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Review: "amo" by Bring Me The Horizon

by Mitchell Griffin

The Sheffield, England metal band rock band sellouts  band has stormed back with a powerful album inspired by love and heartbreak, putting their incredible ability to constantly evolve on display once again.

Depending on who you ask, Bring Me the Horizon are either stars in their prime with an exciting and unique blend of alt-rock, metal, and pop, or a group of sellouts who ditched their metal roots for mainstream fame. The answer? It’s not that complicated.

Bring Me The Horizon’s album cover, “amo.”  Courtesy of Colombia Records Group.

Bring Me The Horizon’s album cover, “amo.” Courtesy of Colombia Records Group.

Their newest album “amo” takes its name from the Portuguese word for love and thematically doubles with its pronounciation of “ammo.” It explores the all-consuming nature of love and heartbreak, inspired by lead singer Oli Sykes’ abrupt divorce and remarriage that consumed much of his life after the release of their last album. This new album is a bold experimentation in genre-bending music, and some fans who are criticizing “amo” for being more “proof” of selling-out simply aren’t appreciating what is in front of them (have the same ones that only want more metal records really forgotten they also produced an insane version of “Suicide Season” that remixed every song along with help from the likes of Skrillex and Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes?). Yes, the album does feature Grimes and a beatboxer you probably have never heard of. Yes, the influence of pop and electronic music is much stronger than ever before. Yet the album still features heavier songs like “wonderful life” and Grammy-nominated “MANTRA” with vocals and instrumentals reminiscent of their hardcore past throughout the album. BMTH knew that drawing disappointment from dedicated followers would be inevitable. This was the impetus for writing the song “heavy metal,” a track that mixes beatboxing with pop-heavy lyrics over the metal bass lines that laments fans quitting on them because they had the audacity to produce something other than metalcore.

Plenty of “original” Bring Me the Horizon fans, from the days when frontman Oli Sykes unleashed his screams into tracks that were both equally explosive and emotional, have been less than thrilled with BMTH’s last two albums. After 2013’s award-winning album “Sempiternal,” arguably the best album of its genre for the decade, the band departed from the metalcore sound that launched their success to slightly more radio-friendly tunes with stronger pop and alt-rock influences. The addition of Jordan Fish to the band in 2012 helped the band produce their greatest commercial successes along with a sound in their recent records that is unlike anything found in their past—a risk that has shown to be as gutsy as it was prolific.

“And I keep picking petals / I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore”

Even though I no longer agree with the disdain directed at the band, I really do understand how other fans felt over three years ago with “That’s the Spirit” and now with “amo.” We fall in love with a certain type of music from a certain type of band, and when our own expectations aren’t met, we get cranky. The first time I listened to “That’s the Spirit” in its entirety, which was the first thing I did on the morning of its release date, I wasn’t overly impressed. I was ready to sulk over the evil shift toward mainstream elements of rock and, to a lesser degree, pop music. I instantly fell in love with the anthemic opening track “Doomed” and enjoyed the first singles, but it took several times through to actually appreciate the album as a whole. Understanding the artistic leaps the group was actually making didn’t happen right away, but eventually they were unmistakable. I didn’t think the album was heavy enough, but I soon realized the “That’s The Spirit” was still closer to metal than anything else despite the departure being obvious.

Bring Me the Horizon put their reputation on the line by making such an ambitious shift but it wasn’t at all surprising. They’ve been doing this all along. BMTH has made tremendous creative leaps with every album. After attacks from critics and not much of a following beyond British metalheads and their MySpace followers, they ditched the deathcore scene almost entirely with their second album “Suicide Season” in 2008. While the screaming remained, it was now much more intelligible lyrically and the musical elements were more polished and varied than the ugly monotony of “Count Your Blessings.” The following years saw the band continue their dive into darkly melodic records that began their blending of classical music with hard-hitting riffs and crushing vocals. While the constant need for artistic exploration has guided BMTH away from metal, amo isn’t a shocking deviation. The culmination of change has given us an album that is their most eclectic and genre-bending yet. All we have to do is listen.