Then within the next 5 years, Sempiternal and That's the Spirit were released and while I wasn't sure about their much softer sound, they won me over with superb musicianship and and lyrics about dealing with the darker side of life that really stuck with me and kept me coming back whenever my heart needed a glowing light to come back to. Without getting too personal, I adore That's the Spirit for this reason as the songs have a real emotional connection with me that have helped me through some tough times when my head wasn't quite in the right place. That's why the album was on my top 10 list a while back and why I have album cover tattooed onto my left arm. Because it means something important to me.
Now when I heard that the band would be releasing a new album in early 2019, I was over the moon and couldn't wait to hear what they had up their tattooed sleeves this time. They also announced a live tour that I bought tickets to on the first day of sale so I could experience them for the first time. Despite being surrounded by teenagers, I had a blast of a time and it's a gig I'll hold close to my heart for years to come. Then we reached January 25th 2019 and amo was released to the public. While some had commented that the band had gone pop, I wasn't worried in the slightest as That's the Spirit had some poppier elements that didn't bother me. What I didn't realise was how far into the realm of pop they would go.
After only one listen I felt saddened by what I had just heard. What happened to the band that made me feel something and could have me headbanging at the same time? The album seemingly offered neither of these things. It's only now that I have decided to review the album that I have listened to it in full more than once and I think I'm finally ready to talk about it from a fair perspective.
The album starts with i apologise if you feel something which is more of an introduction to a bigger song rather than it's own song and it works well in this fashion as the few lyrics presented focus on the theme of love (the word amo is Portuguese for 'love') and it has a nice synth effect to it that sticks in your head after the song has moved on, and continually grows louder and louder, heightening the tension of what's to come.
That brings us onto the first single from the album MANTRA which is most likely the most popular song from the album and it is one I really enjoy. It's one of the heavier songs on the album with a killer riff and fantastic opening line of "Do you wanna start a cult with me?". This song is great and a proper opener that almost sets the tone for the rest of the record. The chorus is massive and was meant for a big live crowd to sing along to. I do love the lyrics as well as it focuses on someone starting a fake cult for the money and the fame, and knowing people will follow him out of the concept of faith. Definitely one to check out.
After a very promising start, we hit a massive brick wall in for the form of the track nihilist blues. Now I'm sure this a good track if you're into rave music or an Ibiza Clubland soundtrack but after so many listens I still just find this song so forgettable. It's like every other pop song you hear in the charts that'll be forgotten by everyone in a few years. This was the 5th single released for the album and the first that really threw out some red flags as to the direction the band was going in. And it's just so damn LONG. Over five minutes is way too long for this kind of track. After a rocking start to the album this just threw the whole thing left field as the tone is just all over the place and we're only 3 tracks in!
Next track is in the dark and has some of the same issues I had with the last song but at least this one has less of a club vibe and more of an Ed Sheeran vibe that I can get behind a little more. It's one I've found stuck in my head a little more due to a catchy chorus, but again there's just not much substance to it and it ends up as another forgettable track. While the earlier albums dealt with depression and dealing with it which I adored, I'm not really getting into the theme of love in this album as it's not a subject I really care about personally.
Thankfully we move onto the second single wonderful life and this is one of my favourite songs from last year and this is easily the heaviest track on the album. Hell there's even a guest appearance from Dani Filth! The song delves more into the themes of mental illness and is just way more interesting than the last 2 tracks combined. The chorus is gargantuan and I can't help but scream along with it. It also really helps in a gig setting.
'Lone getting high on a Saturday night
I'm on the edge of a knife
Nobody cares if I'm dead or alive
Oh what a wonderful life'
This just builds and builds to an adrenaline fuelled finale that I love more everytime I hear it. Love it.
After a transitional track reminiscent of the first track in the form of ouch, we hit the third single in the form of medicine. This was the first track from the album that people accused of being pop and while it definitely has huge pop vibes, it really reminds me of Follow You from That's The Spirit which I love so it gets a pass from me. It does help that the chorus is catchy as hell and finds the band getting a little more aggressive. While I'm sure the song is about a lover causing pain to their ex, I related with the lyrics at the time as I was just getting over a toxic friendship and the aggressive nature of the lyrics helped me through a tough time.
Next up is sugar honey ice & tea, and while this is another of the albums heavier tracks due to a nice guitar riff and the pre-chorus sounds like it would fit right on That's the Spirit, but it's the main chorus that ruins it for me. This song could have been another hit, but the chorus is just ear-grating to me due to what sounds like an auto-tuned voice singing the thing. I really want to like this one for it's fun heavy elements, but sadly it's one I'll most likely end up skipping over on another listen.
I'm skipping over the next 2 tracks because I have the same feelings to them as I had towards nihilist blues and I'm not a fan. Even after listening to the album around 6 times in full now, I can still never recall how these songs sound so I think that tells you all you need to know.
After these 2 mistakes, we hit the fourth single mother tongue. It's a song I wasn't a fan of on first listen, but after quite a few since then, I'm quickly becoming a fan and I'd say it's my guilty pleasure of the record. It's poppy as fuck and almost like something Justin Bieber would release (excuse me while I throw up violently for even suggesting that I'd like a Bieber track) but it's just so damn catchy and is guaranteed to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. I mean I'm still listening to it regularly even after it's been out this many months. It does hurt my Extreme Metal cred a bit, but fuck it. I dig it.
And now we come to heavy metal and this track...... oh boy this track. Oli what were you thinking? This song is basically a fuck you to people that don't like the bands softer sound (because apparently customers aren't allowed opinions of products they purchase but hey ho what do I know) and this track almost shits out any goodwill that the band had produced up to this point. I mean I know I'm not the target here since I enjoy their music even if they've gone soft, but there was really no need for this.
"I keep picking petals
I'm afraid you don't love me anymore
Cause a kid on the 'gram in a Black Dahlia tank
Says it ain't heavy metal"
Real mature guys. I don't remember Linkin Park making diss tracks when they went soft, but hey at least their later albums were consistent. Songs fine but I don't think it needs much attention and is a definite low point for the band as they even decide to have a breakdown at the end for another middle finger.
Final song is i don't know what to say and thankfully after all this it does end on a high note as this is a great, emotional track as the song is about Oli's friend Aidan who tragically to cancer and this song feels like a tribute to him. The song feature's an orchestra that works very well with the themes of the song and some of these lyrics are just heartbreaking:
"How a flower in the rain
Only grows more when it's grey
You just shined on brighter
Making gold out of the pain"
Not only that but we get a pretty terrific guitar solo that mixed in with the orchestra just sounds fantastic and gives me chills when I hear. After a low point for the band we hit a highlight as this is one of the albums best tracks and one of the best they've ever written in my opinion.
Overall I still have very mixed feelings on this album as there's a lot I do like and it's some of the best the band has ever recorded, but the rest is just so forgettable and sometimes just downright bad that it makes listening to the whole album a chore so I can only recommend a few tracks to go out of your way to hear and leave the rest. Easily my least favourite the band has released to this point and while it's not a bad album at all, it is a bit all over the place with it's style choices as it's trying to be something for everyone but comes across more like splitting a few genres together for the sake of it or to a reach a bigger audience to leave the one they had originally behind in the dust. Sadly that may include me. If this is the direction they're going, I'm just going to stick to the songs I know and love.
Tracks to download: MANTRA, wonderful life, medicine, mother tongue, i don't know what to say