It’s not often that we put our cart before the horse with our Editor’s Picks and run a pick before we’ve had a chance to go more in-depth in a review, but SPOILERS: British rock act Bring Me The Horizon‘s latest record amo (sixth overall) wound up as my pick for January 2019, and as we never received a promo copy, we haven’t had much of a chance to dissect it and let its diverse sounds sink in at the point of publication in order to dedicate a formal review. At the time, I just knew that I liked it. A lot. Now, going on two weeks since release and the album spinning nearly nonstop, it has had the opportunity to sink its hooks in deeper.
Let’s start from the beginning: amo has proven to be a divisive and controversial record. Once credited with popularizing the deathcore genre with their debut full length Count Your Blessings in 2006, Bring Me The Horizon have since morphed through various metalcore sounds before flirting with alternative rock and nu metal on 2015’s That’s The Spirit (which I enjoyed greatly). The trajectory was such that amo was inevitable and ultimately unsurprising; Bring Me The Horizon’s stylistic evolution mirrored that of Linkin Park‘s and exist now as a pop rock act, and just like Linkin Park, the fanbase is divided on the sound. But unlike Linkin Park, Bring Me The Horizon have pulled it off by releasing their most creative, inspired, and engaging work to date.
To echo the play-by-play of the Editor’s Picks blurb, amo comes out swinging for the heart with the into track “i apologize if you feel something.” With its emphasis on haunting synth melodies and vocodor, it sets the stage for the larger-than-life production and razor-sharp songwriting. Followed up with the grooving and angsty “MANTRA” and later, “wonderful life,” sporting riffs that might as well have came from the hands of Limp Bizkit‘s Wes Borland, the blueprint comes together quickly.
Influences from pop and electronic dance music are what elevate amo to another plane from what the band have been doing in the past. “nihilist blues,” which features artpop artist Grimes, borrows heavily from cheesy Eurodance music from the 90’s and early 2000’s, with a dark and moody atmosphere cutting through the cliche synth tones. Late track “fresh bruises” utilizes a recurring vocal line shrouded in vocodor effects and showcases the band’s skill at crafting fascinating electronic instrumentals. These elements are near omnipresent across amo, contributing to some truly remarkable rock production, and put the band in the headspace to incorporate samples, strings, and horn sections to lift the songs to heights that might not have been reached had the association not been established.
amo does make grabs for the charts with pop tracks such as “medicine” and “mother tongue” which sound like All American Rejects and Coldplay respectively, but aren’t nearly as bad as either. Hip-hop influences aren’t completely off-limits, and work quite well on “heavy metal” which features guest vocals and beatboxing from former Roots member Rahzel. The incorporation of hip-hop to the wide array of influences on amo can be a bit sketchy, with vocalist Oli Sykes incorporating a triplet singing flow on “why you gotta kick me when i’m down” with an instrumental hinting towards SoundCloud-era trap music that doesn’t work quite as well as it could have otherwise, but kudos on the bravery of bridging that gap in a respectable way.
But there’s so much more to love on amo than to hate. The record is imperfect, but it’s far and away the act’s best record from start to finish. Let’s be honest, as a deathcore act, Bring Me The Horizon were mediocre at best, and as a metalcore band, they weren’t doing anything that Architects haven’t done better on Hollow Crown. On amo, it finally feels as though they’ve developed their own sound and niche bridging huge riffs and glitzy pop production in a way that is unique to Bring Me The Horizon, and while some may deride them for going pop, amo is undeniably risky and experimental for a band that became a household name by crafting extreme music.
Again, to echo the sentiments from the Editor’s Pick blurb, it’s important to make reference to the chorus of penultimate track “heavy metal,” which tackles the band’s transformation and fan backlash directly:
“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
(And that’s alright)”
This line is important, because it demonstrates the band’s mission statement of writing the music they want to write despite negative reaction. What’s more telling is that they immediately follow the final chorus with a tease towards deathcore with screaming vocals and a brief breakdown to show that they could play metal if they wanted to, and that they just don’t, implying that to do so would be truly selling out. It doesn’t matter if this record pulls more influence from Disclosure than death metal, it’s a fun record that needs to be appreciated for its sincerity, if nothing else. Fortunately, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Bring Me The Horizon’s amo is available now through Sony / RCA Records.