This week I'm going to do something a little bit different (a theme which will be running heavily throughout, as you'll soon see), and go right on ahead and do my first ever album review. And boy, what an album it is to be making my debut with.
I've been a fan of Bring Me The Horizon since 2010, when they were still very much what you might call an 'extreme metal' band. Since then, I've watched them grow and develop, through the Sempiternal era (which many still believe to be their creative zenith), into the band they defined themselves as with That's The Spirit, and now here we are with album number six: the ambitious, explorative, and frankly brave endeavour that is amo.
BMTH deserve a mountain of praise for even having the balls to do this album, never mind to have pulled it off with such finesse. It must be an incredibly fine line to walk between staying true to your own creative goals, and not alienating the people who allowed you to be in that position in the first place. It's certainly something frontman Oli Sykes has been wrestling with since they made the decision (consciously or otherwise) to depart from their roots, as is abundantly clear from the lyrical themes on several of the tracks off the new album.
But ultimately, you can't please everyone, so you should aim to please yourself. So many bands that came up with BMTH have been lost to the tides of obscurity because they were riding in the slipstream of the true pioneers of the era, which I truly believe is one of the main reasons that BMTH have not only managed to stay relevant, but to push themselves further than anyone ever could have thought possible when Count Your Blessings first assaulted our eardrums all those years ago (call me what you want, but I can't stand anything that came before Suicide Season, with the exception of course being the beautiful Fifteen Fathoms, Counting).
Anyway, let's do this!
Not so much a track as a palette cleanser to make us completely forget everything we thought we knew about BMTH, this opening epic was described by Oli & Jordan as more of a 'hymn' than a true track, which sonically feels like an apt way to describe it. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a Flume or ODESZA track with those opening vocal slices, but when those rapid 16ths and dark synths enter the mix, it becomes undeniably BMTH territory, especially if you've religiously watched the House of Wolves - Live from Wembley arena vid like I have (edit 2021: seems like this has been booted off youtube. Damn).
Although it seems unfair to judge this track as a full song, because it was never intended to be, my only criticism is that it wasn't treated as such. I feel like they missed a trick here by not having it properly kick in, and let it instead serve as a front door for MANTRA, because despite their claims that that's why this piece even existed in the first place, I think a stronger introduction to the album would have been a fully ramped up version of this track instead.
We were all already fully aware of what the new era of BMTH might sound like when MANTRA first arrived, but true to the band's intentions, it's not really a track that defines amo as a whole. It's certainly radio friendly, but I don't think that makes it cut any less, with blistering guitars and Matt's signature artillery-like drum grooves, and honestly it probably wouldn't have felt out of place on Sempiternal next to tracks like Sleepwalking or Go To Hell. I've loved this song since I first heard it, and amidst cries of 'why did you chaaaaange' from the hrdcxrrrrre fans, I'm actually taking a bit of smug pleasure in being able to enjoy this band growing and developing into ever-more sophisticated artists with each new iteration. The video is definitely worth a watch, with it's heavily Tarantino-inspired commentary on the designer wish-fulfilment that feels rampant in modern society.
Where MANTRA didn't feel entirely removed from earlier outings, nihilist blues is wholly unrecognisable. I think this is where those who can't decide if they like the new sound will finally make their minds up. For someone like me, who's developed a much stronger preference for electronic rather than heavy music seemingly in tandem with BMTH doing the same thing, it's an absolute dream come true. I was definitely expecting this to be a more grime-based track before I heard it (I didn't know Grimes wasn't a grime artist, which looking back would probably be a little bit too on-the-nose for an artist with any self-respect), so I was quite worried because I wholeheartedly believe that grime is the worst genre of them all (not sorry), but I was pleasantly surprised when it was far more Faithless than Stormzy.
The wall-of-sound drop, ethereal vocals and booming 808s are just everything I look for in a track, and it was such a pleasant surprise to have BMTH deliver exactly the sort of music I listen to these days without me having to ask them. It's definitely something I'll be dropping in DJ sets for a long time to come. If you're a fan of the usual sounds on this playlist, and you're not sure whether you want to dip a toe in the sonic world of BMTH, then nihilist blues should be your first port-of-call for making that decision.
I think this track is probably the weakest on the album. The opening vocal hook is pretty pedestrian for a band who are usually a lot more melodically sophisticated than that, but it does pick up into the pre-chorus with some characteristically clever word-play. The chorus carries a classic Lee Malia drilling guitar riff, without which this track might very well have fallen flat on it's arse. The true magic of this track happens in the harp-laden interlude, which honestly is a moment of musical purity, and it's just the perfect duration to feel fleeting and magical. Overall it's a fairly robust yet forgettable pop song, with a few redeeming qualities that keep it (just about) in line with the rest of the album.
This is another track we've already had for quite a while, and while it's not Pray For Plagues heavy, it definitely would have sat pretty on There Is A Hell next to the likes of Blacklist or Alligator Blood. What makes this track so special is that, despite getting closer to their old sound than any other track since Sempiternal, it's not just an over-indulgent heavy-fest, taking some unpredictable directions both in terms of raw melody (mainly with the chorus chord selection and progression) and sonically - you'd never have gotten a full brass section in the outro to Chelsea Smile now would you?
I'm still not sure about the inclusion of Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth though. I'm glad he didn't participate in full-form, which would definitely have been way too OTT, but he still feels a bit like a wasted opportunity to me. I'm just not sure his inclusion was something the song really needed to be honest. Glad to see he's doing well though, having not really listened to Cradle since Damnation And A Day back when I were a little goff kid.
ouch is a very interesting little half-song/interlude thingy (edit 2021: something that seems to be a recurring theme now we’ve also had POST HUMAN), and feels very much like Jordan completely unbridled. I don't like DNB as a rule (edit 2021: I do now), but there's no denying that this track is very pretty, and I think the idea that the drum machine behind this particular groove is Matt Nicholls is actually quite reassuring. It's probably not something you'll be adding to your playlist, but it's definitely enjoyable to listen to while it's on.
I very much didn't like this song when I first heard it, but that's only because the teaser they'd released a few days earlier had primed me for a very different type of track. Now that I've forgotten what I, in my INFINITE WISDOM, thought this track should have been, I can honestly say I'm in love with it. It's such a rush when it comes on on the radio in work, and I turn into such a little fanboi, telling everyone in the office that I liked this band before they were kewl (usually to a round of 'so what?' shrugs from anyone who's listening), but I guess that's just pride at having seen my boys come so far from where they were. Plus it wouldn't be a true BMTH album if it didn't have a Blacklist/Go To Hell For Heaven's Sake/True Friends-style betrayal anthem, albeit a much more positive iteration this time around.
With SHI&T, we're entering the stronger half of the album, as the musical motifs become more pronounced and it truly begins to find its voice - it's like with each passing track, amo gets more confident, and takes bolder strides toward its destination. sugar honey has a very Avalanche/What You Need vibe, with dirty fuzz bass from our boy Matty K, plucky little keys and an absolute juggernaut of an opening groove. I can't help but feel like we haven't really heard Matt Nicholls on this album until this track, and despite not hitting us with the same frenetic kind of displays as with the likes of It Never Ends, this is where he shows us he's still an absolute powerhouse of a drummer. I've actually come to much prefer his more understated, subtle drum-work, which is clearly a byproduct of the general progression the band have made, and respect to him for adapting - anyone who's ever been in a band with me will know that sometimes drummers have a hard time holding back...
If you liked Loyal by ODESZA when it was added to the list last year, then you'll be very much at home with why you gotta kick me. It's very much a trap track, with the heavy guitars being swapped out for dirty, apocalyptic brass, and those rapid-fire hats that are a staple of the genre coming to the fore. The chorus motif is incredibly emotive; melodic and dark, with the full extent to which Oli's vocal range has expanded finally being truly showcased. The brass definitely makes this track what it is, and I think there's a lot of visual space here for another cool af music video.
My only quibble is that the last 28s make absolutely no sense; it doesn't work in terms of the context of what's just come before it, nor does it link the previous track with the next to give it some kind of purpose in the broader sense of the composition. It just feels disjointed, like they'd forgotten about an audio clip that'd been pushed to the end of the project file. If you're going to do something like that, at least give it a point. It just felt like a bit of an oversight.
Sonically, fresh bruises is probably my favourite piece on the entire album. Those opening pads actually made me question for a second whether I'd accidentally hit shuffle on an ODESZA or RÜFÜS track, which is no criticism! This track has everything I love, all in one place. Dirty processed bass over a streamlined, grooving drum run that feels lighter than air, which all collides into a beautifully ethereal main hook? Pure brilliance. It reminded me instantly of Haunted, the Beyoncé track I added to the list early last year, carrying many of the same musical elements and that overall ghost-like quality that gives both tracks such incredible atmosphere. It was hard to decide between this and nihilist blues for a track to actually add to the list, but in the end I think that this one is most in line with the sound I'm building for the list, although there are a few tracks on this album that will probably get a run over the next few months. If you only listen to one piece from this new album, make sure it's this one.
This track is a pure, unashamed-of-itself love song, and honestly? It'll hit you right in the feels (edit 2021: right in the feels? Eugh). The chorus is a thing of pure beauty, with soaring strings and the strongest vocal performance from Oli on the entire album. It'll hit you in the heart and then stay there, and there's no doubt you'll be singing it over and over long after the final note rings out. So what if in places it gets a little Justin Bieber? Diplo made Justin cool anyway. Lyrically, it's a lot more sophisticated than your average homage to the romantic, and he even makes sure to get a bit of naughty wordplay in there (when you hear it, you won't unhear it, and I can't wait til that's getting played all over the radio). Honestly? Fuck anybody who cries about this track, because it's genuinely just a brilliantly-written, uplifting and wholesome piece of music.
Say want you want about this band, but there's no denying they possess an acute level of self-awareness. Oli has spoken a lot about feeling like no matter what they do, they're doing it wrong, which is definitely something I can relate to, and it's so refreshing to see them just confront the issue head on and say 'yeah, we hear you, things change and you need to deal with it.'
Honestly, BMTH are objectively a better band now than when they were a pure deathcore outfit, and I just don't agree with these people who really get so bitter over the fact they've expanded their musical vision so perfectly. I think it'd be a different story if they'd done so for the wrong reasons, but you can't listen to this music and not just feel that it's coming from a really honest place, a place where there's a true desire to create something that's worthy of feeling proud of. If there's a song that defines what BMTH are these days, it's this one, and if nothing else, the last five seconds will make you laugh out loud. This band got bollocks, man.
amo is most certainly a concept album, like That's The Spirit before it, and I think it does an incredible job of dealing with its subject matter, love, in a way that looks at all of its aspects in an honest and unflinching way. It certainly makes sense to end on such a bittersweet note with this last track, which addresses the final and most painful aspect of love, the loss of it. I think this is a track that really illustrates the experience of grief without holding back, and captures that feeling of speechlessness that so many of us are familiar with. Andrew, I think this is definitely one for the Grieve To list, as it's such a potent snapshot of that raw feeling of loss that very few of us know how to properly process within the limits of language. It's a very beautiful, touching, and emotional end to an absolute rollercoaster of an album, which in itself is the perfect metaphor to describe the journey.
Overall, I'm so happy this album exists. I don't use the phrase masterpiece sparingly, but this just feels like such an achievement that any other description wouldn't do it justice. These boys have worked some serious musical magic here, and if this is the direction their musical odyssey will continue to progress in, I think we've got a lot to look forward to on the horizon... d'you get it, because of horizon? Fuck off, I managed this entire review without one bad pun, I think I've achieved nearly as much in that feat alone as these guys have! No? Fine then...
If you find my work valuable, or you just really like my taste in music, then you can pay what you feel to support me on this journey. That's really all there is to it! Your support means I can focus more energy in this space, and continue the psychodynamic odyssey. All support is appreciated equally & emphatically
About the curator - Matt Jenko
Hi my name is Matt, but my friends call me Matt. I’m on the wrong side of 29 (damn I hate it every time I have to update that number), definitely feeling my age, but never felt happier and more content than I do at this point in my life. I’ve been through some rocky patches (who hasn’t) and lived to tell the tale, and boy do I gots some stories.
When I’m not giving opinions absolutely nobody asked for, I’m doing a worldbuilding with my passion project, vivaellipsis. If you like offbeat nonsense delivered through immersive escapism, then go and get involved. Or don’t, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m not yer boss.
I’m a simple man with simple interests. I like Yorkshire tea, the sound of rain on the window, and a bloody good story.