Redemption. That’s what this feels like. At one point a headline arena slot would have been a distant dream for Bring Me The Horizon. It wasn’t so long ago that the band’s bratty metalcore was met with snorts of derision, they were bottled at gigs and frontman Oli Sykes was the most hated bloke in music after being arrested for allegedly pissing on a fan who rejected his advances.
But that’s why tonight is such a fierce triumph. BMTH have had to rebuild their reputation the hard way. Between 2006’s debut album ‘Count Your Blessings’ and last year’s crossover chart hit ‘Sempiternal’, their scrappy screamo matured, took on electronic flourishes and beefed up. The choruses grew arena sized, the band learned when to pull things back – and more importantly, when to let them fly.
Only last year guitarist Lee Malia stated: “We’ll never sell out arenas.” Yet here they are; not only stood before an adoring 12,000-strong crowd going off like a NASA rocket launch, but touted by many as the trailblazers for modern metal. Who’d have thought it?
As the haunting electronic touches of tonight’s opener ‘Shadow Moses’ give way to a riff big enough to flatten a city, Sykes bounces between pillars of steam and fountains of fire, screaming as though he’s having his arms pulled off while orchestrating Wembley into a sea of mangled bodies. ‘Antivist’’s brilliantly juvenile “Middle fingers up! / If you don’t give a f*ck!” chorus is the perfect, potty-mouthed anthem for disillusioned youth, and ‘Go To Hell For Heaven’s Sake’ is set to racing images of religious iconography, executions and burning churches.
Fan favourite, the ferocious ‘Chelsea Smile’, once a set closer but long overtaken as the most formidable weapon in their arsenal, now sits solidly as a mid-point propeller. At no point do the energy levels sag – even the more slow-burning moments like ‘And The Snakes Start To Sing’ and ‘Blessed With A Curse’ blaze with an urgent intensity.
Former guitarist Curtis Ward is dragged away from his day job as a catwalk model to perform a song the band “really don’t wanna play”: oldie ‘Pray For Plagues’. It’s a nice gesture for the diehards, but it feels like a begrudging one. If anything, tonight is a celebration of the future, not the past and when it comes to progression, and it’s Sykes himself who’s undergone the most violent transformation of all.
A leader in uniform, like the majority of the fans here Sykes is dressed head-to-toe in his own label Drop Dead, and he incites all the carnage: “at least four” circle pits for an incendiary ‘The House Of Wolves’, numerous walls of death and a tidal surge of crowd surfing. Yet it’s tonight’s more tender moments that say the most about his personal journey.
Earlier this year he admitted to kicking a serious ketamine addiction and a powerful performance of ‘Hospital For Souls’, written about the experience, is a true hairs-on-the-back-of the-neck moment. It all proves too much for Sykes who, screaming the track’s “Watch me burn!” refrain on his knees amid soaring noise and dense atmospherics, is literally brought to tears. Against all odds he and his band have been handed the baton for the future of rock. There are few competitors more worthy of carrying the challenge.
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Words: Dannii Leivers