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Speaking about their newest record ‘Amo‘, Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes described the inspiration for it’s title as being about the complexity of love. Regarding this, the singer shared that:
“Obviously ‘Amo’ is Portuguese for ‘I love’, obviously there’s the ammunition part and then in European Portuguese, it means ‘master’. It sounds happy, but there are all [of] these hidden meanings…“
In this context, it makes sense to analyse this record in terms of how it fits into that concept, rather than disconnecting the individual pieces from the wider whole. Sykes proves this when he even apologises on the album’s atmospheric, high-pitched preface, opener ‘I Apologise If You Feel Something‘; that if this release makes you “feel something”, just know that it’s intended to be heard as a personal narrative reflecting upon his last few years (“please remember it is mine“).
The first type of love that Sykes chooses to talk about is a controlling one, where ‘Amo‘ becomes centred around that idea of “master”. Speaking to the more traditional-BMTH-of-late first single ‘Mantra‘, Sykes once described how the song visualises love as like a cult; one where your blind faith forces you to give parts of yourself over to someone else. In a rock-driven, semi-metalcore-informed expression of said concept, ‘Mantra‘ musically inducts new and old fans into the complicated truth of ‘Amo‘. Even with Lee Malia’s lower octave riffage and the playful Brit-rock nature of ‘Wonderful Life‘ acting as a metaphor for waste (a track that guest stars Dani Filth) coming soon afterwards, it’s lucky ‘Mantra‘ is the album’s second track chronologically speaking. As it goes down right before shit gets potentially very alienating in terms of sound.
For on the next track, ‘Nihilist Blues‘, which surprisingly features Grimes, you leave the realm of Rock AM Ring to enter that of an an EDM festival, in an output that I can only classify as “dark rave”. Thankfully, it truly feels like an equal collaboration between the two artists; it seems like Grimes didn’t just receive an empty instrumental to then lay down some vocal arrangements over the top of. There’s real chemistry and proper collaboration going on here. With a solid synth breakdown and some real instruments entering the party to realign the song to the rest of the album, Grimes and Sykes play nicely off one another: “lost in a labyrinth” together, as it were.
Once you exit that maze of sounds, you move onto the “love as ammunition” section of the record. Here, Sykes comes out for blood, constantly referring to his messy and relatively public divorce that he experienced between 2015’s ‘That’s The Spirit‘ and now. Drawing inspiration from pop artists like 5 Seconds of Summer (I’m not even shitting you here) on ‘In the Dark‘, ‘Ouch‘ and ‘Medicine‘, the frontman details a sequel of sorts to the story told in their previous love song, the banging ‘Follow You‘. For instance, we hear him sing, “I know I said I was under your spell” on ‘Ouch‘, before following it up with, “but this hex is on another level/I know I said you could drag me through hell but I hoped you wouldn’t fuck the devil“. Ouch, and potentially offensive, indeed! Spiteful, ex-hating pop-music songwriting aside, it’s catchy enough for you not to care about the fact that it sounds like it could happily belong on a Zayn Malik record. (Please note: the review version we heard is a little different from the album’s full version).
Nevertheless, ‘Amo‘ feels like you’re hearing something that wasn’t really ever meant for your eyes. Despite the album hiding some of its darkness with a relatively upbeat, pop-friendly shine – every now and then, heavier instruments are thrown in for good measure and some decent career continuity too – as well as some cheekiness (‘Sugar Honey Ice & Tea‘ is code word for “SHIT”). At times, it’s honestly like Bring Me the Horizon are covering an old Avril Lavigne record. In that regard, do check out the recently dropped pop-hit ‘Medicine‘: “watch me take the wheel like you/not feel like you/act like nothing’s real like you“.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Sykes, who on the extremely cringeworthy ‘Mother Tongue‘, appears to have fallen in love again. During this track, he spends his time “gushing” to the listener, penning these really sappy, lovey-dovey lyrics that make me visibly cringe throughout. While I am sincerely glad that the leading man of BMTH can move on from that heartbreak and rediscover love with another person, this loathsome, pop-ballad clusterfuck genuinely makes me feel nauseous. Especially with the awkward Portuguese thrown in as Sykes begs his love interest to “speak love” – the direct translation of “fala amo” in English – instead of just saying it which… doesn’t make a lot of sense. Your own mileage may vary, but you have been warned.
Despite the odd rock number and occasional heavy moment, the fact is that a good chunk of ‘Amo‘ is rave and pop influenced. Based on that, and knowing their fan-base well enough, Sykes and his four squad mates – including backing vocalist, keyboardist, percussionist, producer and the man who pretty much saved this band, Jordan Fish – certainly should be expecting some backlash from some of these new additions.
Yet they pre-emptively hit that defensive hard, directly talking to said expectation during ‘Heavy Metal‘. Much like ‘Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down‘ before it in the track-listing, Sykes represents feelings of betrayal in a musically heavier manner, but only to hammer home the middle finger he’s sticking to their critics. On fan love, Sykes expresses his fear that fans won’t care for him anymore, fans that he loved like daughters and sons, stating: “’cause a kid on the ‘gram in a Black Dahlia tank says it ain’t heavy metal“. For an added fuck-you, this song features the world renowned beatboxer Rahzel, because how dare you tell Oliver Sykes to go back to writing like he did on ‘Suicide Season‘! The Comedown‘, ‘Chelsea Smile‘, ‘The Sadness Will Never End‘, and ‘It Was Written in Blood‘ are all good songs, but that was then, and this is now. [Some of those older songs have aged poorly though. -Ed]. Ironically but of course also intentionally, ‘Heavy Metal‘ is the heaviest song on the record, with Sykes dropping in some unclean vocals to give older fans exactly what they’ve been asking for, yet now he’s shoving it right back in their faces. Turning their online hate into a song? Easy done.
Of course, there are some outliers from the major groupings on ‘Amo‘, including the record’s closer, ‘I Don’t Know What to Say‘, which is an orchestra-meets-metal piece. Informed by something even more personal – written about a friend of Oli’s, Aidan, who passed away to cancer and the strength the frontman’s childhood mate showed in his battle with cancer – and is less expected than anything BMTH have previously done. Yet it’s so fucking emotional, this celebration of someone that the singer loved, that it hits you damned hard.
Like all of their records, ‘Amo’ is another progression for Bring Me The Horizon, seeing the band chart into newer territory. But because of the way the album is structured, it’s not all that dramatic. If you’ve grown up into adulthood and transitioned out of your metalcore-all-of-the-time phase, then the poppier, alternative-electronic influences on this latest BMTH LP will feel relevant and welcome. The fact that Sykes addresses bullshit fan criticism and his messy divorce should feel victorious, though this does level the record down to being a somewhat spiteful offering with limited emotional maturity. In that sense, ‘Amo’ might not be as complex or as vulnerable as ‘Sempiternal’ and other works of BMTH’s were (and still are), but it’s a solid step forward for a band that deserves to express themselves in the way that they personally wish to. Having said all of this, when it comes down to the wire, none of it really matters. Because even if you hate this record to the ends of the earth, the joke’s on you. You won’t be forgetting ‘Amo’ anytime soon because it’s catchy as fuck!
1. I Apologise If You Feel Something
3. Nihilist Blues (feat. Grimes)
4. In the Dark
5. Wonderful Life (feat. Dani Filth)
8. Sugar Honey Ice & Tea
9. Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down?
10. Fresh Bruises [interlude]
11. Mother Tongue
12. Heavy Metal (feat. Rahzel)
13. I Don’t Know What to Say
‘Amo’ is out January 25th. Get tickets for their 2019 Australian tour here.