When Bring Me The Horizon dropped their new song Medicine at the start of this year, the praise and plaudits showered down. “This is pop garbage,” said one commentator. “No rock or metal credibility with this shite,” chipped in another. “Ewww, they’re not metal,” said someone else, adding with razor-sharp insight: “They need to grow their hair.”
Granted, no one was going to confuse Medicine with Cattle Decapitation’s A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat. But the frothing spasms of tribal apoplexy from cheese-faced keyboard warriors were both breathtaking and hilarious.
Christ knows, Bring Me The Horizon are used to this kind of reaction by now. You get the sneaking suspicion they don’t just not care, but actively enjoy pushing people’s buttons. Face it, if you’d left pretty much every other modern metal band in the dust when it comes to the actual business of, y’know, selling records, you’d allow yourself a little troll-baiting.
But that’s not the Sheffield band’s primary objective. What they were doing with Medicine, and with its parent album, amo, was dragging metal’s indolent carcass into the future, plotting out a roadmap that will help keep it relevant in a world that’s in danger of leaving the traditional scene behind.
Amo did what most metal bands only pay lip service to doing, and properly messed with the rules. Sure, there were electronic songs and outright pop songs. There was even full-on rave banger in the shape of the tremendous Nihilist Blues. But it was still all anchored in metal – not the old-fashioned deathcore variety (for which BMTH got crucified), but a modern strain that isn’t obsessively hung up on the unreadibility of the logo on your T-shirt or the length of your hair.
Oli Sykes is sussed enough to be aware of what other genres do and fold it into what his band are doing. The ‘feature’ – roping in a big-name artist from an entirely different field to appear on one of your songs – is a standard part in mainstream pop, and one that’s massively successful. A lesser band would have just got some sub-standard metalcore grunter to chip in with a few growls in return for a bag of chips and an Uber home. Who did Bring Me get? Art-pop queen Grimes, beatboxer Rahzel and Dani bleedin’ Flith – three names you’d never get in the same postcode, let alone on the same album. That’s some genius-crazy next-level shit right there. Why aren’t more bands thinking like this? Laziness? Fear? You’d have to ask them.
That spirit of adventure bleeds out from amo into everything else Bring me The Horizon do. Their current live shows are a mix of metal energy and dance-club immersion – one-part mosh-pit, one part Ministry Of Sound. Even the clothes they wear are part of the package. Yeah, they’re ‘trendy’. So what? Metal should be on-trend. It should be part of the conversation. Because it sure as shit isn’t right now.
The best thing is, the Bring Me The Horizon effect is starting to filter out too. While She Sleeps’ tremendous new album, So What?, takes the same fuck-the-rules approach, right down to its dare-to-diss-us title (maybe it’s a Sheffield thing). Parkway Drive, Architects, Beartooth – all of them are straining against expectations of what their fans expect them to be. All of them are on the verge of finding new ways of doing things, of rerouting the future.
Of course, if you want metal to stay where it is, happy to constantly burp up howlingly predictable variations of its own past, there’s nothing wrong with that – there’s a shiny new Children Of Bodom album with your name all over it flopping down on the sofa right about now. This music has lasted 50 years, and it’ll chug along just fine in its unevolved form. But what Bring Me The Horizon and While Sleeps and the rest are doing is taking things to the next level. Are you on board?