Some of the best video games of all time have stories and endings that don’t require only one path to the goal. Take, for instance, a game like Fallout: New Vegas. Depending on what factions you align with and the choices you make, your perceived performance might vary.
Not every rise to fame is linear for artists, either. Just ask Bad Omens, who, shortly after the release of their third album The Death Of Peace Of Mind, grew their fanbase exponentially. On their first two album cycles, the band’s growth was slower but very steady in all facets, as the tours they were opening for or supporting quickly gained them name recognition. That perceived meteoric rise was actually the product of years of work behind the scenes (and under the microscope).
While those who were paying close attention to the band on their first and second records probably weren’t terribly surprised at the direction they started to head in, the hints were indeed there all along. Even on their self-titled debut album, strong hints at more accessibility to appeal to a wider audience were scattered about. Closing track “The Fountain” (which might be the “Just Pretend” of that album, given its structure and emotional payoff) is almost a dead ringer for the territory they’d explore soon after, while early singles “Exit Wounds” and “Glass Houses” have massive hooks in the choruses, and memorable lyrics that accentuate a fairly standard metalcore sound (at the time, anyway). To be honest, the chorus on “F E R A L” is jaw-dropping, and it still remains one of their best songs overall. Given most of their tours are headlining ones at this point, it deserves to be a live staple.
On Finding God Before God Finds Me, though, things got really dramatic. While it’s somewhat of a continuation of the sound found on their self-titled debut, improved songwriting and some stylistic branching out set the table for the success that was to come. Unsurprisingly, much of that branching out involved songwriting and melodies that had more of a pop influence than anything else. That doesn’t mean that songs like “Limits” (released on the Deluxe version of the album in 2020) and “Burning Out” didn’t have enough catchy guitar edge to suit their growing audience and “day one” fanbase. Meanwhile, live staples “Dethrone” and “Careful What You Wish For” showed that Bad Omens both hadn’t forgotten how to write a song that was over-the-top heavy, as well as strongly hinting at the arena-ready choruses that had by then become second nature to them.
It’s impossible to discuss anything related to Bad Omens without addressing massive hit single “Just Pretend”, which is actually one of the biggest rock songs of the last few years. Despite not actually being released as a single from the album until after the record (when it released to radio), it’s reached almost 150 million Spotify streams in just under two years, while also getting a Gold certification from the RIAA earlier this year. A Platinum one won’t be far behind either, really, and several of the band’s other songs are close to Gold as well (including the album’s title track and “Like A Villain”, just to name two).
The Death Of Peace Of Mind is also notable for just how much content Bad Omens throws at the listener at once. It is, after all, a 15-track behemoth that throws the kitchen sink (and then some). The video game equivalent might be when Mortal Kombat character Kitana unveils her seemingly narrow steel fans to be actually much wider than they are, whereas Bad Omens throw industrial influences (like the Health + NIN-inspired “What do you want from me?”), the Doom-flavored “Artificial Suicide”, and more pop/R&B influences into songs like “bad decisions” and “Who are you?”. This also helps to explain the album’s wide-ranging appeal, and partially its overall success as well.
The album’s success (and by product, the band’s) provides many possible paths forward as well. Speaking specifically in terms of musical genre, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see (well, hear) new influences arrived with highly-anticipated new music. However, Bad Omens have always been skilled at not forgetting their metalcore past – while still taking their identity and throwing it in almost any direction they choose. While many critics didn’t exactly have Bad Omens reaching the heights they have now, said critics are probably eating their words as well.