Bring Me The Horizon- Amo Review

Continuing on their experimental streak started on 2015’s That’s The Spirit, Bring Me The Horizon came back this year with their LP Amo, described by singer Oli Sykes as “a love album that explores every aspect of that most powerful emotion”. With the decline of the metalcore and emo genres since the end of the 2000s, it was only wise that BMTH branch out from the original sound that brought them fame and explore new dimensions; particularly with the rise of EDM in the decade since.

As far as lyrical content goes, It is worth noting that many moons prior after the release of Count Your Blessings, Oli addressed criticism that his lyrics concentrated too much on themes such as heartbreak by stating “My life’s never been that bad so I’ve not got that much to talk about.” Given the concept of this record, The most pressing question with this latest release is whether this is more of the same, or Sykes and his boys have managed to evolve into a newer, mature form.

First track: “i apologize if you feel something.” Right away it’s clear that this is a far cry from what the band started out as- where once was down-tuned, crunching guitars there are now atmospheric, bending synths standing on their own as if in an isolated chamber of light and sound. Sykes comes in with dark, entrancing vocals leading up to a powerful electronic explosion in the song’s latter half: “I saw you staring out of your own abyss again/Waiting for something you’re not sure even still exists/Don’t be afraid to wonder, don’t be afraid to be scared/It should never be a prison.” It’s a song you can lyrically and sonically get lost in and explore, and definitely a solid opener for a record full of promise.

The next track, “MANTRA” picks up the pace and features the opening phrase advertised on shirts and posters in advance of the album’s release: “Do you want to start a cult with me?” Lyrically, it appears to takes aim at the airy-fairy philosophy of New Age thought, or more radically, literal cult thought that exploits people’s need for purpose and hope. Musically, it comes off as a hybrid between Royal Blood’s punching grit and Nine Inch Nails’ razor-edged industrialism, pushing forward with innovation while retaining an adequate amount of aughts-era angst so BMTH doesn’t utterly lose its identity in this new phase of experimentation.

The guest features start with “nihilist blues”, assisted by Canadian producer/singer Grimes. The song traces back to the electronic elements the album began with, detailing a grapple with existential meaninglessness while trying to transcend towards utopian realization. At the most active moments in the song, the dark, overwhelming wall of synth feels quite fittingly as though it’s pulsating towards the heavens, a stellar audio stimulant for any psychoactive-inclined listeners in pursuit of Huxleyan dances with higher consciousness.

“in the dark” starts on a similar, elevating note before descending into more standard pop fare; demonstrating commercial appeal in the midst of exploration and continuing the themes of spiritual and existential desparation: “I’m not looking for salvation/Just a little faith in anyone or anything.” Conversely, “wonderful life” featuring Dani Filth dives right back into Suicide Season-esque metalcore and almost seems to give up the quest for spiritual elevation for outright fuckitallism and self-pity: “Nobody cares if I’m dead or alive/Oh what a wonderful life.” If not for the melodrama (it is emo, but still) and out of place horn section at the end, it very well could have been an A1 track.

Onward: “ouch” snaps Amo back into its experimental form, featuring some impressive drum/percussion work by Matt Nicholls and an overall watch-the-world-go-by electronic vibe that allows for some venting on Sykes’ (or whoever’s doing these vocals) part to address the alleged infidelity that ended his marriage with model Hannah Pixie Snowdon. Playing further on the sharp conceptual contrasts of the album, “Medicine” swings far popward to the point of sounding like 5 Seconds Of Summer with more guitar. One wonders with sounds this strongly commercial coming from the most famous angst merchants the aughts had to offer how the many Hot Topic dwellers that grew up on them are feeling listening to it- if they’re even still listening.

For those that are, “sugar honey ice & tea” offers some classic BMTH flavour mixed in with some of the Royal Blood vibes touched upon in Track 2. “Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down,” not so much, but nevertheless interesting- veering completely away from any sort of rock, hardcore or metal influence straight into 2010s hip hop; trap hats, chopper flow and all, another power tune leading straight to a chorus laden in bass drops. While the love-centred concepts flow nicely into each other from song to song, the contrasts between genres on Amo almost seem a bit too sharp between tracks for comfort. The boldness is appreciated, but a bit of smoothing of the transitional edges would serve some good.

Well, maybe it’s too soon to speak: “fresh bruises” is a straight-forward hip hop/electronic hybrid with an infectious groove, a track that’s nearly instrumental spare the repeated lyric “Don’t you try to fuck with me/Don’t you hide your love.” Once again, the encompassing drear of “fresh bruises” gives away very sharply to the pre-packaged pop sterility of “mother tongue”. In comparison to the drop-tuned smashing of “wonderful life” or really the thematics of most tracks on this album for this matter, this particular number sticks out like a sore thumb. The earlier nihilism and clawing for any sort of meaning gives way to hope and newfound joy: “I’m sorry, but you got me gushing all over the place/I never wanna get wet/But I think we’re chosen like our paths were woven.” Its indistinguishability from any modern pop radio song really makes it the most un-BMTH song possibly to date, so make of that what you will.

It isn’t like Sykes and co. weren’t aware of the polarized reaction this shift would bring about: “heavy metal”, featuring ex-Roots beatboxer Rahzel plainly addresses the fans expressing derision that they weren’t “heavy metal” anymore, and owning it personally that no, “this shit ain’t heavy metal.” Of course, the majority of metal puritans have never considered BMTH heavy metal at any point in time, but that’s besides the point: “i don’t know what to say” then closes the record out with a blast of electrics, acoustics and digital sounds alike, bringing all of the elements rolled out on Amo into one in the end to say yes, this is a new leaf, and no, it may not be heavy metal, but we are not going to be veering away from it.

All in all, it is refreshing for a band formerly derided as one-dimensional and shallow to expand into new territory. It does sound a bit scattered and too sharply contrasted between one sonic experiment to the other, but that is expected of a band in the midst of reinventing itself. Not everyone can pull off a testing of the waters as smoothly as it sounds here either. It doesn’t sound a lot like the pathetic wrist-cutting stereotype that bands of Bring Me The Horizon’s ilk have accrued, and for the better they’re moving away from it. Nevertheless, they necessarily keep some piece of their foundation intact while embarking on this new journey to God-knows-where, and it will be exciting to see whatever comes of them in the coming decade.

RATING: 3.75/5