Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that Bring Me The Horizon have carved out an extraordinary empire. Each new album has rebelled against the rules established by its predecessor, the band constantly in a state of flux, leaping from one scene-stealing sonic revamp to the next. Peaking with 2015’s That’s The Spirit, the South Yorkshire five-piece had effectively capped a decade in transition from basement-thrashing deathcore hellions to chart-dominating pop rock luminaries.
But alas, the primetime radio play and sold-out arenas have grown stale for Oli Sykes and co. Album number six, Amo, shows them pick apart the quirky pop ideals That’s The Spirit introduced us to, with hints of gnashing bass music and booming hip-hop, ultra-textural production and lashings of mosh-ready guitars scaffolding a record that is at once their most palatable and polarising. If their 2015 effort was Bring Me The Horizon dipping their toes into a new beach’s sand and testing the warmth of its waters, Amo has them charging headfirst toward a tsunami wave.
“I think it’s an album that we couldn’t have made until this point,” says Sykes. “When we did Sempiternal, that felt like our first step into really pushing ourselves sonically and doing a lot of new stuff with our sound. That’s The Spirit felt like the album we needed to make to be able to go from that point to what we really wanted to do, and I think this album is what we really wanted to do. No disrespect to That’s The Spirit, because I love that album and I’m really proud of it, but when we made it, the goal was very different.”
As tends to be the case with any band once they’ve had a taste of fame, Sykes explains that the touring cycle for Sempiternal – pegged by headlining slots at prestigious festivals and venues that made their fans look like ants from the stage – made Bring Me The Horizon eager to push the envelope.
“Around that time, people were talking about our band a lot more,” he says. “We were playing bigger shows, and there was a little bit of buzz around our band that we’d never had before. Until that point, nobody had ever talked about us being the ‘next big thing’ or anything like that. And I think… Not that it went to our heads, but you know, it made us hungry for that spotlight. We’d always been the underdogs, or whatever, and we’d never had that amount of attention before. And at least for me, anyway, I wanted to be like, ‘Yeah, let’s show them that we’re up to the challenge.’
“So when we wrote That’s The Spirit, we just kind of set out to write 11 bangers – 11 songs that could all be singles in their own right. And it worked to a degree, but there’s songs on that album that we never play live, and I don’t think they’ll ever be someone’s favourite Bring Me The Horizon songs because they’re all competing to be the top singles, rather than have their own unique qualities. So going into this album, we were like, ‘We’re not going to do that again.’
“Obviously we like to write those big, arena kind of songs, and songs that can be played on the radio. We’ve made no secret about the fact that we want to be the band that gets people into rock music, but we don’t want to be an elitist band either.”
The end result is a record that comfortably appeals to their newfound hordes of teen pop devotees (see ‘Nihilist Blues’, a buoyant, retro-tinged synthpop gem with Top 40 sheen), but also isn’t afraid to flip the script and slap its listener with a sonic 180 (as found in ‘Heavy Metal’, a crunchy, grime-laden snarler aimed at Instagram haters, pairing beatboxed sections with wall-rattling guitars).
“We like writing music for the mainstream,” says Sykes. “It’s a fun challenge for us, but at the same time, I don’t even listen to the radio. I don’t like most pop music of today anyway, so I think with this album, we wanted to have those songs that anybody can pick up and get into, but also have this reason to do exactly what we want without any compromise. If we want a song to go on for six minutes, or work with all these new sounds and artists, or do things that we’ve never done before and might weird people out, then we’re going to do it.”
At their core, Bring Me The Horizon have always been at the curve of heavy music’s evolutions. When they burst on the scene with Count Your Blessings in 2006, deathcore bands were venerable royaltyamongst the slew of nu-metal try-hards. 2008’s Suicide Season ushered in a new wave of grungy, synth-accentuated metalcore, and when Sempiternal landed in 2013, atmospheric bangers with ungodly amounts of phaser effects were suddenly all the rage. Amo merely continues the trend, with a smarter, more exuberant Sykes at the helm.
“For us and this album, it’s more than just showing people that heavy music doesn’t need to be this weird, scary world that you think it is – it can blow your head off, but it can also make you think. It doesn’t have to alienate you. There’s still so many different ways to express yourself, and we’re just trying to find those different ways of doing it that suits us. Because I think as rock music gets smaller as a genre, more than ever, people are diversifying their tastes. A lot of people don’t like that standard sort of rock music because it’s not really saying much or it doesn’t stand out so much, so I think people are looking for something with a bit more passion and a bit more heart.
“That’s why we felt like we could make an album like this, because people have much more open minds when it comes to music now. They don’t want to be segregated or limited to just one subgenre.”
Amo is out now via Sony. Bring Me The Horizon are touring Australia in April 2019.
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