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The words Bring Me the Horizon and controversy aren’t particularly unfamiliar when used together. Whether it was being bottled on stage in their infancy, or performing on top of Coldplay’s table at the 2016 NME awards show, the Sheffield rockers seem to always find themselves in conversation.
However, more recently, this controversy has shifted towards the band's changing of styles. Now 15 years into their career, they’re on the opposite side of the spectrum from their deathcore origins, and have now proved they’re never going back—thanks to a dramatic shift in sound, and hugely experimental album, amo.
Providing you haven’t heard the singles, opener “i apologise if you feel something” might take you by surprise. It takes synths and electronics to the next level, with the familiar gritty riffs and raw tone nowhere to be seen. It builds to a brilliantly anthemic climax and is an excellent precursor of what’s to come.
From there, we get “MANTRA.” The heaviest song on the album, it’s an accessible rock song that centres around its energising chorus. The typically brilliant bass supplements the riffs perfectly, and show that you don’t have to go for pure noise to create something of substance. It’s cleverly laid out, and is a lot more polished than heavier songs on previous record That’s the Spirit. This is something people may look at as the band shedding their skin from their past, as they continue to pursue a more refined and meticulous style of rock.
A lot of people are bound to be upset that “MANTRA” is the most identifiable and quintessentially BMTH track on the record. With the greatest possible respect, though, this release isn’t for those people. It’s made for the band, and for those willing to grow with them. “nihilist blues” featuring the excellent Grimes has catchy vocals, an excellent deep house surface, and, despite being predominantly electronic, still has some hard-hitting moments (such as Nicholls’s drumming and the eerie midsection). It’s a bold risk that the label might have raised an eyebrow at, but if you can’t at least attempt to keep things fresh when you’re this far into life as a musician, what’s the point?
As we progress further to “ouch,” we see the Yorkshire natives are really going for their new genre-fusing style full-throttle. A short number written about Oli’s divorce, there isn’t a hint of traditional instrumentation to be heard, and the vocals are purely vocoded. It’s surprisingly memorable, exhibits the kind of slick beats Jordan Fish has helped add to the mix since his introduction to the band back in 2012, and in turn makes for an entertaining interlude.
Elsewhere on the album, “mother tongue” and “medicine” seem to be the commercial standouts, with the pop-fused electronics and more subtle drum-fills and riffs allowing for two radio-friendly efforts. They’re decent songs, and showoff Oli’s vocal improvement and refinement.
“sugar honey ice & tea” displays pace and energy, with the colourful Lee Malia guitar riffs soaring and the emphatically ballsy chorus making this an arena-built banger. It’s one of the better songs on the record, and something that is bound to gain its fair share of plaudits.
A real positive with this album is the diversity of styles. It may be deeply rooted in electronic, synth-heavy instrumentals, less-traditional vocals, and influences from completely outside the realm of rock, but it all works. There’s a real sense of intrigue to each passing song, and even the ones that might not hit a home run are in some ways tangibly captivating. In the same way, the lyrics remain as open and honest as ever, helping aid the listener into gaining perspective for the overall theme of the project.
The album highlight is “heavy metal.” Lyrically sublime, vocally superb, and instrumentally flawless, it’s everything modern BMTH should be. The bleeping synths, handclaps, and catchy hook will keep you coming back for more, and with each passing listen, you’ll discover something new. The lines “And I keep picking petals / I'm afraid you don't love me anymore / ‘Cause a kid on the 'gram in a Black Dahlia tank / Says it ain't heavy metal” are a hilarious response to the negative social media opinion with regards to a lot of Bring Me the Horizon’s recent work, and the final few seconds give gutsy, visceral screams as one final middle finger. It’s such a fantastically structured track, and one I’ll happily scream (sorry, sing) my lungs out to in a live setting.
The final offering, “I don’t know what to say,” a classically-composed song written about Oli’s childhood friend’s death, is truly touching. You can sense the emotion in the vocals, whilst the violins add a further melancholic feeling. It’s a poignant point to leave the album at, and a track that will no doubt become a favourite amongst fans of the band.
All in all, this album is fantastic. More of an art piece than an album, amo delivers on every front and shows the band's evolution in style tremendously. When you’re going to be bold, you may as well be this bold; and if you weren’t already aware by now, this Sheffield five-piece is equipped to take on the world.
Rating - 9/10