Written thoughts: BMTH’s "amo“ is amazing AND teaching us a lot about powerful musicianship.
Written thoughts: BMTH’s "amo" is amazing AND teaching us a lot about powerful musicianship.
So… UKs jamboree bag Bring Me The Horizon is back – with their brand new album “amo”. Let me get this straight from the beginning: I was never a die-hard fan of BMTH. I like them, and I am one of those people saying (until now, maybe that changes after the article is published) that have the opinion of That’s the Spirit being their best album to date.
Why do I call BMTH a jamboree bag? Because they went from being a brutal deathcore band to a predictable Melodic Hardcore band and now… …well, I even don’t know what I expected after That’s the Spirit. And I can hear already people complaining again about how they went full-sell-out and are now “wasting their precious talent”.
Actually, I think that complaint is just wrong. The topic about musicians/artists/bands changing their image/music/line-up is always delicate and we only have full information about the entire background beyond a significant change like that in… let’s say 1% of the cases. (There’s no statistic about that, I just made that up – but you get the idea…) We as humans strive for security, and part of security is a stable situations. We don’t like significant changes (despite the ones where we have an upfront guarantee that the change is for the better) und thus, artists putting out new records with new twists is always triggering us. – AND I LOVE THAT.
Let’s take a short trip through BMTH’s releases:
· 2004: This Is What The Edge of Your Seat Was Made For
· 2006: Count Your Blessings
· 2008: Suicide Season
· 2013: Sempiternal
· 2015: That’s the Spirit
· 2019: amo
The band-development from 2004 – 2008 is fairly predictable, when listening through it. They went from full brutal deathcore with its rough juvenility to powerful metalcore with melodic influences. Just keep in mind, why they did it: According to band’s statements from 2008 or so, there were too many deathcore bands around, so basically, they tried to escape an oversaturated market. Whilst this is an ecological decision/strategy on one hand, the tools necessary for that step are pure artistic in the first place. They needed to write different music from that they’ve already released. Makes sense? Great.
So for that: They did NOT waste their talent. They applied their knowledge about composing music in the style they are comfortable with and paired it with experimenting, researching and learning. To me, this is “enhancing skills/talent” and not wasting it. And given the success and critiques of Suicide Season I would never consider this a bad album at all although I really only like 3 songs of it.
Given the genre, Suicide Season was a pretty solid record, but there was little room for innovation within this genre for the subsequent record… so the increased use of clean vocals and harmonies instead of dissonances on There is a Hell, … was kind of predictable, as this was a “sound enhancement” for not creating a record that sounds exactly like the last one. (Personally I’d call not trying out new things when writing music the KoRn-Phenomenon. They had a phase when they still wrote great songs, but they just sounded as if they were covering themselves… but their new releases are LIT again.)
There is a Hell, … again was their biggest success to date at that point and there’s plenty of reasons for that: Their sound became more “accessible” for the broad audiences, their songwriting gained a lot of Finesse and of course in connection with becoming more “accessible”, they had more money to spend on promotion. (Business again, Shibbster? Really? – Yes. Even being a musician is a JOB. Period.) I’m totally fine with how their sound changed over those records and in what direction they developed. Be honest: If you listen to songs of Count Your Blessings, would you have thought that a band sounding like that is capable of writing something like “It Never Ends”? – probably not, but I may be wrong as well…
And this “comparison-question” continues from then on: listen to Count Your Blessings. Would you have thought that Oliver Sykes is capable of pulling of performances like the one on “sleepwalking” off Sempiternal? – again: probably not, but I may be wrong. However, Sempiternal was their most controversial album at the time of its release. Jordan Fish was not only involved in the production but joined the band as a permanent member after the release. – and all the people who disliked the sound/songwriting/whatever of Sempiternal blamed him. Whilst it may be correct, that Jordan did have quite an influence on the band’s songwriting he did not deserve the shitstorms at all. I mean, nobody was harmed by Sempiternal am I right? At first, when I listened to Sempiternal, this album felt weird to me as it was not exactly what I expected from the band I used to know from previous records. I admit that I found that irritating but I gave it a chance because I was curious about how they write in different styles and whether I liked it or not. Turns out: This album is great! It still has some of the old influences, but it’s also a very solid rock album! And the fact, that this album was not what I expected it to be is the reason why I remember it better than other records. ‘Cause, having the own expectations met can be pretty boring. But being surprised in a good way guarantees for liking something or a long time!
When “Drown” emerged throughout the internet as the first single of That’s The Spirit, I was for whatever reason more conscious of new BMTH material to be released. Drown was very interesting to me, as initially found that song a little boring and I did not really feel like That’s The Spirit is going to be an album that I like. …I downloaded the single anyways because reasons… and the more I listened to it, the more this song grew on me actually making me enthusiastic about the album to come. And when it finally came out and I listened to it, I was AMAZED by it. Given the history of BMTH up until then, this was a stunning record. It really was different from what they’ve done before and it was so well executed: The arrangements were interesting, full of details and filled with love, Oli’s clean vocals were way better than expected (I’m not going to dig into the discussion about his “bad” live performances, so don’t bother bring that up to the table again, please… everyone has their opinions about his live performances.), and the instruments were technically played equally well in this new style as in the older material – if not even better.
On That’s The Spirit you can really hear how BMTH grew as musicians as it really is a record on its own but not entirely neglecting the past elements that made the band as big as they are now. This is not only fun to listen to, it’s also very interesting to discover that musical journey! – and since everything is available on the internet, you can do the BMTH journey yourself within seconds. You will hear the progress – not only productionwise.
With That’s The Spirit, BMTH have been going a long, adventurous journey through the genres of rock and metal in many of their facets – from brutal Deathcore to Pop Rock everything has been played by this band.
“amo” was anticipated by a huge audience as well as musicians, journalists, bookers, and everyone else in the industry having at least a tiny interest in BMTH – just because nobody had an idea what to prepare for – Now that it’s officially released the feedback to this album is super interesting again: People are hating it, people are loving it, new people are discovering this band for them selves, people decide to never buy concert tickets for BMTH again, people feeling insecure about their opinion about this album, the list goes on and on and on. And actually, I think this is great! It moves people, it surprises people, it really has an effect and does not end at “Nice, that’s what we expected. Great album.” And then it vanishes right next to all the other records that you never listen to again because they were too predictable…
amo did surprise me as well – A LOT. And to be honest, I am not sure if I like this album or not. I hear 80s influences, classic rock, but also R’n’B and EDM and pop elements – really like a jamboree bag. “Wonderful Life” could have also been a song by KoRn actually. To my ears, this album has its strong moments and its weak moments in a first listening session. I haven’t really built my own opinion about this album, and I think I will need to listen to it a few times again before I can say if I like it or not, BUT: It really got me curious and fascinated. BMTH managed to reinvent themselves once again whilst still sounding like BMTH – as those R’n’B, pop and EDM passages still have the subtle vibe of oldschool BMTH. They sound a tiny little bit “harder” then other songs in those genres.
So what does this musical journey teach us?
Even if we do not necessarily like it: Change is inevitable, just like you never stay 17 your entire life. Your body changes, your mindset changes, the people around you change, maybe your friends change as well, or it changes who you choose to spend time with.
While artists are “providing” humans with their art, it being music, photography, sculpting, poetry, or whatever you can think of – they still are humans themselves and they change. It’s natural, healthy and when you think a little more about it: It’s the factor that keeps the music industry interesting and thrilling! ...and looking back at BMTH's history, they turned business decisions into great records.
Of course there is a certain extent of truth in the words “Never change a winning team” – but in another story, we all know somebody who ended a long-term relationship with their partner because it lost its sparks and became pure routine. No change might be convenient for a certain period of time, but if not having a change is permanent; it is not making us happy. At least not me.
Bring Me The Horizon adapted to themselves and their surroundings several times. And that required business strategies (yes, of course there’s management, label and whatnot involved – I know.) but also the artistic capability of adapting songwriting processes and playing styles to new visions and ideas. - And they were never afraid of earning a shitstorm on the internet.
And if you think that further, if you are a fan of a band, it means something to you. You establish a relationship to that band for yourself – and actually, with bands it is the same as with your friends and your relationships with them: There are ups and downs, there are new friends, friends parting ways, etc… - So walk together while it lasts and feels good. If it disappoints, let go and appreciate the nice memories you’ve built together.
So instead of shooting amo down in flames right away and spreading negativity, why not take a step back and give amo a chance? In the worst case: You still have your favourite BMTH songs… By the way: listen to my favourite song of amo: WONDERFUL LIFE!
I already learned something from this album and this band. And there are many many artists with similar stories – instead of plain complaining, try to learn something for yourself from your own reaction to those stories and use that knowledge for something productive and positive!
Bring Me The Horizon on Social Media
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