The Vocal Journey of Bring Me The Horizon // From Deathcore to Stadium Rock: A Numerical Analysis

Bring Me The Horizon have been active as a group for the better part of two decades. Rising out of the mid-2000s punk-hardcore scene, they quickly became figures of both adoration and hate. Their blend of deathcore, metalcore and emo styles was a runaway success, introducing a whole generation of side-fringed teeny-boppers to blast beats, unintelligible screaming and walls of death. Well, at least, that’s how it started.

As their career has progressed, the band has expanded their sound to become bonafide stadium rock conquerors. With the addition of keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jordan Fish to their official roster in 2013, their sound began moving away from their heavier roots to incorporate singing, electronic elements and slower-paced, more considered songwriting. Every subsequent album release has seen more and more experimentation towards the pop realm, resulting in them topping mainstream album charts in Australia (#1), UK (#1) and the US (#14) with amo in 2019.

As with every artist or band with a career spanning decades, ‘old school, hardcore’ fans have been disappointed by changes in sound and style – insert “Oh BMTH used to be heavy. I can’t listen to anything after Sempiternal” comment here. In this post, deadset.press presents a full breakdown of every Bring Me The Horizon album, examining their entire discography and the vocal styles utilised by Oli Sykes as frontman, as well as any featured guests.

The styles are categorised as follows:

  • Screamed (Deathcore): This refers to the original style of screaming featured in the majority of Count Your Blessings. Low guttural screams and higher-pitched ‘goblin style’ screams are most common. The main distinguishing feature of ‘deathcore screaming’ is purposefully unintelligible lyrics.
  • Screamed (Oli): This refers to the straining of Oli’s voice in a higher register, but with lyrics being clearly heard. He sometimes incorporates some kind of melody into the screaming, but it can’t really be considered ‘clean singing’.
  • Sung: Clean singing without any hint of vocal strain (vocal fry) from Oli.
  • Spoken: Sometimes Oli has spoken lines as skits, monologues, or in between lines of singing/screaming. His distinctive Sheffield accent comes through most distinctly in spoken lines.
  • Guest lines: Guest lines screamed and spoken were combined as one category. Guest singers feature more prominently in the latter half of the band’s career, with female guests being most common (e.g. Lights on “Don’t Go”, Amy Lee on “One Day The Only Butterflies…”)

Following these categories, and analysing lines of lyrics as featured on genius.com, the following analysis was completed:

Their debut album Count Your Blessings was filled with the hallmarks of the subgenre known as deathcore – distortion, dizzyingly fast guitar leads, blast beats, guttural screams, misogyny, and self-loathing. It was a bunch of young lads from rural UK having fun and expressing their angst. It is also their shortest album by far, as shown in the graph above.

Their sophomore album Suicide Season is a watershed record for the genre, and the emo scene as a whole. At this point, the band has already shed some of their deathcore leanings, to rely more on Oli’s raw style of screaming. The playfully offensive nihilism of tracks like “Football Season Is Over” and “Diamonds Aren’t Forever” is balanced with the genuine emotion on tracks like “The Sadness Will Never End” and title track “Suicide Season”, the latter in which Oli laments the metaphorical loss of a friend deeply affected by the death of his father.

There Is A Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It, There Is A Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret, released in 2010 is their second longest album and features a softer moments, including key guest vocals from Lights on two tracks. At this stage, the deathcore influence is minimal. Percentage-wise, this album has the most featured verses sung by a guest. The percentage breakdown of every album is shown below:

Sempiternal, released in 2013, is considered their last ‘heavy’ record and features fan-favourites such as “Shadow Moses”, “Sleepwalking” and “Antivist”. As shown in the graph above, the proportion of screamed lyrics (in pink) drops off considerably following this album’s release.

That’s The Spirit (2015) and amo (2019) are their two most pop/mainstream full-length releases. “Follow You” on That’s The Spirit is the first song featuring only lines sung by Oli. The album even yielded a special live performance at Royal Albert Hall featuring stirring accompaniments from Parallax Orchestra. BMTH also embarked on highly successful festival headlining and stadium world tours, a farcry from the dingy pubs and backhalls of their deathcore beginnings.

Their interim release last year music to listen to… is more a collection of offcuts and b-side experimentation than a fully fleshed record, but was included in this analysis for completeness’ sake, since it clocks in at more than 70 minutes. It features the band’s longest song with Oli having 161 lines of spoken monologue on “Underground Big {HEADFULOFHYENA}”. The EP also included rap verses, singing verses, and a plethora of other non-heavy ideas.

POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR released this Halloween weekend was promised by band members to be their heaviest release in a while. It’s the first in a string of EPs written for these apocalyptic times. As shown in the graph, both deathcore and ‘Oli style’ screams grew to 33% as opposed to 10% as featured on amo and even less so on Music to listen to…

POST HUMAN is their most eclectic release yet. While the blast beats and unintelligible lyrics are largely gone, deep growls and accentuated screams can be found throughout (the explosive opening track “Dear Diary,” and the schizophrenic “Obey” featuring Gen Z emo prince YUNGBLUD stand out as key examples), dovetailed with high profile singing features such as the beautifully macabre ballad with Evanescence’s Amy Lee (the deathcore outro is a genuinely stunning throwback moment for long-time fans such as myself), and the straight-up bonkers J-Rock collaboration with Babymetal.

Taking into account every album release, the total breakdown is shown below. There is almost an equal number of lines dedicated to singing by Oli and screaming across BMTH’s discography. Taking into account the heavier style of deathcore screaming, featured prominently on Count Your Blessings (2006) and surprisingly some on POST HUMAN (2010), total screaming makes up almost 50% of all BMTH songs.

POST HUMAN shows that BMTH have not forgotten their heavy roots. Instead, they have found a way to push heavy music into new unexpected places. Mainstream acceptance and popularity may have lost them some diehard fans along the way, but the push to experiment and try new things beyond the constraints of their original genre has yielded unique results.

Heavy music, punk hardcore, and rock music as a whole, may not have the same cultural weight as it once did, but artists like Bring Me The Horizon are more than happy to carry the genre kicking and screaming to its proverbial grave, before injecting life into it once more.


Graphs made with Visme. View presentation here.
Icons used under Creative Commons License, courtesy of The Noun Project: Remy Medard, Philip Koerner, Adrien Coquet, Kyle Tezak, Barracuda.

Published by Kevin Loo

Live, laugh, stare into the existential void, love

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