Being in a hardcore band for 25 years can make it pretty darn tough when …
“Dear Diary, I don’t know what’s going on but something’s up…” The opening line to Bring Me The Horizon’s latest EP POST HUMAN:SURVIVAL HORROR is apt. As an introductory track, as a mission statement for the record, and for a view on the world that’s currently breaking itself to pieces at large.
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Stretching the definition of EP at eight tracks (and an additional interlude), the band’s latest release is a melting pot of anxiety and paranoia mixed in with the heaviest tracks the band have made in years. Arriving just prior to England entering a suffocating four-week lockdown, a desperate US election, and nations suffering a catastrophic pandemic, the release couldn’t have been timed better. Their heavy licks interlaced with catchy choruses spitting frustration and distrust are set to feature heavily on the top spots in listener’s end of year ‘most played’, despite its late arrival.
The immediate response from their fanbase has been overwhelmingly positive. For Jordan Fish, the band’s keyboardist, percussionist, backing vocalist and half of their core writing duo (the other being vocalist Oliver Sykes who we’re told is “on holiday” for the time being), the comments online are “unnervingly good.”
Having hit out at demanding fans on their previous record, 2019’s Amo – “I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore/cause a kid on the Gram/In a Black Dahlia tank/says it ain’t heavy metal” croons Sykes wryly–does that mean the pandemic changed how they approached songwriting?
“Oli doesn’t like to feel like his stuff is disingenuous,” says Fish. “He struggles to fake it. I think this whole year, as bad as it’s been, it’s been the perfect tonic for us to be able to do this aggressive music. It doesn’t sound like we’re backtracking, fake, or forced. There’s reason to be angry, there’s reason to feel angry; there’s an energy in the air you can channel rather than it just be like ‘we’ll just do some heavy shit.’ There’s a complex feeling in the world that if you can tap into it, you can do the heavy stuff and have it feel real. Rather than just ‘let’s go a bit heavier’ and pump up the songs for the sake of it.”
I think people would be able to feel if it was forced. If you’re not feeling it, you don’t write as well … You put more effort in if you enjoy what you create.
[ Lee Malia ]
For the back half of the decade, Bring Me’s last two records That’s The Spirit  and Amo brought them unparalleled success. Headlining shows grew from 5000 cap venues to 25,000. A far cry from the days when guitarist Lee Malia was quoted in a 2013 Guardian article: “We’re never gonna sell out arenas.” It seems quaint now, considering they’ve packed ones like Wembley and Rod Laver to the brim.
That’s not to say that the backlash to their experiments wasn’t swift and vicious in equal measure. For all the goodwill and influx of new fans that 2013’s Sempiternal brought them, That’s The Spirit and Amo’s new directions meant that as the band grew bigger, so too did the volume of negative feedback.
We ask if it’s a shock to the system seeing the fans praise them, considering their last two albums have arguably set the pace for every other band in their orbit. Fish smiles: “I always say to people ‘it’s a good thing to have a record that’s really divisive because it gets people talking. This morning I was looking at comments and I was like ‘how do I swing this?’ It’s not divisive at all and everyone likes it.”
Taking a quintessential British approach he laughs self-effacingly, “so maybe I was lying to myself earlier to make myself feel better when half of our fanbase hated our record.”
Says Malia of their new approach: “I think people would be able to feel if it was forced. If you’re not feeling it, you don’t write as well … You put more effort in if you enjoy what you create.”
We kind of backed ourselves into a corner with Sempiternal and That’s The Spirit. We’d reached that arena rock-y type realm and we needed to find move a little bit more left field in places.
[ Jordan Fish ]
“Amo was one of those albums–I still love that album,” begins Fish. “I think it might be our best album for me personally. I like them all in different ways.” He continues, discussing how the band came to reach a ceiling prior to its release: “We kind of backed ourselves into a corner with Sempiternal and That’s The Spirit. We’d reached that arena rock-y type realm and we needed to move a little bit more left field in places. Tracks like Nihilist Blues I don’t think we would’ve had the balls to do something like that unless we did it on Amo.”
For Malia, having the guts to go completely out on a limb with Amo was the only way they could end up with the aggressive nature of POST HUMAN:SURVIVAL HORROR and not feel like it was phoned in. “If we’d released this straight after That’s The Spirit it wouldn’t have had the same impact,” he posits. “Amo has set this up better. I think [Post Human: Survival Horror] works better to come off the back of Amo rather than That’s The Spirit. It wouldn’t be exciting enough.”
Fish agrees: “That record [Amo] was necessary and has some of our highlight moments of our whole career. But I can understand why our fanbase was so divided on it. It’s not a record we blasted out without thinking about it. It wasn’t the easiest record to write either to be fair.”
The writing process for this record is miles away–literally and metaphorically–from Amo. Where the band have gone on record saying they spent hundreds of thousands on their last record, POST HUMAN:SURVIVAL HORROR’s costs were non-existent. Fish and Sykes holed up in a house together and Facetimed the rest of the band for input. Songs were sent via Dropbox for tinkering and comment while the world burned around them. Fans were given direct insight into the recording process via studio diaries, which only served to build hype and intrigue.
That hype, now the record is out, will only continue to grow now the band have announced a tour for September 2021, which is an age in the Bring Me world. Considering the band have already cut half of their discography at this point, with Sempiternal the next on the potential chopping block according to the duo, it must be a nightmare deciding which songs to include in the setlist.
Malia: “On this CD there’s that many that will fit live. It’s going to be hard deciding on what we cut. It’s going to be hard.”
Fish: “We don’t really play any older songs at this point.”
Malia: “Even from Sempiternal”
Fish: “Especially if we release another record before we start touring, it’s gonna be even more difficult. There’s at least six songs from this record that 100% have to be in the set when we play next. Fuck knows what we’re going to do. Another medley? [From Sempiternal] we only play Shadow Moses … House of Wolves do you want to drop that?” asks Fish.
Malia recoils and they both exclaim – “ooft” – as Fish adds by way of explanation: “that’s a tricky conversation. Because we’re all partial to that song … it’s a bit of a Dear Diary isn’t it? We’ll see.”
Why are they enamoured with that particular track? It’s a standout from the record, sure, but in terms of people’s dream setlists, it likely doesn’t make as strong an appearance as other songs they’ve released.
Fish: “It’s a live banger isn’t it, cause of the pace.”
Malia: “It’s got the breakdowns, the vocals on the chorus. It’s a very a good live song. It’s always one of the highlights live.”
Fish: “We normally play it second or third because you have the big song–or two big songs–then you hear the *imitates House of Wolves opening riff*… Dear Diary will probably take its place, but we’ll see. I would play for three hours if I could–[laughs] but I have the easiest job live so it’s a bit different.”
It’s an easy job live, but Fish works tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the madness together. Survival Horror features an eclectic group of collaborations, from wild child YUNGBLUD, industry mainstay Amy Lee (Evanescence), Nova Twins, and even Bring Me tourmates Babymetal. “We ended up with quite a lot of female guests on this record,” Fish explains. “That’s one of the cooler things about it. It’s ‘untraditional’ for a heavy record–as stupid as that is [for it to be rare] – to have a lot of female guests. It’s made better because it’s not all just bros with the aggressive music.”
Given the array of talent on this record, we put forth that Bring Me can feasibly collab with anyone.
“I don’t know if we can collab with anyone,” interjects Fish.
Malia laughs as Fish quips, “think Post Malone might disagree with that one.”
Countering, we say that this sort of record wouldn’t have been thought possible a few years ago: maybe a Posty feature might end up on the next record? Fish shuts us down immediately: “You will not,” he says sharply with tongue in cheek. “He’s too big.”
Regarding the next steps, and the staccato ending of POST HUMAN:SURVIVAL HORROR, Fish teases by saying: “I think they’ll be linked in some way. How and where we go, I don’t know. We just wanted to round it off … to me, that ending sounds like the state of the world that we’re in at the moment. It’s suspenseful, possibly ending, possibly not.”
“No idea where it’s going,” adds Malia.
Fish laughs: “Which is roughly how we feel after this record. No idea what we’re going to do next…”