That’s The Spirit opens with a pulsating electronic drum beat layered over sounds of heavy breathing and snorting. Lead singer, Oli Sykes, repeatedly sings “I think we’re doomed…”, before screaming: “…the sun don’t shine but it never did, and when it rains it fucking pours, but I think I like it…”. Following a similar pattern to the electronically influenced ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ (the opening track to 2013’s Sempiternal), ‘Doomed’ acts as the perfect introduction to the South Yorkshire rock band’s fifth album. It indicates both the thematic content and the style of music which permeates throughout the new record — a significant departure from anything they’ve previously attempted.
The more accessible electronic-pop elements in the album are arguably the result of Jordan Fish, who joined the group in early 2013, and has since created many central melodic hooks which have elevated the band to arena status. Orchestral stabs are present on the single ‘True Friends’, whilst ‘Throne’ is driven by Fish’s electronics and backing vocals. He has been behind some of the most instrumental changes in the band’s recent musical direction. However, Oli Sykes’ state of mind has undoubtedly been a key factor in pushing their music into uncharted territories. After coming clean from substance abuse issues and settling down into married life at the start of this year, the singer is clearly in a better position to discuss his troubled past and face his demons head-on. Whilst this doesn’t really sound like fun and games (the album artwork is also ironically dispiriting), the end result is one of the best rock albums in recent years, bursting with passion, anger, hope, and seriously catchy melodies.
The end result is one of the best rock albums in recent years, bursting with passion, anger, hope, and seriously catchy melodies
Lead single, ‘Happy Song’, may be one of the best tracks the band has written, a brilliant contrast of harsh screaming and sweet-sounding female backing vocals following the chorus. ‘Drown’, originally released at the end of 2014 and re-recorded for this album, is also a prime example of stadium rock perfection. Sykes’ tortured voice cracks as he sings “Save me from myself, don’t let me drown,” a far cry from ordering his listeners – in an exceptionally terrifying voice – to “Pra-aaaay for plagues!” as he frequently used to do.
Following repeated listens, three album tracks deserve honourable mentions as they seem destined to become ‘deep cuts’ amidst the successful singles released thus far. Firstly, ‘Follow You’ is a love song you never thought the band could write; the lyrics add glimpses of light to the large amounts of shade and give the album a more interesting dynamic than one may initially think. Secondly, the vocal refrain of “I need a cure for me ‘cause a square doesn’t fit the circle” on ‘Avalanche’ is Exhibit A that the band can write some of the catchiest music in the indie/pop musical spectrum whilst maintaining their heavier roots. Finally, album closer ‘Oh No’, one of the most divisive tracks amongst fans following the album’s release, is five minutes of wonderful pop music — complete with a saxophone solo. It may sound like it’s a million miles from Sheffield, but the line “I know exactly where you’ve been, ‘cause you’re chewing off my ear while you’re chewing on your chin” puts things back into perspective for any cynics.
The leap from the band’s earlier work to Sempiternal, and now from Sempiternal to That’s The Spirit showcases their ability to constantly push themselves and their music further
There’s very little that doesn’t work on the album; tracks like ‘Run’ and ‘Blasphemy’ may seem a little half-cooked but both feature interesting instrumentation. The guitar breakdown in the latter song isn’t too dissimilar from fellow Steel City boys, Arctic Monkeys, and their blistering ‘Do I Wanna Know’ riff. The leap from the band’s earlier work to Sempiternal, and now from Sempiternal to That’s The Spirit showcases their ability to constantly push themselves and their music further. The only reason That’s The Spirit can’t be given a perfect rating is because this can’t be the peak of Bring Me The Horizon’s powers. The record ends with a warning,“Don’t tell me you’re happy, ‘cause this isn’t love, so be careful what you wish for“ – I consider it one last goodbye to the band of the past, and a willingness to embrace whatever the future holds for them. Now that’s the spirit.