Dani Winter-Bates has had enough. Sitting at a dining table in a disused chapel, surrounded by crumbling stonework on the coldest, bitterest day of the year, he faces his bandmates in Bury Tomorrow with a look of disgust and hatred. He’s letting it all out, theatrically gesturing as his face contorts and he wordlessly snarls.
At the other end of the table sits Loz Taylor, the frontman of fellow British metalcore heavyweights While She Sleeps. He has driven almost 200 miles in the early hours of the morning to be here, but right now he looks like an unwelcome guest. As he contributes his own wordless protest, things come to a head. Dani rises from his seat, pulls out a gun and shoots Loz. And who said metalcore wasn’t competitive?
“Brilliant – we’ll need to step things up though if we want to get everything for the murder scene,” declares a figure emerging from the shadows. “Just remember, we’ve got to be out of here by five sharp – there’s a wedding party coming to view the venue.”
Of course, Metal Hammer hasn’t just witnessed the bloody murder of one metalcore singer by another. Instead, we’re on-set for the filming of Heretic, the next ‘chapter’ in a series of occult horror-themed music videos from upcoming album The Seventh Sun that Bury Tomorrow have been working on since summer 2022 with director Matt Sears – the man who stepped out of the shadows to offer instruction.
With Matt, the band have worked on an overarching narrative that throws up shades of everything from Wrong Turn and Evil Dead to The Wicker Man. Previous singles Abandon Us and Boltcutter featured creepy pagan-style cults, rituals and a possession that ends with a man’s body twisted like a broken marionette, branches snaking out of his eyes, mouth, ears and nose to form an occult symbol.
Heretic sees the band (and Loz) gather at this former chapel in Peckham, South London to host an Illuminati-style meeting. Along the way, there are blood oaths, more occult imagery (the ‘symbol’ actually the logo for new album The Seventh Sun), and the band gleefully butchering each other.
Dani isn’t giving anything away about the meaning of the symbolism in the video, or the album’s more esoteric elements, though he does offer a clue as to the inspiration behind the aesthetics of today’s shoot.
“I wanted that John Wick, guns in a Catholic church vibe,” he says as he jigs around, trying to warm up, looking less like a murderous cult-leader and more like a man who’s been freezing his balls off since he arrived at the venue at 8am, his all-black ensemble designed more for keeping him cool onstage than fighting off a British winter.
The icy temperature combined with the elegantly decaying stonework around us make the chapel feel more like an old mausoleum. But despite the grimness of a January in London, the mood in Bury Tomorrow remains decidedly upbeat, the band joking and dancing about throughout the day. Having Loz on-site to contribute guest vocals adds to a general sense of excitement about the state of British metal right now.
But behind the smiles, there’s a sobering reality. Bury Tomorrow’s last album, 2020’s Cannibal, may have cracked the UK Top 10, but the band themselves were nearing the end of their rope. Eighteen months ago, they almost called it a day. “We were reaching a point where it all felt pointless,” says Dani. “I was resigned to the reality that maybe we wouldn’t be a band anymore.”
For much of the last decade-and-a-half, Bury Tomorrow have embraced their status as the standard-bearers of British metalcore. While former peers Bring Me The Horizon and Architects broke out of the genre’s confines to achieve mainstream success and headline arenas, BT were still holding the torch for the scene’s roots, maintaining a steady, dedicated fanbase. But below the surface, they hungered for more.
So much, in fact, that they’ve written an album that maximises their capacity for massive, hard-hitting, crowd-baiting choruses while branching out in new stylistic directions, with elements of electronica creeping in alongside brutal breakdowns and big singalongs. It’s their equivalent of Bring Me The Horizon’s Sempiternal, Parkway Drive’s Ire or Architects’ For Those That Wish To Exist.
In many ways, it’s a reflection of Cannibal’s commercial success. But more directly, The Seventh Sun is the result of Bury Tomorrow being forced to reckon with themselves and recognise that they needed to do more if they wanted to thrive creatively.
“One of the harshest criticisms we’ve had throughout our career is ‘generic’,” Dani admits. “People can have their own opinions, but I look back retrospectively and I did feel tired. I didn’t want drama, so maybe there was a sense of apathy there.”
Cannibal’s release in July 2020 meant Bury Tomorrow weren’t able to tour the album. While they initially hoped the time apart would give them chance to recharge, soon even the most basic task became a monumental challenge.
“They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but for us it was worse,” Dani says. “It made us reckon with the fragility of music as a career, but equally it made us realise we weren’t aligned.”
It was a sobering realisation, given that Bury Tomorrow had been almost the same group of friends since 2006, with only guitarist Kristan Dawson joining later, in 2013. With months of inactivity ahead of them and no shows to think about, discussions seemed to stretch on forever, until finally something snapped and founding guitarist/vocalist Jason Cameron officially left their ranks in July 2021.
“We can’t just pretend there’s this big sob story, that it’s so hard to be Bury Tomorrow,” Dani says. “Ultimately, we’ve chosen to do this. At the same time, I won’t say it was this amicable parting of the ways where everybody was happy, because there’s an inherent sense of trauma to suddenly be parting ways with people you’ve been close to for so long. But difficult decisions were made to benefit our fans, the members of this band and ex-members of this band, if we’re being totally honest.”
While Jason’s departure had been tough, the band couldn’t sit back and lick their wounds – especially as live shows returned in late summer 2021. Slam Dunk festival in September that year was their first live show in almost 18 months, and it also provided a debut for their new members, Ed Hartwell (guitars) and Tom Prendergast, their first full-time keyboard/vocalist.
“People don’t realise this, but when we started out, that was actually me,” Dani says. “We were a six-piece but then our original vocalist quit, so I took over [on vocals]. We’ve come full circle.”
The band all knew Ed long before he joined, making him a natural fit so far as personality went – “It doesn’t hurt he can basically play anything,” Dani adds. But Tom was more of an unknown quantity, recommended by guitarist Kristan Dawson when the band decided to swerve getting another guitarist/singer.
“We didn’t want to just fill the hole with the same thing,” Dani says. “Dawson said ‘I’ve got this friend’ and I just thought, ‘Here we go…’ but Tom sent us this tape of him singing some of the songs. At first, it was him trying to emulate how it sounded originally, and I was like, ‘No, sing how you sing’ and that sounded incredible. We got into a practice, worked out some kinks and our first show together was Slam Dunk, in front of 15,000 people. That festival has always been a saviour for this band, and seeing so many people getting so emotional, it was like experiencing everything again with fresh eyes.”
Put it down to the bracing January breeze, the ready availability of sugary snacks or just the thrill of being on the cusp of something new, but Bury Tomorrow seem genuinely reinvigorated as shooting continues in Peckham. An anarchic scene involving scuffling members, replica knives and a whole lot of pigs’ blood – disconcertingly stacked in colourful cartons right next to the catering table – sees the band warming up by manhandling each other.
“Fucking brutal!” cackles drummer Adam Jackson as he awaits a fresh prop knife, his own having snapped off in Kristan Dawson’s chest as a crewmember stands just out of shot squirting his face with sprays of blood. Shooting resumes, if only for a few seconds before a cry of, “Arghh! My eyes!” goes up.
It all culminates with Tom Prendergast wielding a goblet now full of claret (and no, we don’t mean the wine). He takes a hearty swig, gore dripping from his lips, and cackles at the camera. To his credit, Tom doesn’t flinch even as he’s asked to repeat the shot, clearly made of stronger stuff than us mere mortals, who opt to stick to the coffee, thanks all the same.
In terms of scope, the Heretic shoot is decidedly more in line with Ghost or Sleep Token than anything Bury Tomorrow have produced in the past. But then, that’s the whole point of The Seventh Sun, BT shifting the goalposts for what people can expect of their band and seriously capturing the imagination.
“It would be so weird if we’d had all this change and upheaval but still sounded exactly the same as before,” Dani admits. “In the past, we’ve been guilty of getting overly comfortable in metalcore and releasing a better version of the same thing. It’s important as a band that we stretch ourselves stylistically.”
A big part of that is also doubling down on production when it comes to live shows. Since coming back from the pandemic, Bury Tomorrow have pulled massive crowds everywhere from Download and Slam Dunk to Bloodstock. Although often featured in mid-afternoon slots, Dani admits it didn’t stop them busting out plenty of pyro.
“I’ll never play with fire in the summer again!” he exclaims. “Bloodstock was probably one of the worst experiences we’ve had onstage: 40˚ weather with pyro blasting off constantly. I literally couldn’t breathe!”
Looking at the state of British metal in 2023, Bury Tomorrow admit the stakes have never been higher. At the top, bands such as Architects and Bring Me The Horizon top domestic music charts and headline arenas and festivals. Crucially, the monumental success of Bring Me has opened the gates for other artists to flood through in ways they couldn’t even dream of over a decade ago. Or that’s how Dani sees it, anyway.
“Bring Me The Horizon paved the way for every heavy band that’s come into the mainstream since them,” he says confidently. “Their back catalogue paved the way for heavy bands to be bigger than they potentially would be, and Bleed From Within and Malevolence are prime examples of how if you stay the course and keep working at it, you’ll get there.”
Which brings us back to Peckham, to a freezing chapel where the band are laying the groundwork for the future. The Seventh Sun isn’t just another record for Bury Tomorrow – it’s their chance to show just how massive they can go, every song built around the kind of hooks and strident, powerful grooves that can dominate audiences, instantly gratifying and unstoppably empowering.
As Dani puts it, “The Seventh Sun is our resurgence.” But more than that, it’s the gateway for Bury Tomorrow to prove British metal has never been healthier, and has finally come in from the cold. Metaphorically, anyway.
The Seventh Sun is out now.