On the 22nd September 2016, Bring Me The Horizon played one of the most seminal shows of their career. The Royal Albert Hall – which sold out its 5,000 capacity in just 20 minutes online – was set ablaze by the pop-hardcore five-piece in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. And the icing on the cake was the full orchestra and choir they brought with them. Oisin Fogarty-Graveson gets swept away be the grandeur:
As a lover of many genres of music, it's difficult not to get swept away by the grandeur of the scene. The panoptic hall, every wall built ceiling high with red velvet seats, dramatic golden orbs adorning the ceiling, not to mention the opportunity to see the band that got me into heavy music when I was 14 years old. I'd managed to get a last minute ticket because a friend of mine was playing in the orchestra, but I'll admit that until I got into that hall and felt the tangible excitement which pulsated from every person, I hadn't really appreciated what I was about to see.
Having taken a break from BMTH now for two albums, I had little faith in the teenager in me being riled up. I'd seen the setlist and knew there was nothing before 'There Is A Hell' on it. Predictably, it took a while for the crowd to warm up. The nature of including a full orchestra is that the big open guitar chords and Matt Nichols' drumming are softened by the slow-attack instruments in the arrangements (strings, woodwind, etc), and I think BMTH missed a trick by not altering their own instrumentals a little bit to compensate for that.
In the first few songs it did feel as if the band were trying to get the crowd jumping, but they themselves hadn't quite found their feet. The crowd in turn looked a little confused by the wall of sound they were facing; were they supposed to be watching or moshing? It was as if each of the band had been assigned an area of the stage – about a metre squared – and wouldn't move outside of it. Since I hadn't seen them since the Brixton Academy in 2011, I was surprised by how dull they had become to watch.
'It Never Ends' changed everything. The track itself was originally recorded with classical instruments over the leading riff, and it translated perfectly to a live orchestral arrangement. In fact, 'It Never Ends', 'Go To Hell For Heaven's Sake' and 'Antivist' – the three heaviest songs of the set, incidentally – absolutely tore the place apart. There was a moment when I saw the kids in the pit, and I felt very powerful nostalgia.
I felt like the orchestra complimented these tracks more so than the new softed ones, which already have a lot of ambient electronics to add depth, and so sound a little overzealous. The heavy songs worked great though. I recall that Bring Me always experimented with bits of classical sampling, and it felt like they had finally managed to demonstrate that classical and metal work very well together. It's hardly the revelation of the century, but it's nice to be reminded that the two epic genres tend to form a doubly epic amalgam.
The arrangements were fantastic. They were beautiful, if occasionally a little simple – not that that's a bad thing. I know for a fact that the instrumentalists worked incredibly hard on the show together, and it really paid off. 'Throne', a song which I hadn't really “got” until that show, was a particularly moving tune with huge orchestral accompaniment. In might have been the booze, but I definitely found a fresh appreciation for the band, whose hair I used to long for when I was a kid. However, it was no longer Oli Sykes I revered. It was Jordan Fish, the keyboardist who replaced Jona Weinhofen in 2013.
Fish – who has clearly taken a huge role in the musical direction of BMTH since he joined – was clearly overwhelmed. There were moments when it looked like he was fighting off tears. My friend in the orchestra told me later that he had indeed cried during rehearsal. At the afterparty I spoke to him, and was moved by the animation with which he talked about the process. It felt like Bring Me had been injected with some heart – something which I realised had been lacking in the band for a long time – they had survived on their ritualistic branding, dark lyrics and heavy music. Now they were dropping a lot of that in favour of pop-electronic influenced tracks like 'Follow You', they had to rely on something else if they were going to avoid falling to homogenised chart bullshit.
Until Friday night, the best I could say of Bring Me The Horizon was that they had performed an absolutely outstanding trapeze act, dipping and dodging their way into the popular charts. I'd not been struck by a record of theirs since 'There Is A Hell', and that hadn't been my favourite, but I couldn't deny that they had clearly mastered the art of writing anthemic pop-hardcore songs. However, having attended the Royal Albert Hall I see them in a different light.
You'd be forgiven to think they'd sold out, and you might be right in truth. Yet there's a charm to which they've done it; with heart, with care and, somehow, with honesty. Whether this is down to Jordan's involvement or not, I'm impressed to see a band change so much and still recover, and although I probably wont have them on my playlist, I'll watch their new releases with intrigue and appreciation.
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