- Ryan Ward
Dive deeper into Club Hellhole on Bring Me The Horizon's latest emo anthem, 'sTraNgeRs'
I think it goes without saying that out of all modern heavy bands, few have been quite as influential recently as Bring Me The Horizon. The five-piece have consistently been making waves, for better or worse, since their death metal debut, but hit superstardom following their 2013 fourth album, 'Sempiternal', which defined the sound of metalcore as an entire genre for the decade following. From then on, however, BMTH have been restless in their pursuit of new and original sounds and ideas, leading to the pop-metal of 2015's 'That's The Spirit', and the alternative pop of 2019's 'amo', both of which taking the band to new heights of celebrity and influencing the heavy scene around them in all manner of ways.
BMTH's trend for being ahead of the curve on music sounds continued as they commenced their 'POST HUMAN' project; a collection of EPs released in a shorter span of time, showcasing different styles and genres. The first, 'Survival Horror', was commended by many who were put off by the band's deviation into pop, seeing it as a return to their heavier roots, with twists on industrial metal and nu metal that would be replicated by other bands in the scene showing up across the nine-tracks of the EP.
Since 2020, however, listeners have been waiting with bated breath for the successor to 'Survival Horror', with the band's plans to release the EPs in quick succession evidently no longer the name of the game. In 2021 we got our first glimpse of what to come with pop-punk emo banger 'DiE4u', showcasing the band capitalising on the emo renaissance we're experiencing with a fun and catchy anthem featuring a simpler style and tone than the apocalyptic nature of their previous releases.
And then we got a collaboration with Ed Sheeran. That was actually really good. It's been a strange trajectory.
However, after a couple of other collaborations with mixed results, in July we finally got what appears to be the second installment for the upcoming EP, rumored to be called 'Club Hellhole', in the new single 'sTraNgeRs'. And, well, it's another mixed bag of a release. Picking up sonically where 'DiE4u' left off, 'sTraNgeRs' continues the band's path down a distinct pop-punk and emo-pop route. Lyrically, Oli Sykes sings of unity through adversity, how a 'room full of strangers' could all be facing similar battles in life; it's plenty anthemic, building from a simple acoustic start to a charging chorus with pounding drums and guitars whilst Sykes declares that we're 'dying to live, living to die'. Sweeping strings add to the sense of grandeur that the track evokes as we blaze through another uproarious verse and chorus, before plunging into a crunchy, heavy bridge segment that is particularly great to listen to. One final chorus plays out, making sure that if the track wasn't stuck in your head already in will be now, before ending in a sea of synths and guitar clippings.
It's a neat track; catchy, nostalgic, and begging to be performed live. The fact that it debuted during the band's own festival in Malta is no surprise. But it does feel almost a little too ready for radio; whilst the band's other pop anthems such as 'medicine' and 'DiE4u' still retained some sense of rebellious edginess that gave you a feeling that this was still absolutely a BMTH track, 'sTraNgeRs' feels like it's lacking the defining desire to push boundaries that makes the band's material such an adrenaline rush to listen to, regardless of era. Furthermore, the lyrics play it incredibly safe, with some moments, such as the repetition of the 'dying to live, living to die' in the chorus, and the 'S.O.S, save us from ourselves' at the end of the bridge segment just sounding clumsy and poorly executed. For once, it feels like the band are playing catch-up with the scene around them, which is already dominated with artists who have created material just like this, and sometimes better.
On top of that, the amount of pitch adjustment on Sykes's vocals approaches intolerable levels at times; the frontman has some gorgeous melodies across his discography, with more recent releases from the band showcasing his skills as a clean vocalist excellently. But on 'sTraNgeRs', Sykes's rough and unpolished vocals too often have any sense of character stripped from them, touched up into a vague facimile of what they used to be. It ultimately becomes polish at the cost of authenticity, stripping the potential emotive power of the track.
Is 'sTraNgeRs' a bad song? No, not at all. Much like on 'DiE4u', Bring Me The Horizon have crafted another catchy and fun track that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head and have you humming it all day, week, and possibly month. On top of that, there has been decent reception to the track from both fans and people whom have never particularly listened to the band before; for many, this could be a great access point for getting into heavier alternative music. But as I said previously, 'sTraNgeRs' feels like the band, for the first time in a very long time, playing catch up, trying to create something that fits in with the musical zeitgeist within their scene rather than something that will change what comes out of the scene.
At the very least, what comes next for the band is sure to be interesting to experience.
Listen to Bring Me The Horizon’s new single 'sTraNgeRs' here, and watch the official video below.