you were dead.
Got a hole in my soul, growing deeper and deeper.
The entire song embodies despair, being pummeled by life and crying for someone to help. That is, until the bridge, which musically and lyrically is a moment of time standing still: “Cause you know I can’t do this on my own”. Light guitar and present drums join in, before the choir of voices adds their input. Given that the entire song is about depression, solitude, loneliness and needing help, the choir moment feels significant and a relief. The close of the song reinforces the isolation, but maybe there’s hope.
The second last track on That’s The Spirit is “Blasphemy”. I’m a big fan of the sound of this song (angry vocals, claps, steady drum beats, sassy riffs, electronic effects). It reminds me of a fresh take on 90s rock. Lyrically this song is commenting on religion and investing energy and time into believing in something simply due to it being all you were taught. He’s questioning the value of religious restrictions applied, even when not fully believed in, going so far as feeling they are a curse upon those who apply them to their lives. The question by way of religion as to not doing those things which seem blasphemous would also relate to the ‘shadow self’ concept if someone couldn’t embrace a darker side of their self (and therefore couldn’t find that peace or enlightenment Sykes spoke about) due to what religion had dictated was acceptable. That indeed could be seen as a curse or a trap, leaving someone stuck.
The last song “Oh No” is light and dancey and asks questions along the lines of “what are you doing with your life?”. Sykes described the entire song sound as being ironic, questioning a party lifestyle as not actually inspiring happiness, yet the song being one that could easily be at home at a club. The description he gave by way of the outro was amusing: “I wanted this final part of the album to feel like when the lights come on at a club or a bar and you get that slightly shitty song feeling. It’s like all good things must come to an end.”
Yep; with this good thing coming to an end. “OH NO!”
What an album! Lyrically; I feel like I’ve been sitting and being given the third degree, courtesy of confrontational questionings along the way and “fuck you, then” statements toward those who’ve wronged someone. Musically; I feel like I’ve sat through a well thought through exceptional theater show with full orchestra and choir. When these two marry up, we have the powerful and emotional experience of That’s The Spirit.
This album asks us to: open our minds, ask questions, notice our pain, notice where we’re unhappy, and to make the best of difficult situations. That’s The Spirit is both deep and light, truly musically expressing the duality of each of us; darkness we’d rather avoid, and rich multicoloured layers that exist, even when we can’t see them.
That’s The Spirit is an exceptional album and well worth a spin if you don’t already have it on heavy rotation.