Everyone’s favourite Marmite band (you either love them or hate them) are back with their latest offering That’s the Spirit – a concept album about the contrast of bleakness on the outside to everyone’s inner world of colour and emotion. The theme is a little out there, although the band are hardly known for their lucid lyrical and thematic content.
It isn’t a theme that would alienate existing BMTH fans, especially after their last album Sempiternal (or ‘sandpit turtle’, if you prefer), which stretched the generic boundaries the band had previously kept themselves to. With this album, the band look to expand on this, with Sempiternal being one of their most critically well-received albums.
It is clear on this album that the band have gone even further left than Sempiternal. The band have never had any problems experimenting, but on this record it seems they’re done with experimentation and are moving in a clear, new direction. The harsh ‘walls of sound’ and characteristic screamed vocals are few and far between on this album, being replaced with keyboards, catchy pop-esque vocal hooks, and almost exclusively clean singing. The band have moved from their BMTH sound into a realm closer to Linkin Park or Muse if anything.
Whilst this may scream ‘sell out’ to many of their fans, it isn’t a completely unnecessary move. The band have just finished an arena tour, and as such are in need of more arena-friendly songs. Their last album had some bangers, but was filled more with slower, experimental songs like ‘And the Snakes Start to Sing’ and ‘Sempiternal’. This album is clearly an attempt to create more obvious sing-along choruses, but the band suffer from it. Every album before it has had an intangible quality that made it a BMTH album – this one simply doesn’t. Any band could have released this; there is little uniqueness to it at all.
In fact, there is little anything to it at all. The lyrical content is much less cryptic than recent releases, with Sykes going for more simple words than his previous soliloquies about all sorts of nonsensical things. On some tracks it works well (‘Happy Song’ has a cheerleader-led chorus that is more likeable than it has any right to believe), but for the most part it is just uninteresting. ‘True Friends’ is especially poor lyrically (stab you in the front makes no sense, it should be stab you in the chest).
This isn’t to say the album has no redeeming qualities. There are a fair few catchy pop hooks; Sykes has clearly applied himself with the song-writing (at least in terms of the hooks). ‘What You Need’, ‘Throne’, and ‘Doomed’ all have very strong and catchy vocal work, whilst ‘Drown’ (easily the best song on the album) has a really strong chorus. This song is everything this album should have been: it combines the trademark harshness of BMTH’s previous music whilst making it radio and arena-friendly, and it boasts one of the best vocal performances (both in terms of lyrics and singing) by Sykes in his career.
In all honesty, there isn’t a lot left to say about the album. Instrumentally, everything is perfectly competent, but nothing ever stands out. This isn’t particularly shocking in this genre, but with such a drastic change to the vocal style, the instruments needed stand-out moments. Some songs in a similar vein to ‘Hospital for Souls’ would also have helped; outside of ‘Run’ – which still isn’t that different to the rest of the album – there is little variation beyond the electronic-focused/guitar-focused song structures the band employ.
The main issue with this album is its lack of passion. Nothing is truly that bad outside of some lyrical choices. It just seems the band have traded their passion for apathy in a bid to compete or comply with the other big arena-rockers of the modern age. And that isn’t the spirit, at all.