Bring Me The Horizon has been described as the ‘new Metallica’. But after years of making enemies of just about everyone, the band is playing the cautious card.
OLI Sykes, at 26 years old, is so slender his shoulders seem to collapse in on his chest. His legs are like drinking straws, his arms so tattooed I can’t see where his T-shirt ends and his skin begins. As stage time approaches he is sitting in a tent on a farm in the suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa, writing a comic book series on his MacBook.
In a few minutes, after a couple of vocal exercises, he will walk the 30 yards from the tent, climb some widely spaced steps to the stage of RAMfest, and find himself the focus of several thousand young South Africans’ attention.
He will spend the next 50 minutes in perpetual motion, demonstrating why the people at the Sony imprint RCA keep describing his band Bring Me The Horizon as their “new Metallica”.
Sykes takes his performance seriously – in fact, he seems extraordinarily driven in all areas of his life (he also has a successful clothing company). He whips the crowd into walls of death and circle pits, bellowing encouragement. He dares them to try to reach the stage. He throws himself around the stage, jumps into the photographers’ pit, climbs the monitors, all the time keeping up his barbaric yawl. Later, the band’s recently added keyboard player, Jordan Fish, will say that after every show he wonders where Sykes – so quietly spoken – finds the energy.
Outside metal circles, Bring Me The Horizon means little.
Inside, though, they’re a big noise, a band getting bigger and bigger, dividing opinions as they go. In the seven years since the release of their debut album, they’ve shifted styles from metalcore — a genre that matches the speed of hardcore with the pummelling aggression of metal — to the sound of their fourth album Sempiternal, on which the tempos are slower and the vocals carry melodies and washes of electronic bathe the guitar riffs.
It sounds not unlike Linkin Park, though it’s highly possible students of metal will dismiss that as wildly inaccurate.
“It’s important not to overhype — that’s crucial,” says RCA’s MD, Colin Barlow, shortly after saying that the signing “is a landmark deal — it’s as important as when Sony signed AC/DC or when Metallica was signed to a major”, and that the band will be headlining the Download festival within two years.
The band, though, is being more cautious than the label — even to the label’s faces. So when the name Metallica was invoked as the deal was signed, Sykes had his reply ready.
“I said: ‘You’re gonna be disappointed, mate’.”
“We’re never gonna sell out arenas. If you get that in your hopes, you’re only gonna be let down,” adds guitarist Lee Malia.
The band formed at college in Sheffield, north England, in 2004, just kids who wanted to make noise. In their early days, Bring Me The Horizon embraced the rock’n’roll lifestyle to a fault.
“We were just kids,” says Sykes, “and all of a sudden people were putting booze down and giving us buyouts. We went mental. We played every night out-of-our-minds drunk. But soon we realised you can’t trust everyone. We quickly found out you’ve got to watch what you say and watch what you do, and we found out the hard way.”
What does he mean? “Well, you know I got arrested, right?”
In April 2007, Sykes was arrested after a female fan complained he had urinated on her after she refused his advances on a tour bus. It was then alleged that an unidentified member of the band’s party threw a bottle at her, hitting her in the face. The case was dropped, but the band became despised.
“When we started the band, I didn’t imagine so many people could hate us, or that we could be a band that would make so many people angry,” says Sykes.
“At first it upset us, but we’ve come to realise it’s how the world works.”
It changed their relationship with fans, too, making them wary of interaction. And that has created its own problems with people filling the void on social media and impersonating them.
Malia had a strange meeting with a teenage girl who insisted he had been corresponding with her on a social network and had demanded she turn up to meet him. Sykes had to talk another fan out of killing himself, after it turned out a gay man who had agreed to marry the fan was not in fact Sykes. And in Oct 2011, a 20-year-old man called David Russell was jailed for 17-and-a-half years for kidnap and attempted murder after pretending to be Sykes on Facebook, then luring an American fan over to Britain, where he repeatedly stabbed her, hit her in the face with a log and headbutted her.
Sykes is horrified someone would do that. He’s also disturbed the fan was willing to fly over in the first place.
“Even if you were talking to someone who wasn’t famous, you wouldn’t buy a ticket to a different country across the ocean to meet someone you haven’t even seen or spoken to over the phone. If you think you’re talking to a famous person, and you have no hard proof that you are — you’re not. “
After the show at RAMfest, the band is back in their bus within half an hour, back at the hotel another half hour later. There is no sign of debauchery — everyone drifts off to their rooms, and the next morning band and crew kill time beside the pool. All except Sykes, who never stops working. At 1.30am, a little over three hours after coming off stage, he’s e-mailing the other band members proposed designs for merchandise.
The next day he spends in his room, cracking on with the graphic novel. That Metallica comparison? Not so far-fetched, perhaps.
Source: Star Publications