Imagine with us: You're driving in your car, you're walking into your neighborhood grocery store, you're in some space, public or otherwise, where the sounds of Top 40 radio surround you. What do you hear? Taylor Swift, the Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Fetty Wap. Pop, R&B and hip hop dominate the airwaves. With the very real exception of Fall Out Boy, Paramore and 5 Seconds of Summer, guitar-based music rarely makes an appearance. It's almost as if rock music has become a thing of the past, an antiquated concept.
That mentality is a defeatist one. There are tons of great bands of all rock sub-genres making really incredible, forward-thinking music. (Need examples? Click here and here.) They might not be in the Top 40, but they're shaking things up elsewhere: On the charts, in stores, in venues around the world. Their records have impressive debuts, their fans are rabid. Bring Me the Horizon, once cast off as just the pretty metalcore boys of Warped Tour, are part of this world. In many ways, they govern it.
To the untrained eye, it looks like a coincidence. In the beginning, this Sheffield, England band found a home in the post-hardcore universe, screaming violent songs about unrequited love and other adolescent universals. It was thematically uncomplicated music laid over textually challenging sounds—they were more mature musicians than they were people. It resonated because they were growing up with the kids listening to their music. That connection is the kind that fosters lifelong love and admiration.
In their five-album, 12-year career BMTH have evolved from that foundation. With each record, they've developed ambitious, complex songwriting styles. Before it became almost necessity to institute expansive, thematic soundscapes and experimental synths in heavy music—a trend that persists today—BMTH were doing it and doing it well. Before it became cool to celebrate darkness instead of just wallowing in it, BMTH were perfecting the message. They became accidental trendsetters the way all trendsetters are.
That brings us to their latest album, their first on a major label, September's That's the Spirit. The move from the indie Epitaph to Columbia was one out of necessity: Their popularity continued to swell, and they needed a platform that would be able to sustain it. For fans, that move could've appeared to be betrayal...who knows what the band would become with substantial money behind them?
But Bring Me the Horizon became a better band than they've ever been before. Instead of settling for what's safe, what works in traditional post-hardcore and metalcore, that start-quiet-get-loud-end-quiet structure, they became a band undefinable by genre. There are moments that feel like vintage BMTH, some that recall a more futuristic Linkin Park ferocity (there's a reason those guys are one of the biggest bands on the planet). That's the Spirit debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and hit No. 1 on the album sales chart. It was a success beyond expectation, especially for this type of band, this type of music.
“Bring Me The Horizon have become accidental trendsetters the way all trendsetters are.”
They're not the first to come from obscurity, to rise to prominence after turning their back on genre expectation. Paramore moved from the smallest stage at Warped to a powerhouse writing records that could rival the resonance of full-on rock operas. 5 Seconds of Summer took what they learned from their beloved "scene" bands and made it marketable. Bring Me the Horizon has done the same, just with heavier music. In that regard, it's an especially impressive transformation.
In a recent interview with Billboard, BMTH frontman Oli Sykes was asked if his band is metal. He responded, "We came from a metal background, so I guess we will always feel connected and relevant to the genre. I guess we are as much a metal band now as Fall Out Boy are a pop-punk band." When asked whose career he'd like his band to mimic, he replied, "Foo Fighters. They clearly do it for the music and nothing else." Both are important statements because both show a clear disregard for the boundaries inherent in genre signifiers. If they're this successful now, imagine what the future holds. There's a bright light at the end of this road; make sure to keep an eye out. Bring Me The Horizon will probably beat us there.