If there’s one thing Bring Me The Horizon is owed, it’s respect. While plenty of new albums suffer from a symptom of sameness, BMTH bring us amo, an album that couldn’t feel further from their deathcore roots. Still, this wasn’t a drastic shift (the opposite end of the same complaint), the band has been inching towards this change since their deathcore opus Suicide Season. Following 2015’s That’s The Spirit, the band’s crossover into the mainstream shouldn’t come as any surprise; seeing as that was a nu-metal/hard rock record, BMTH coming out with a hard rock/pop album seemed to be the next step. Now that the band wants to swing for the big leagues, the UK band find shaky ground to establish themselves on.
What’s most important to establish is that BMTH is still a rock band. While it’s easy to claim they’ve sold out, there is still a metal flare that sparks amo. While the band draws large amounts of influence from ambient art-pop, the band add driving guitars. The most apt comparisons are Muse or Imagine Dragons, but amo doesn’t feel like it’s overly ambitious or sickeningly bland. It opens with a balladesque, almost a capella sound experiment before going into the swaggering “MANTRA.” As Tom Morello-inspired guitars pound throughout the song, Oliver Sykes croons and screams over the song with the confidence of Kanye West. Sykes can still yell; even if he’s not going scream for scream with a track like “Chelsea Smile,” the same voice is still in there. He lets his voice get slightly distorted on songs like “Medicine,” but he really shows the band’s roots on a song like “Wonderful Life,” a full-blown rock song. It’s almost like a more macabre take on hair metal. When the band lets samples and synthesizers take the lead instrumentation, drummer Matt Nicholls often brings animalistic drumming to propel songs forwards.
What’s interesting is how jumpy the album is yet it never feels entirely out of place. Songs like “Wonderful Life” or “Sugar Honey Ice & Tea” serve to bridge some gap between BMTH’s rock and metal roots, but songs like “Nihilist Blues” and “Medicine” are made-for-radio signed and sealed pop music. These songs never sound out of place, mainly because the band do bring the same veracity to the performance of songs that bring Sykes to the forefront as songs that feature the band as a whole. It’s the versatility that makes the songs work, and to their credit, the band don’t care about alienating their fanbase. On the album’s highlight “Heavy Metal,” Sykes sings, “Some kid on the ‘gram said he used to be fan/but this shit ain’t heavy metal.” It’s a rapper’s ego with deathcore screams. The fact that the band really are unafraid to shoot for the moon and try to make a pop-rock record that appeals to them makes it cohesive.
As amo is ambitious and cohesive, BMTH don’t really do anything worth revisiting throughout the album. While it does provide a breath of fresh air to see a band making heavier, slightly more abrasive pop-rock, it suffers from a certain level of gelatinous tedium. Part of the reason why the album flows seamlessly is because there isn’t much distinguishing the songs from each other. Grimes or Dani Filth don’t even really provide stand out performances as features. Any interesting ideas are too brief to really be appreciated. At the end of the day, this is a very ambitious, well-produced boring record.
While Bring Me The Horizon don’t really reinvent the wheel in either the rock or pop genres, the band show they can create hard rock with a pop-sensibility or pop with a rock edge. Even if most of amo is unexciting, the band still deserves to be commended for presenting the scope of which level modern rock can exist. We don’t need to settle for overblown, lifeless electro-arena rock from Imagine Dragons; Oliver Sykes’ emotionality is something to be admired. There is a human element to amo that pop rock often lacks.