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July 20, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: “amo” ultimately succeeds despite various drawbacks

amo

Bring Me the Horizon

English rockers Bring Me The Horizon initially came into the music scene as a death metal band, but almost 12 years after the release of their debut LP, “Count Your Blessings,” they are far from their heavier beginnings.

Their 2015 album, “That’s The Spirit,” moved past their metalcore material and incorporated elements of alternative, pop and electronic rock into their sound. Their latest release, “amo,” embraces and continues to go along this route to create a record that is genre-defying — But this time, it does not flow as a cohesive piece.

The album’s Grammy-nominated single, “MANTRA,” is a promising start. It picks up right where “That’s The Spirit” left off by incorporating aggressive guitar riffs and complicated drums with bold lyrics about joining a cult. The bridge also gives a sneak preview for the next step in the group’s musical evolution by bringing in synthesizers and vivacious beats, which blends smoothly with an otherwise heavier song.

The next track, “nihilist blues,” shows that what may work for one song does not work for another. The use of synthesizers along with the heavy autotuning of frontman Oliver Sykes’ voice gives the song a haunting feeling, which fits with its pessimistic lyrics. However, the synths overpower the song, making it sound like something you would hear at a rave rather than a mosh pit. The addition of Grimes, a Canadian singer and producer, is also questionable. Her vocals sound incredibly robotic and out of tune with the rest of the instrumentals, and they offset what could have been an intriguing experimental track.

Other songs like “medicine” and “mother tongue” sound canned and pop-oriented to the point of being cringey and annoying. Though “medicine” incorporates groovy guitar riffs and a memorable hook, its lyrics are boring and bland. Verses like “You need a taste of your own medicine/ ‘Cause I’m sick to death of swallowing,” describe a desire for revenge, but they fail to connect on a deeper level because of the use of an everyday quote. “mother tongue” is arguably the worst song on this album, and likely the entire discography. Though the lyrics themselves are a touching tribute to Sykes’ wife, Brazilian model Alissa Salls, they are incredibly cheesy, and the chorus, complete with a generic drum beat and badly executed falsettos, could be easily mistaken as a half-baked, EDM version of Maroon 5.

The majority of the tracks that were not used as promotional singles showcase the group’s diversity in sound and lyrical ability. “sugar honey ice & tea” falls back on some of Bring Me The Horizon’s metal roots by including heavy guitar riffs and solos, a breakdown and even some screaming in the bridge. However, the real star of this song is Sykes’ vocals. During the chorus, Sykes’ vocals transition from a deep, rich bellow to delicate falsettos, showing off a vocal range that one usually would not expect from a traditionally unclean vocalist. “why you gotta kick me when i’m down?” is one of the best songs on this LP. Its lyrics — “Go ahead, bury me/This is how I grow, it’s how I thrive”) — are a giant middle finger to people who have criticized their recent alt-pop direction and a declaration that the band will continue making music for themselves. The powerful instrumentals present throughout the song add significantly to the brazen theme of the song. Though Sykes’ rapping at the beginning is a bit off-putting, it does not take away from the incredible bass drops and the incorporation of an orchestra and children’s choir, which layer to make this track addictive.

For “amo” to have brought in as many stylistic influences as it has and not completely fail at capturing each one is an impressive feat. While there are some tracks that are awkward swings-and-misses, Bring Me The Horizon has succeeded once again at bending their style in multiple different directions at once. Most of all, this album is a turning point for the band. Because they are not content with sticking to one style forever, Bring Me The Horizon has taken the opportunity to use the platform they have amassed to do whatever they want with their music. For that accomplishment alone, “amo” is a success.

Hannah Fitzpatrick can be reached at hfitzpatrick@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @HannahFitzpatr7