Bring Me the Horizon release new song & video, “Throne”

I used to think Bring Me the Horizon were a pretty shitty band. I did dig the song “Pray for Plagues”, but I thought the rest of the album it hailed from was repetitive, breakdown-filled deathcore. I had some more contact with their later releases after that, but for me they slowly got lumped into that “scene bands teenage girls” like category, and I just couldn’t take them seriously.

Then, last year, I heard they were working with Terry Date (Deftones, Soundgarden, Incubus, The Fall of Troy), one of my favorite producers, and I just couldn’t help but give them one more shot. What I found was Sempiternal, an album which found the band miles away from their deathcore roots, instead writing lush, textured, melodic songs with genuinely emotional vocals. And now they’re gearing up to release the follow-up to that album, That’s The Spirit, due out on September 11th. Part of that process is this new song and video, “Throne”.

Like the album’s first single, “Happy Song”, “Throne” finds the band picking up where Sempiternal left off. They’ve retained the dense, layered keyboard and guitar sound they had on that album, and “Throne” in particular shows off the band’s new found penchant for electronics. It’s a surging, bubbling, and exciting track, even if it does breathe a tad too much of the same air Linkin Park has in recent years. But the biggest change on this song is Oli Syke’s vocals. On Sempiternal he was still trying to find his clean voice, often times still sticking in the middle ground between screamed and sung registers. But “Throne” shows that Oli can now be considered a legitimate singer, as the first few seconds show a side of him fans have never heard before. And now he can go back and forth between raspy singing and shouting, whispered coos, and screams as the songs call for it, giving the band a whole new dimension.

Bring Me the Horizon have been catching tons of shit for this new sound of theirs, but I honestly can’t help but applaud them for it. They’ve gone from writing pretty run-of-the-mill deathcore to growing as songwriters, trying new sounds and textures and moods. Yeah, they sound pretty poppy at times, but at heart I’ve always been a sucker for a good song. And coming from such a heavy background, it’s poppy music that’s informed by heavy music, giving it a different feel entirely. I can’t help but compare the leap to In Flames’ album Reroute to Remain, where they famously shifted their sound from classic melodic death metal into something more modern and loose. This is how bands stay relevant and interesting – they take leaps, and sometimes the fans hate them, but it keeps the actual humans in the band that make the music stay happy and inspired. And happy and inspired musicians end up creating inspired music, so even if they’ve switched genres, the music they’re making is probably still damn good. You just gotta give it a chance.

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In Flames – Siren Charms (2014)

In_Flames_-_Siren_Charms_(album_cover)

In 2011, I called Sounds of a Playground Fading a return to form for In Flames, which it indeed was. However, it was only to be temporary, as the band’s latest effort, Siren Charms, unfortunately shows.

In Flames has always been polarizing, frequently changing their sound and experimenting with new styles with pretty much every one of their albums. For better or for worse, this has provided the band with a lot more creative steam than many of their contemporaries, as well as sustained commercial success. Personally, their willingness to change and push their boundaries is what makes them one of my favorite bands, despite the legions of fans that still cry out for a sequel to The Jester Race.

However, Siren Charms may be the album that proves that the band is finally out of ideas. This album finds the band’s style largely intact from SOAPF, especially in the guitars department. There’s little deviation to Bjorn’s or Niclas’ riffs or leads, existing well within the bounds of the metalcore influenced comfort zone of their later output. Despite this, Anders has once again found a way to switch up his vocals, opting to sing on the majority of the songs here, with his scream being utilized in only few small doses. This would be fine if he sounded like there was some conviction behind his words, but the only moments of true emotional release come in those rare screamed sections.

Perhaps these choices could’ve worked. Anders has made singing an interesting part of In Flames songs before, and there’s something to be said for not fixing what isn’t broken as far as the music goes. But the biggest crime here, simply put, is the weakness of the songwriting. SOAPF had a handful of songs that suffered from being cut a little too closely from the same cloth, but on Siren Charms, that problem is systemic. Aside from Anders’ new singing style, there’s a general lack of new ideas, and it takes several listens for the songs to begin distinguishing themselves from one another. Nowhere is this more obvious than on “When the World Explodes”, where we find the band aping “Reflect the Storm” from Come Clarity by repeating the same male/female duet formula. In fact, even after several listens, only a very few riffs and melodies stick in my head. As a whole, this lack of ideas and dull songwriting leaves the album feeling toothless and uninspired, like an album made solely to fulfill a contract.

It would be a lie to say that, despite this albums many failings, there weren’t a few ideas that worked. The previously mentioned When the World Explodes slows down into a slow, atmospheric section where Emilia Feldt takes the lead vocal line, and Anders chants boomingly in the background. “Filtered Truth” sports an infectious chorus laced with synth, and powerful lead playing reminiscent of the band’s best work, and “Everything’s Gone” is probably the heaviest moment on the album, replete with a tightly-wound riff and fast double-kick work from Svensson (though the song is a little to close to sounding like a Come Clarity outtake). Strangely enough, one of the bonus tracks, “Become the Sky” is the most genuinely different song from the album, and is one of the strongest songs to come from the sessions – why it was left off of the album is anyone’s guess. One of the most memorable moments, however, is the melodic bass line that opens up the title track, supporting the track only with some help from the drums for the majority of the first verse. But in the end, these few moments simply aren’t enough, and too few and far in between to make for a good album. Siren Charms is flat and fails to push the band into any new territory, without even having the decency to deliver truly good songs within the mold that created it. It’s a disappointing release from one of metal’s most creative bands, but maybe at this point in their career, it’s the best we can hope for.

Key Tracks: Siren Charms, Filtered Truth, Become the Sky

In Flames – Sounds of a Playground Fading (2011)

Photo Credit: In Flames

Early last year, In Flames lost their last remaining founding member, Jesper Strömblad, so he could get treatment for his problems with alcoholism. Fan reaction was certainly mixed, with some saying the band was no longer In Flames, and others looking forward to how they would move on without Jesper.

After nearly a year and a half of waiting, fans got their answer with the release of Sounds of a Playground Fading. The album’s guitars were recorded entirely by Björn Gelotte, In Flames’ co-lead and rhythm axeman since 1999. The result is surprising.

In Flames has been steadily moving towards a more metalcore and nu-metal influenced sound since Reroute to Remain in 2002, and while this album still has some of those influences, it has some of the heaviest riffs they’ve done since then. The guitar work is a big step up from their previous album A Sense of Purpose – it’s more present, it’s heavier, and it’s much more at the forefront of the mix. Gelotte has brought back the heavier elements of the band’s classic melodic death metal style (“A New Dawn”), while making sure it still sounds modern (“Deliver Us”).

While much of the album’s bulk is good old familiar In Flames, there are a few sonic experiments as well. “The Attic” is reminiscent of the instrumental tracks on Whoracle and Colony, but it has more free-form guitar playing, and features a largely spoken-word performance by Anders Friden. In a similar vein comes “Jester’s Door”, a short track featuring a Hammond organ, an almost electronic drumbeat that kicks in halfway through, and more spoken-word by Friden. And in the album’s most perplexing twist, it closes with “Liberation” – a rock ballad with a powerful chorus and clean vocals. It’s completely against what is expected of In Flames, but it sounds great, and shows that they’re willing to try experimenting with new sounds.

Friden has taken an even more experimental slant on this album, besides the two-tracks he provides spoken-word vocals for. Similar to what he did on A Sense of Purpose, his vocal style has moved even more into his half-screaming, half-singing territory. Anders is not the world’s best singer by any means, but by some miracle, his voice can fit into the slower parts of the songs quite well. He has less success with his new screaming style, though, with his vocals often sounding weak and almost forced. In some spots he does go into a lower, more powerful growl, which he still sounds comfortable in, but unfortunately this does not happen much. But even despite this, it’s probably for the better – with the exception of “A New Dawn” (quite possibly the best song on the album), I can’t picture any of these songs with his Whoracle-era vocals – it just wouldn’t work.

Even though not every song on Sounds of a Playground Fading is a hit, and Anders’ vocals can be rough at times, this album can definitely be called a return to form. They are capable of retaining their old sound and further developing it without Jesper, and prove it here. It is a surprisingly good album from a band who’s future looked doubtful, but they persevered, and showed that they still have plenty of creative juice left in the tank.