Having already shifted from their original deathcore sound to an increasingly electronic one, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Bring Me the Horizon are continuing to change and evolve – although after an interview where singer Oli Sykes claimed that rock has gotten boring and it’s important for the band to cross over to something less heavy, this change feels a little less sincere than the last few. Having given fans some warning of how it’s going to be with the last few singles, Amo (Portuguese for both “love” and “master”, an important detail considering the largely anti-love themed lyrics) tries to do something different and doesn’t often pull it off well.
I Apologise If You Feel Something gives you an idea of what you’re going to be in for right from the start, feeling more like an interlude than an actual song but getting across the main themes of the album; pessimistic lyrics about love, inspired by Sykes’s recent divorce, along with an almost entirely electronic backing. Mantra is one of the few honest-to-god rock songs on the album and the weakest of them, saving up the pop until the bridge near the end of the song and trying to bridge the gap between their last album and this one. The end result seems like a filler track instead of a leading single, even with its position on the tracklist, getting dragged down by how lightweight and throwaway it feels. Nihilist Blues is one of the times the electronic elements work well, the live drums giving it extra depth and attack – but Grimes feels wasted on this despite getting a chorus and long verse to work with, her voice sounding as though it’s melting in the background most of the time…other than the off-putting breakdown which features her actually whispering instead of being made to sound like that because of the mix. The song starts to drag after her verse as well, taking what starts off as interesting and engaging and then stretching out it for at least a minute longer than it should be. In The Dark, aptly described by the band as a “dark pop song”, sounds an awful lot like a slightly heavier Maroon 5, throwing all the cliches it possibly can at the song in preparation for the rest of the album – an irritating vocal hook, a distorted “woo!” to use as punctuation and echoey ad-libs. As the last remaining piece of their old sound, Wonderful Life is one of the best songs on the album by far – the riff is seriously heavy even by their recent standards and it feels like a natural progression from the nu-metal of That’s The Spirit to the heavily electronic style found on this album, lacing touches of weirdness throughout such as the dramatic orchestral ending, the poppy bridge that gets Dani Filth (of all people!) to deliver the line “everybody knows I got bounce” and the stream of consciousness lyrics. Preceded by an aptly named interlude and the cookie-cutter radio hit Medicine, Sugar Honey Ice & Tea is one of the brighter moments on the album up to a point – it blends hard rock together with pop well enough until the obnoxious falsetto chorus kicks in, sucking out the atmosphere that’s been built up every time it appears, even after the screaming and guitar/keyboard solo towards the end that could have been part of something better if it wasn’t casually tossed away…like a lot of the good musical ideas the band has throughout the album.
Fresh Bruises, despite being a stopgap between the song before it and after it, is a loving homage – unintentional or otherwise – to dubstep pioneer Burial, taking his moody garage beats and hazy, edited vocals (“don’t, you, try to fuck with me…”) and making them club friendly. This is the kind of electronic music that goes well with the downtuned guitars and heavy lyrics, but reducing it to a space filler on an otherwise largely vocal-driven album is a real shame – especially as it’s followed by Mother Tongue, which is straight up dance-pop with sickly sweet lyrics and nothing to distinguish it from the legions of similar sounding pop that’s been released this decade, culminating in a bridge that throws in the infamous Millennial Whoop without a shred of self-awareness or irony. A fair few of these little additions drag the songs down more than they lift them up – random pitch-shifted falsettos, a child choir on one song (which has never made any song better), the lighter, twinkly keyboard sounds on other ones, all of which add nothing to the album. Despite featuring none of the above Heavy Metal (featuring Rahzel of The Roots, the third guest vocalist in a row to be underused and wasted) is the single most embarrassing part of the album, involving Sykes lyrically taunting fans who don’t like their new change in style over a cheesy and hugely repetitive beat – “a kid on the ‘Gram said he used to be a fan, but this shit ain’t heavy metal” – but the issue here isn’t that they stopped being metal, or that they changed styles to make more money and stay relevant, it’s that for all their experimentation and style changes the end result is a sloppy, disjointed mess. There are plenty of original touches on the album and it’s worlds away from That’s The Spirit, that much is for certain, but this is also far away from being genuinely experimental. The song even sounds like they’re trying to convince themselves that they’re doing the right thing, the “and that’s alright”s following the (endlessly repeated) chorus sounding oddly pathetic up against the confident sneer preceding it. I Don’t Know What To Say delivers on the promises made about the album and does so in style – string sections that sound big enough to be a whole orchestra, an emotional guitar solo, well-written lyrics about Sykes’s late friend along with countless other little details that bring the whole thing together – which is even more frustrating if it’s listened to in context of the rest of the album, as it seems like this is the song they focused all their energy on instead of spreading it out across the previous 12 tracks as well.
The band haven’t run out of ideas – far from it – but the way those ideas are executed is seriously lacking, and the blatant attempts at writing music that will get them a completely new audience don’t help matters either. Disjointed, overlong and often awkward, both pop fans and metalheads can certainly do better than this.
Genres… electropop, electronic rock, pop-rock
Best tracks… Nihilist Blues, Fresh Bruises, Wonderful Life, I Don’t Know What To Say