With Count Your Blessings, an album the band has tried hard to distance itself from since its release in 2006, Bring Me the Horizon started off as a run-of-the-mill deathcore band with little to separate themselves from the pack. Next up were Suicide Season (2008) and There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret (2010), the latter has to be up for one of the longest album titles of all time and the former was viewed as a step in the right direction for the band.
Suicide Season gave us live staples “Chelsea Smile” and “Diamonds Aren’t Forever” while There is a Hell… was BMTH at their metalcore-best featuring songs like “It Never Ends”, “Fuck” and “Alligator Song.” There is a Hell… is the first time the band experienced critical acclaim and took chances with their music like on the ambitious and hauntingly beautiful, “Don’t Go,” a song that features orchestral elements that the band will use again in future works. In retrospect, this track serves as a foreshadower of things to come.
Sempiternal, released in 2013, was a game changer; opening with the electronic tinged “Can You Feel My Heart.” Not immune to criticism since their inception, the subtle electronic elements of this record had some metal elitists already turning up their noses as they are prone to do when a metal band strays away from their more extreme roots.
Despite the shift in direction, Sempiternal is widely regarded as BMTH’s best work, blending aggression and allure in an eclectic, yet more accessible way. From the melancholy of “Sleepwalking” to barnburners like “House of Wolves” and “Shadow Moses”, this album is both a microcosm of BMTH’s career as well as a soothsayer of their future.
Then came That’s The Spirit (2015). The electronic elements remained as the metal riffage and vocal delivery were replaced with increasingly more mainstream pop/rock influences while maintaining BMTH’s signature dark and emotional aesthetic. Yet again, this album opens with the atmospheric, synth-filled, “Doomed.” This album truly split the fanbase as most figured BMTH would be releasing pop/rock albums for the next decade a la Ghost and Five Finger Death Punch (yeah, I said it). I thought this myself with the success of arena rockers like “Happy Song”, “Throne”, and “Follow You.” I’m not sure if anyone anticipated that the band had its eyes set a little higher.
Metallica set the precedent of an extreme band progressing to mainstream success in a way that will likely never be repeated. However, where Metallica progressed from thrash metal to hard rock to bluesy-grunge rock from Kill ‘Em All to Reload, BMTH has progressed from metalcore to electronic rock to electropop/rock from Sempiternal to amo, progressing one step further than Metallica did sonically (we never got the boy band pop version of Metallica as far as I’m aware). Don’t worry, I’m not comparing Bring Me the Horizon to Metallica in terms of success, merely noting similarities in career metamorphosis towards a mainstream sound.
BMTH had the choice of staying in the pop/rock comfort zone for the rest of their career, where the most exciting prospect was making a “return to roots” album or to progress their electronic influences one step further, completely shed their metal skin and make something truly indelible. They chose the latter and will be better for it. Did you really want to hear ten different versions of “Happy Song” on mainstream rock radio for the next ten years?
Before this album came out, I predicted on Super Metal World Podcast that amo was either going to be a major success or a major failure. I am happy to say that amo is a solid effort from start to finish. This is the moment the band has been progressing towards since “Don’t Go.” Undoubtedly, they will lose some of their heavy metal fanbase but will gain fans from corners of the world that otherwise never would have given the band a chance. Few, if any, metal bands could pull this off and get away with it, but here we are. Bring Me the Horizon has achieved a career metamorphosis akin to Taylor Swift dumping country music for pop.
In true BMTH fashion, amo starts with another electronic laden track “i apologise if you feel something.” A simple, yet tone-setting song that sees Oli Sykes impressively performing the entirety of the track in falsetto. This transitions smoothly into the pop/rock orientated “MANTRA” proving that the band still has a knack for writing a hooky chorus, perfected on That’s The Spirit. “nihilist blues” features Canadian pop star Grimes and is one of the most daring efforts on the album as it grooves along at a dark, synth-pop pace that wouldn’t feel out of place on a CHVRCHES album.
Oli cleverly plays on words on “in the dark” which features lyrics like “So don’t swear to God, he never asked you. It’s not His heart you drove a knife through. It’s not His world you turned inside out. Not His tears still rolling down. Jesus Christ, you’re so damn cold. Don’t you know you’ve lost control?” This song would not feel out of place on That’s The Spirit. That’s a blessing and a curse as this album is at its best when BMTH fully embraces their new direction. This leads us into the heaviest song on the album, “wonderful life” featuring Dani Filth that offers a nice adrenaline boost after the previous two tracks.
The middle of the album features the electronic “ouch” followed by the catchiest track on the album, “medicine.” “sugar honey ice & tea”, “why you gotta kick me when i’m down” and “fresh bruises” offer the best back-to-back-to-back moment on the album, one song transitioning into the next seamlessly. “fresh bruises” is just as hypnotic and art-poppy as “nihilist blues” and honestly, I’d like to see any other metal band try to pull this off without sounding like a parody.
This brings us to the emotional end of the album featuring a, dare I say, love song to Oli’s wife in “mother tongue” that features hooky synth-leads and strings. This ode to Oli’s wife is quickly followed by an ode to metal fans of yore in “heavy metal,” proving that BMTH are self-aware to anticipate that there would be backlash from the metal community following the album’s release and, as they sing, “that’s alright.” The album ends with “i don’t know what to say”, an ode for Oli’s friend who was fighting cancer and eventually passed away due to the disease.
It is fitting that an album dedicated to love ends with odes to three different types of love (romantic, tough, and platonic love). Oli said the following to the Alt Press,”We want to be that gateway band for people to get into rock music and stuff and keep it going.” They have achieved that in spades on an album that will surely pique the curiosity of new fans everywhere.
TRACKS I LOVE
“nihilist blues”, “why you gotta kick me when i’m down”, “heavy metal”
Ty is the co-creator of Super Metal World and co-host of Super Metal World Podcast. His favorite genres include thrash, metalcore and hardcore.