Review Summary: Everybody knows I've got bounce.
I’m going to be straight here; when That’s The Spirit
unveiled itself to the general public, I was one of the many who scorned the album’s pseudo practices and genre alterations. With that said, however, it’s evident that time has been very forgiving to That’s The Spirit
– growing significantly over the years in spite of a handful of disingenuous and insipid numbers which bog it down. Regardless of my own feelings towards it, it would appear I’m not alone with my shelved appreciation. The album has shown a delayed infatuation within the metal community this past couple of years; a knock-on effect that has seen a lot of big names copying the formula in varying degrees, with the hope of attaining the same kind of rewards BMTH has been reaping this past half-decade. This is because, like it or lump it, That’s The Spirit
changed the playing field for the genre forever. The world doesn’t move around without its hilarious ironies, of course, because this is a band who was intensely ridiculed ten years ago. Fast-forward to present day and they’re one of alternative music’s biggest names; solidifying validation and praise from both critic and music listener alike since Sempiternal
’s release. And their penchant for evolving and morphing with every record has ultimately resulted in them staying ahead of the curve time and time again.
With that in mind, even if you never got around to checking out Amo
’s singles, its capricious turn to pop sensibilities should probably come as no surprise if you listened to their fifth effort. But it should also be noted that it’s not quite the departure I was bracing myself for. Early interviews suggested that the band was doubling down on a sound completely engulfed in sugary electronic-pop characteristics. Truth be told, it’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds. Unlike Linkin Park, who shed every interesting facet of their sound for a contrived, derivative, and utterly bland experience, BMTH manage to keep a toe in familiar waters as they move further into the mainstream. Yes, the likes of “Medicine” contains ubiquitous pop tropes that swallow up the band’s traditional roots, but you can still hear the band at its core. Basically, what I’m trying to articulate is it doesn’t come across as distracting. This is largely down to the fact Amo
isn’t as far removed from its predecessor as one might think. If anything, the album amalgamates the same amount of pop and electronic influences as the former but replaces That’s The Spirit
’s pop-metal amalgam for stadium-stomping riffs that derive more from Royal Blood’s gene pool – or when it’s really branching out, honing in on an abrasive 90s techno sound. And I have to admire the band for giving a vociferous warning on Amo
shifting further away from their roots prior to the album’s release, because when “Mantra” dropped Oli stated it was a conventional offering to warm people up for a drastic change in sound. A straightforward affirmation that, in hindsight, holds a tinge of preconceived hyperbole.
Whether it was intentional or not is moot. Regardless, it definitely worked as a damage control cushion of sorts – facilitating the worst kind of expectations in a sense: festering on the idea that a bland pop album is imminently heading your way. In a nutshell, Amo
isn’t the sell-out record long time fans have been waiting to hate. It doesn’t pander to the older demographic, of course, but it still knows which side its bread is buttered on. Amo
puts an emphasis on groove and feel, and plays a much more prominent role in the band’s songwriting than ever before. A lot like how many artists approach an album these days, songs are written towards where the money lies: the live experience. You can hear the potential these tracks would have in a stadium setting; the quiet/loud dynamic of “Wounderful Life”, with its funky guitar riff transitioning into the kind of bombastic chorus Limp Bizkit would write, is clearly designed for a live setting. Indeed, there’s still plenty of conventional guitar, drums and bass here to please a fan of rock music: from “In The Dark”, with the song’s noodley guitar leads and punctuated heavy choruses, the song shows a natural evolution from That’s the Spirit
; “Sugar Honey Ice & Tea” furthers the grooving Royal Blood stomp mentioned earlier; and “Heavy Metal” finds a harmonious balance between its rock and electronic stylings.
Unlike Thirty Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park, BMTH have made the leap a successfully exciting one. The difference？ Amo
uses the same kind of contemporary pop elements, but they are used as sporadic undertones. It’s a legitimate progression for the band that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be easy listening for someone who solely listens to the radio's Top 40 Singles Chart. When the record isn’t using hard-and-alternative rock elements, it’s a very experimental electronic album; a cross between the 90’s unsympathetic techno attitude and an ambient house style that’s similar to what Burial has been doing. Like anything the band is involved in, the likes of “Nihilist Blues” and “Fresh Bruises” are a drastic change in sound but they maintain the same downcast melancholy the band is known for, and that’s what separates their attempts from previous bands' failures. Amo
doesn’t come across contrived. It knows what it wants, and it delivers the songs with conviction.
The album isn’t without its lulls though. “Mother Tongue” is a good example of BMTH fumbling with the delicate balance they’ve generally succeeded at delivering here. Its beige writing formula strips away at all the interesting instrumentals in favour of cookie-cutter pop melodies that fail to succeed on their ideas. And the problem isn’t so much the idea as it is the execution: the hooks are so generic and samey that the song’s sacrifice of having Oli as the sole attraction turns into its own undoing. “Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down” is another one that ultimately fails where everything else succeeds; a janky track that hears Oli awkwardly rapping over what is a pretty decent instrumental, but a vocal style ill-suited to Sykes. But in all honestly, I’m quite surprised by how well this album has turned out, overall. It takes painfully overused radio tropes and mutates them with a set of old-school ideas. The album, once again, moves the band onto new and exciting pastures, and more importantly, it does these things in a way that isn’t obnoxious or forced. Bar a couple of obvious blunders, Amo
is an excellent album that is filled with twists and turns. It has a really dank and distinct aesthetic, basically taking the same kind of tone “Doomed” had but runs with it for the entire album. If you’re a fan of BMTH’s earlier works and don’t like where they’ve gone in recent years, the chances are you won’t be taken to this either. But if you’re a fan of all walks of music, or like latter day BMTH, this will definitely be worth checking out.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: CD BOXSET/̶/̶D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶
PACKAGING: A cardboard case with alternative artwork.
SPECIAL EDITION: Contains a tote bag, two patches, the CD (in a baggie), and a silver USB padlock necklace. No bonus tracks, but the edition is good quality and the items are well made. 3.5/5
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.bmthofficial.com/