The best thing about Bury Tomorrow has long been how reliable they are. From album to album, there’ll rarely be any enormous shifts in direction, but that’s because they’ve attained the sort of foothold in metalcore to where that isn’t an issue, and unlike some of their contemporaries, it never feels like they’re scraping the barrel for ideas. In all honesty, it’s not like there’s been a huge amount of longevity within Bury Tomorrow albums, but that’s more a consequence of being subsumed by a metalcore environment that, should it be less crowded than it currently is, there’d be no question of them rising to the top of. Any sort of gimmickry or studio trickery that’s so often a crutch within metalcore is barely even entertained by Bury Tomorrow, and even if their albums can have a shorter shelf life than some, each one has been a consistently strong example of how to make metalcore that’s both tremendously heavy and anthemic. It’s the expected approach for Bury Tomorrow, especially now they’re up to their sixth album, but it’s also one that hasn’t worn out its welcome.
Cannibal encompasses that ethos to a fault yet again as well, but in a way that fully highlights just how true it is. There’s really very little beyond sonic minutiae to differentiate this from the last handful of Bury Tomorrow albums, yet it still feels just as rampant and towering, because the formula that Bury Tomorrow have settled on just has that much potency to it. It’s arguably the most objectively correct way for a band to make sweeping, skyscraping metalcore without having to bend over backwards to play the game, and the fact that it’s served Bury Tomorrow so well up to this stage and is continuing to do so is a testament to just how watertight it is. That’s not to say the risk of that shortened shelf life isn’t here (though there’s a very real argument to be made on the contrary), but in terms of a band knuckling down and doing what they do best, Cannibal has come around like clockwork as an example of just that.
And it’s probably worth starting off with the potential of an album like this, in how the hook quality of Cannibal seems to have been drastically upped more or less entirely. Where the standard for Bury Tomorrow albums is a handful of songs that’ll ultimately rise to the top and continue life as live staples, Cannibal seems to be actively chipping away at the proverbial wall and doing a lot more in terms of honing and cultivating the size that’s always been such a key asset for this band. They’ve still go choruses for days, right from the beginning with opener Choke probably being the best here, but that’s more of a constant now than it has been since The Union Of Crowns in 2012. It’s mostly a case of each element finally clicking into place with greater force; the parts are all there and always have been, but there’s an extra shot of oomph that’s been thrown into Cannibal that gives it a real boost when the likes of Better Below and Gods & Machines go as hard as they do. Even on Quake, where gentler elements of the mix are given more room to expand and Jason Cameron’s clean vocals play a greater role, there’s a sensibility of grandeur and drama that prevents any mid-album lulls as the scope continues to soar.
There’s been no drastic retooling or reshaping the formula; Cannibal just feels like another Bury Tomorrow album, but bigger and better. And there’s no need to change either, because that aforementioned formula is one of the best in modern metalcore and always seems to go down well. The general sound is still phenomenal, pulling on gigantic melodeath tones in the guitars and drums that know exactly how to hit the greatest moments of power while still drawing on some absolutely crushing lows (just take the breakdown on Dark Infinite, for instance), and Dani Winter-Bates’ lion’s roar of a vocal only serves to bump the heft and scope up even further. It’s often been noted that there’s a regality within Bury Tomorrow’s sound and that couldn’t be more true here, given the levelling capabilities of tracks like The Grey (VIXI) and The Agonist that have almost a majestic sense of scale to them.
It goes without saying that’s a pretty substantial way for Bury Tomorrow to rise up the metalcore ranks, to the extent where what’s become such a rote topic as mental health that almost always comes with drastically lowered expectations can actually work for them. They’re not reinventing the theme by any means, but the main point to take from Cannibal in that sense is just how much a strong delivery can elevate what otherwise might be something fairly mediocre. There’s all the usual beats of being eaten from the inside out and how consuming the feelings of loss and loneliness can be, but when matched up with production that emphasises the darkness and the almost clinical coldness that can be attributed to those feelings – as well as Winter-Bates lending a necessary righteousness to the execution – Cannibal pulls off the severity of what’s being said in a way that’s a definite palate-cleanser from so many watered-down interpretations. There’s drive and passion that can make otherwise uninspiring words feel more impactful, and Bury Tomorrow take full advantage of that tactic here.
If anything, it just shows how far a bit of effort can go in metalcore. Among the scene and especially among their own work, Cannibal isn’t anything new at all, but the passion and willingness to not simply settle for the bare minimum is what gives Bury Tomorrow such a profound edge. There’s a reason they’ve stuck around as long as they have even if their albums haven’t – there’s always a drive to return to Bury Tomorrow even if they don’t always totally succeed at nailing down their best efforts, and Cannibal feels like one of their most complete culminations of that to date. This does feel like a fleshed-out album, more so than this band have delivered in years, and it’s really only the constant nudging of their own ambition that’s got them there. The execution was always on point, but now that the intent matches that across an entire body of work, Bury Tomorrow’s status among the metalcore elite feels more locked-in than it has in years. Granted, that seems to be said about every one of their albums with little payoff to match, but Cannibal feels different. This could really be the big one, and the fact that that’s been said six albums deep is proof enough that the long game is indeed paying off.
For fans of: Parkway Drive, Architects, While She Sleeps
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Cannibal’ by Bury Tomorrow is released on 3rd July on Music For Nations.