“There is a Hell, Believe Me, I’ve Seen It, There is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret” by Bring Me the Horizon

Bring Me the Horizon started out as the de facto poster boys for the genre known as Deathcore. Essentially a blend of Death Metal and Metalcore, the genre became a byword for lazy instrumentation and an emphasis on style over substance. And indeed, this band’s debut EP This Is What the Edge of Your Seat Was Made For and their first full album Count Your Blessings contain some of the laziest, least artful Metal in the history of the genre. In addition, their fashion-conscious image made many write them off as simply a glorified boy-band pretending to play Metal. Their third album, Suicide Season, started to show some signs of potential in songs like “It Was Written In Blood” and the title track, but even it contained quite a bit of clumsy, ham-fisted material.

Then this album came along, and like One Direction’s Midnight Memories or Kesha’s Warrior, it made a lot of people do a complete 180 regarding their opinion of the band. This would be sustained in their next two releases, ultimately turning these despised critical pariahs into the most critically acclaimed band in the entire Metalcore genre.

A large part of the reason for this has to do with their use of genre influences. Metalcore is, as a general rule, the least musically sophisticated of the Extreme Metal subgenres, which is why it generally gets less respect than Death Metal, Black Metal and the Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal family. But on this album, by incorporating lyrical passages, choral vocals, electronic elements, and even Classical influences into their sound, Bring Me the Horizon have brought a far greater sophistication to their music than Metalcore generally achieves.

Another thing that sets this album apart, not only from other Metalcore, but pretty much all of Extreme Metal, is the lyrics. The majority of Extreme Metal bands favor fairly heavy-handed shock value in their lyrics, be it based on gruesome visceral imagery (like most Death Metal) or on attempts to offend religious sensibilities through over-the-top attempts at sacrilege (like most Black Metal). Even when an Extreme Metal band attempts to comment on serious issues, the results usually come across as ham-fisted (as in the case of Napalm Death or Gojira).

These lyrics, on the other hand, are surprisingly eloquent, even poetic, and also quite psychologically insightful. The album as a whole serves as a kind of psychological Concept Album, exploring the point-of-view character’s psychological torment and self-loathing, which the band’s frontman Oli Sykes has claimed was autobiographical on his part.  Weirdly, they remind me quite a bit of the lyrics from Les Miserables…they’ve got that same grandly poetic, sweepingly dramatic  feel to them. At any rate, they are certainly the best lyrics I’ve heard on an album from any of the Extreme Metal subgenres to date.

The surprisingly lyrical “Crucify Me”, the grandly orchestral “It Never Ends”, and the richly atmospheric “Blessed With a Curse” are the highlights of this album, but pretty much every track is splendid. Like their fellow experimental Metalcore iconoclasts The Chariot (the lead singer of whom actually provides some guest vocals on this album), they know how to vary their music so it doesn’t come across simply as a monotonous onslaught. To this end, they programmed in lighter moments like the almost gentle ballad “Don’t Go” and the catchy Punk-Metal song “Blacklist”. There are even a couple of songs like “Alligator Blood” that employ what sounds like a more sophisticated variant on their original Deathcore sound, proving that even that reviled genre can be turned to good effect in the right hands.

If you are relatively new to the field of Extreme Metal or just find most of it too simplistically aggressive for your tastes, this band is well worth checking out, given that their diverse genre influences make them both more accessible and more complex than the majority of bands in their field. This album is an impressive artistic achievement, and probably the best Metal album of 2010 (its only real competition would be Folk-Metal outfit Agalloch’s Marrow of the Spirit). In any case, it ranks as one of the best and most important Metal albums of the decade, and is generally far more accessible than most of the contenders for that title (with the exception of a couple of other albums by the same band). Really, whether you’re part of the Metal subculture or not, if you haven’t already heard this album, seek it out. You won’t regret it.

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