It’s never too late to be what you might have been. Sometimes you just need a push to take the plunge. Few people would be greater advocates for this truth than Bury Tomorrow.
Faced 18 months ago, following a period of external and internal strife, with the very real reality that it might be time to pack up their successes and close the book on a storied career of 15 years, with their hands forced and backs to the wall Bury Tomorrow instead picked up fate’s gauntlet and set about writing the chapter they had always imagined.
Today, new album The Seventh Sun stands as testament to the bonds and belief required to shape themselves a new reality, a new sound, and a new future.
“The conversations around our future were very real,” vocalist Dani Winter-Bates offers today. It was never meant to be this way, of course. Belatedly released during the uncertain first wave of the COVID pandemic in June 2020, sixth album Cannibal nonetheless marked a commercial and critical high point for the band, charting in the UK’s Top 10 and at number three in Germany and helping tip the band over the career-to-date 200 million stream landmark. Yet shorn of the ability to properly celebrate its release and accomplishments, let alone stand on stage to perform it, for guitarist Kristan Dawson the songs that comprised Cannibal “never really came to their fullest life”. For perpetual road dogs, now shackled at home Bury Tomorrow for the first time felt the frustrating directionless of limbo that affected so many artists the world over. Perhaps it was no surprise when, soon enough, conversations concluded that the band would be parting with founding guitarist/vocalist Jason Cameron in the summer of 2021.
And so with nowhere to hide from urgent questions about their future – “Do we walk away? Do we start something new? Do we continue on, however that may work?” as Winter-Bates assesses – necessity hit. Turns out that it is not only the mother of invention, but reinvention, too. “I feel like we all knew what Bury Tomorrow was, at least musically, but I also felt we had become quite set in our ways,” picks up Dawson. “We had long had the desire to push the boundaries and not write to what Bury Tomorrow had become. I think in that moment I felt like Bury Tomorrow could actually become what we always hoped the initial blueprint for this band would be. It was never about becoming a different band, but pushing the boundaries of what our band could be.”
“That was very freeing,” adds Winter-Bates. “Because if we were going to continue with Bury Tomorrow, we knew we were doing it by choice, not because of a feeling that we had to. We had to look internally at what Bury Tomorrow was. We knew that if it was to continue, we couldn’t simply replicate what the band had been. We had to reset with a different outlook, and a different sense of being.”
A different line-up, too. In Cameron’s sole place, enter both vocalist/keyboardist Tom Prendergast and guitarist Ed Hartwell: a division of labour that would allow a greater focus not only on maximising individual talents, but collectively expanding them, too. Both Winter-Bates and Dawson can speak no higher of their friends than they do, waxing lyrical not only over their technical prowess and dexterity, but of a fresh perspective, energy and freedom they helped instil in a previously well-oiled but highly structured metalcore songwriting machine.
“It was really just letting ourselves say, ‘What best serves the songs we’re writing?’” Winter-Bates explains of this fundamentally retooled approach as a newly formed six-piece – completed by Bury Tomorrow stalwarts Davyd Winter-Bates (bass) and Adam Jackson (drums). “‘Is it a good song? Or is it a good metalcore song?’ Because actually we want to write great songs. That isn’t turning our back on metalcore. But I think if we’re only striving to be a really great metalcore band, we are you doing ourself a disservice. We created genres so you can transcend out of those genres.”
If standalone singles Death (Ever Colder) and Life (Paradise Denied), released little over a month apart earlier this year, gave a first glimpse at what lay instore, then The Seventh Sun amounts to the glorious arrival at a destination in this new era. Not Bury Tomorrow’s final destination, either, you must understand – but one that both perfectly encapsulates their revivified present while offering further tantalising hints at an unwritten future.
This is no beast tamed, but rather one with its teeth and claws sharpened, intent on killing with targeted precision rather than with overwhelming bludgeoning. Refocused yet no more restrained, The Seventh Sun’s expanded sonic palette platforms sky-high melodies, layered with textured atmosphere, cloaking an underlying savagery.
Convening once more with producer Dan Weller (a collaboration that bore fruit on both Cannibal and its predecessor, 2018’s Black Flame, and gave, in Winter-Bates’ words, a “consistency and [grounding] in what we are good at and what we can be better at”), at his Middle Farm Studios, the band’s only conscious creative decision leading into The Seventh Sun was, as Winter-Bates nods, “not being limited by formulas.” “Rather than writing to a template, we allowed our writing to take us along to where the song was headed,” he says.
“Metalcore is ingrained into my writing. But I feel that this time, I could be inspired by different things,” Dawson agrees. Names as diverse as Bjork, Sepultura, Korn and Thrice are namechecked in quick succession, as is the ‘90s trance music on which the guitarist grew up. Majesty – a piano-led ballad that sits at the heart of the album – began life as an acoustic sketch by Dawson and Prendergast (and described by Winter-Bates as “so good that I told Tom he couldn’t join the band unless he brought that song with him.) In dissecting The Carcass King, meanwhile, Winter-Bates references Slipknot, 30 Seconds To Mars and even the Waltz. The song also introduces the first female vocals to ever appear on a Bury Tomorrow track, courtesy of Cody Frost.
Winter-Bates points to that song as indicative of the new spirit that surrounded the sessions; one of collaboration and confidence-building support, where no idea or feedback was off-limits and leaps into the unknown – alongside avenues that felt at times almost regressively familiar for the album’s forward-facing vision – were embraced with reassuring unity. “It’s about being proud of the instrument that you control, but equally not having that ego to put a stamp on other people’s creative journey,” the frontman posits. “It’s freeing when you don’t say no to an idea based on a preconception of what we should or could be. You write best when it’s cohesive and people feel able to trust each other to really put their best foot forward.”
The results are audible across The Seventh Sun. With Dawson and Hartwell being friends outside of the band, the innate ease with which the former’s leads coalesce with his new sparring partner’s rhythms should perhaps come as no surprise, yet both accentuate and spotlight each other’s abilities. Conversely, Prendergast and Winter-Bates had no such prior relationship on which to build one professionally, yet the dynamism of the newcomer’s abilities brings new range and character to Bury Tomorrow, while further driving some of Winter-Bates’ most ferocious performances ever. Perhaps for the first time, the duelling vocals of Bury Tomorrow sound not in competition with each other, but exist as one unified entity – differing sides of the same coin, contrasting shades of the same one voice.
That interplay, too, allowed Winter-Bates to stretch himself as a songwriter, tap into his passion for the cadence of poetry, and draw from vocal influences ranging from La Dispute’s Jordan Dreyer to Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and The Black Dahlia Murder’s much-missed Trevor Strnad.
With Cannibal’s lyrical content focused solely on an introspective look at the frontman’s journey with his mental health, on The Seventh Sun Winter-Bates took the learnings of such personal songwriting and sought to turn them outwards. “A lot of the themes of the record are actually thinking about the band again; it’s really reflecting on where we are at and our place in society,” he begins. “Every single theme as you go to the album will be about a different concept of operating in chaos, whether that is the destruction and the rebuilding, whether that is resetting the clock, beginning again.
“It’d be really easy to dwell in the darkness and sit there and be like, ‘The world is fucked, everything is destroyed.’ But what do we do? We somehow have to operate in that chaos.
“Recovery is an interesting song to me, because it is the most similar to Cannibal: an introspective look of my own mental health once again. But it asks the question of how I can live in such chaos – what is recovery, then, if I’m going to live with this forever? The Carcass King is another: this is life, this is where we are, we have to operate like this we have to move forward like this. It’s a demi theme almost, a thematic feel that you’ll be able to sense through the record. You’ll have moments of like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got this’; you’ll have other moments where things seem overwhelmingly hard. And then you’ll have other moments, like Forced Divide, which is pure anger. The Seventh Sun [the title track] is savage, but you know what, sometimes life is savage.”
Elsewhere, Care – the arena-ready album-closer described by Dawson as “showing us what we needed to do to make Bury Tomorrow musically different” – finds Winter-Bates “[looking] back at when we have reached out for help and support and been slapped to the ground; it calls out the behaviours of others”. Begin Again ruminates on how “we have the control and ability to reset time, to turn around a path we are on – you are in control of your own destiny”, and Wrath “is about dealing with loss. It’s understanding that whilst death hurts, we live on in memories and the actions of those we’ve influenced.”
The thematic threads weaved through The Seventh Sun are met in kind by a throughline that musically stitches together each of its 12 tracks – an idea that Dawson has sought to execute for years. “Every single song sets up the next part of the record,” he reveals. “I wanted it to feel like a one long body of work.” In doing so, the album takes on its own kind its own sonic story-telling. “I feel like I was musically at where Dan was at lyrically,” Dawson suggests.
All of this combines, as Winter-Bates asserts, to exhibit “the best version of Bury Tomorrow people will have heard.” Positivity, and possibility, now seems boundless, where not so long ago doubts persisted. “That is as much to do with Tom and Ed joining the band as it is about the rest of us,” Dawson notes. “I think we’d convinced ourselves at times that we weren’t friends, when actually, we’re family. You can’t have this sort of life experience and not be and not be as emotionally connected to each other as we are.”
The guitarist points to the album’s numerical title. “You know, there is something in the number seven that is very representative of change. There’s a renewal aspect to it – seven days in a week, seven hells, and so forth. And on our seventh album, that’s the case for us, too. I hope fans hear how much we appreciate the opportunity we have to make music for them. It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our love for, put our stamp on, and represent UK metal. What a privilege that is for us, and we’re ready to prove that we’re doing everything for those right reasons.”