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Now, before I get into how upset Bring Me The Horizon’s Sempiternal made my little ears, I’ll just give you a quick rundown of everything I know about this band:
1) They have a “singer” called Oli Sykes who a lot of people hate, while conversely, a lot of people love him. He is primarily a screamy-man.
2) The band have a song where Mr. Sykes claims he “he should have fucking pissed on” someone. Going hand in hand with that little factoid, he was sued (or accused, or something) of actually “fucking pissing” on someone. I don’t know if one was a reference to the other, but both make me sad for humanity.
3) Oli Sykes is just one of the many dumb musicians to try his hand at fashion design. His clothing line, Drop Dead, make possibly the most vile clothes you can imagine (so, a hell of a lot of vests), but the band’s fans purchase them anyway, further justifying Sykes’ bad decision.
And that’s everything I know about this band. I’ve heard snippets of songs and they’ve been far from my cup of tea.
Right from the kick off of Sepiternal’s opening track, Can You Feel My Heart?, all I could think was: “Well, this is fucking drea- Actually, it’s not that bad.” My stomach settled as my entire body was overcome with relief. I just hoped that if the reasonably interesting drumbeats remained in the mix and it didn’t get much heavier, I wouldn’t quite be taking a trip to the lowest level of hell.
Alright, that was a false alarm. Track two, The House of Wolves, is screamy and so unbearably over the top. It could end after about two minutes and the listener would have gained everything they could possibly gain from the song. The House of Wolves full of those over-dramatic “chugs” that have come to define the metalcore to non-listeners. I actually didn’t think people took music like this seriously. I thought this kind of shitty metal was reserved for use in poorly researched TV shows. You know, the episode where the teenager of the family dyes their hair black and experiments with cutting? By the end of the show, they realise that their negative body images may well always be there, but as long as they have their family, they can get through anything.
The House of Wolves is far from the only track that abuses “chugging”. It’s so abundant in Shadow Moses that the entire song sounds like a joke. At it’s very best, “chugging” can be used as an accent, but trying to build a song out of it is simply ludicrous.
So here comes a Dad joke regarding Sempiternal’s third track, Empire (Let Them Sing): Since the parenthetical title of this track is Let Them Sing, why is there no singing to be heard in its 4 minutes of kick drum abusing nonsense?
In regards to And the Snakes Start to Sing, all I can say is: will someone shoot that fucking snake? I know, that’s a fun little reference, right? And I’m still sticking it to those Horizon boys, so everybody wins! Basically, this song is what happens when metalcore bands try to slow it down for the middle of the album. Its genre isn’t classifiable, as 70% of the track is just reverb-laden instruments mashing together to make moody atmospheres. It could perhaps work well if it was about 3 minutes shorter in length and was used merely as a transitional item between songs.
Folks, if you’re ready, I’d like to hit you with my second Dad joke of the article: Seen it All Before – More like heard it all before AM I RIGHT, KIDS?
Anyway, back to the “serious journalism”. This next point seems most apparent with Anti-Vist (pun on activist? If so, it’s a bad one): Sykes could use some elocution lessons. This track especially is littered with some terrible pronunciation of everyday words: for example, “nothing” becomes “noffink”, which looks like speech taken straight from an early issue of Beano.
I also feel I should point out that Anti-Vist abuses the concept of a rhyme scheme. Not everything has to rhyme and I’m fine with that, but it shouldn’t just be slam poetry with not a second thought given. The only rhymes that appear in this song are the words “fuck” and “fuck”, which, if you’ve paid close attention, you’ll notice are the same word. To be fair to the man, Sykes manages to rhyme “anything” and “everything”, which are more or less the same words, but I’ll give him a B for effort. Good job, Oli!
I know all genres have their unavoidable clichés, but Sempiternal really abuses gang vocals. They’re so abundant that it gets to a point where you don’t even hear them anymore. If the concept of gang vocals were gold coins, an anthropomorphised Sempiternal would be swimming around in them like Scrooge McDuck.
The album isn’t all bad though, well it kind of is, but if you’re trying to make the best out of a bad situation, Sleepwalking is probably the best of a bad bunch. Sure, it’s rife with generic “breakdown” choruses and pointless further breakdowns, but the drum part in the verse is actually really complex and interesting. Unfortunately, out of the track’s three minutes and 50 seconds, only around 45 seconds of it isn’t god-awful.
I know this may sound ridiculous to fans of this genre, but to a newcomer, metalcore just sounds like the logical conclusion of bands like Linkin Park (circa 2002) and Lostprophets: it’s a bit heavier than they ever ventured at the height of nu-metal, but the lighter sections of Sempiternal are well within those bands’ reach.
For example, the album closer, Hospital for Souls, sounds exactly like a somewhat heavier version of Lostprophets’ Sway or The Light that Burns Twice as Bright. It’s moody, has lots of synths in it and it feels like it could have easily been half the length.
I think one of the problems with bands of this genre is that they can rarely cover any ground that isn’t “loud and angry as fuck”, just because, I imagine, it wouldn’t go down too well at a live show. Occasionally, they’ll experiment with a quiet bridge, but they never last too long – those sections seem to be designed as a breath-catching period between circle pits, or whatever those crazy kids do at shows these days.
Needless to say, I didn’t particularly enjoy listening to Sempiternal, but for the sake of the review, I really wish I had hated it more. While it didn’t overly offend me, some parts did suck really hard. I guess I don’t have the context of the band’s previous albums to affect my opinion on this (and I’m definitely not going to listen to them), but it just felt very “middle of the road”. I get that they were combining synth-smeared emotion combined with throat-ruining anger, but has that not been done before?
Coming soon on Sans Sheriff: Elliot bashes everything and Will likes Green Day.