Bring Me The Horizon, Oli Sykes and the Next Gen of the genre

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Bring Me The Horizon, Oli Sykes and the Next Gen of the genre

Bring Me The Horizon Oli Sykes
Words by Alasdair Belling

Bring Me The Horizon's new album nEx gEn is out now, bending and transcending genre.

Oli Sykes is relaxed. Sitting in a hotel room in Zurich, he calmly talks about how beautiful the surrounds will be for his band’s upcoming headline performance at Switzerland’s Greenfields Festival.

“It’s like Lord of the Rings – on the drive to the stage there’s waterfalls coming off mountains and all that.”

Never mind the fact that his band are headlining a bill above the likes of Machine Head, Dropkick Murphys and Sum 41, and sharing top billing with Green Day and The Prodigy – it’s all about view!

Read more features, columns and interviews here.

It’s this down-to-earthiness – not often associated with Bring Me The Horizon (BMTH) – that has seen both Sykes and his band become the biggest, and arguably most important guitar band in popular music right now.

Having gone from deathcore brats to the metalcore kids that could, to an out-and-about pop rock band, the return to blast beats, double kicks and doom riffing heard on their latest release Post Human: NeX GEn has sent the metal AND popular music world into overdrive.

Suddenly, Bring Me The Horizon is one of the coolest and most forward-thinking bands in the world – a ludicrous statement at the turn of the last decades.

“We’ve come so far since we played festivals that intense – we’re very lucky that we can do that, but also BBC Big Weekend, and get a big reaction from both,” Oli said, speaking to Mixdown.

“We got asked a few weeks ago bluntly – ‘Rock is not popular – why is your band popular?’ – and a lot of it has been hard work and we’ve had a bit of luck over the last few years.”

“But there are other factors – for example, the TikTok thing (the band’s seminal hit Can You Feel My Heart blew up on the platform in 2021 nearly doubling their online reach) … whatever you feel for that platform, for us getting our music out to a whole new generation of kids who maybe haven’t been exposed to emotional music on that level has been amazing.”

Having gone firmly into pop realms in the last few years – going as far as to record a song alongside Ed Sheeran in 2022 – it was both a thrill and a surprise to hear the band return to lean in so heavily on their metallic side on NeX GEn.

While the pop hooks were certainly there – “Lost” and “Top 10 Statues That Cried Blood” are some of the most anthemic songs you’ll hear all year – the album was spattered with blast beats, the return of Oli’s trademark deathcore roar, and even a guitar solo to make Kirk Hammet throw a bony devil sign on “Kool-Aid”.

The album is a reminder that at their heart, Bring Me The Horizon is still a heavy band, albeit one that Oli wants to be the “catchiest ever”. 

“Where a lot of artists go wrong is when they try and pander to the audience, or they double down on what everyone hates – it’s two of the most common routes that an artist takes,” he said.

“They do an album no one likes, think ‘fuck you we’re doing it again’, and they’ll go and write what they thought made them big in the first place.

“A lot of bands listen to their egos, and it’s easy – when you’re in the haze of it all, it’s really easy to just be high on our own supply.

“Our whole career has been experimenting and it got to a point for me where I wanted to be the heaviest catchiest band around.

“We wanted to be the heaviest pop band, but for that to happen we had to learn how to write pop music, how to write song structures properly – it’s a lot harder for me to write a pop song than to write a metal song.

“To break all the rules you first have to learn them all – we learnt them all and then thought ‘ok how do we apply that to metal music without watering it down’.”

It’s sound advice – but Oli is quick to clarify that they learnt this lesson the hard way.

“There was a point where we did water that stuff down because the allure of becoming a big band was there and that came out of nowhere! No one was saying we would be the next headliners at festivals, but then suddenly there were!

“In the past, I’ve been upset by criticism – because I’ve thought ‘yeah… they’re right’.

“Even for example when we used to get pissed on stage and play sloppy – I would be upset by that, but people had a point there – we could barely play our instruments.”

Bring Me The Horizon NeX GEn

NeX GEn then is an album where BMTH rediscovered how to be the metal band they wanted to be – but to do so, they had to also know what they wanted to avoid. 

“There was a time that I felt like metal was just stale – this was after Sempiternal, and I didn’t know where to take things – I looked instead to pop, electronica, other stuff that I was into – that paved the way for us to be able to come back and make heavy music in a way that felt fresh and exciting.

“I love heavy music – I mean this with no disrespect, but I can’t listen to a metal record anymore that’s just blast beats and breakdowns.

“That’s like watching a film of just fight scenes with no story – those heavy parts for us are our fight scenes, but the rest of the songs, the structure and the melodies, those are the things that hopefully hook you in and make you give a fuck about the breakdown.”

“Having a polished rock record was always a dream of mine – we’ve always struggled with producers and we always were a bit disappointed with how things turned out.

“When Jordan (Jordan Fish, keyboards and producer who left at the end of last year) came into the band, we were able to achieve that polished record goal – especially with That’s The Spirit and Amo, but after that, we were bored of it and ready to rough it up again.”

NeX GEn has been a long time coming for BMTH.

With six singles, multiple legs of global touring and a delay of almost a year, the drip-feed nature of the release broke the traditional album-cycle convention.

That hasn’t mattered for the band at all though. Just several months ago they completed a sold-out arena tour of Australia, with a majority of the setlist made up of new material, all of which was eagerly received by fans young and old.

However, NeX GEn is just part 2 of a 4 part series. 

What was meant to be four EPs quickly turned into a mini album (Survival Horror), and a celebrated full-length. Can we expect two more full-lengths in quick time?

“We have no idea when that last record of the series will come,” he admits.

“There’s bits and bobs and ways we want to take it, but for me to finish a song – that final 10 per cent takes fucking ages.

“There are ideas of what those records will sound like but they’ll probably change by the time we get to them and there’s more to explore with this record – there’s so much we wrote and so much didn’t make the cut, and it would be good for those to come out in some way.

“We’re going to be in NeX GEn for quite a while – the fourth one might change completely.”

After several years of (minor) turbulence, BMTH are set to enjoy their time in the sun.

However, as is the nature of things, with their brand now firmly established across both the metal markets and the world of TikTok and 24/7 social media, it’s hard to imagine them sitting on new material for long – such are the demands of the 2020s.

For now, though, they have those Swiss mountains to enjoy.

Bring Me The Horizon’s awesome new album, POST HUMAN: NeX GEn is available now on all digital platforms and physical release is out September 27 via RCA/Sony Music Australia.