Back in 2014 I reviewed the third album from Swedish/Danish rock/pop/modern melodic metal band Amaranthe. In the review, when I described the song Drop Dead Cynical as:
a swaggering Marilyn Manson “Beautiful People” vibe from the chugging guitar of Olof Mörck, the grooving rhythm section of Morten and Johan, Elize’s sultry vocals trading off with Henrik’s aggressive vocals blend together perfectly with the second verse handed off to Jake, whose melodic tone is second to none. The chorus is not only catchy but will be imprinted in your memory for days after you hear it.
Little did I realize at the time what a huge (dare I say MASSIVE) hit single Drop Dead Cynical would become. Drop Dead Cynical is played frequently on the biggest sporting events in the US, such as NHL games. The song spent several weeks at #1 on the US’s biggest rock radio station SiriusXM Octane and the strength of the single caused Massive Addictive to hit #1 on the U.S. Billboards Heatseekers chart. The band went on to score a coveted special guest spot opening for Within Temptation and headlining their own U.S. tour in larger venues than they had played the previous year.
The question now is, how do you follow up a hugely successful couple of years? Would the band rest on it’s laurels or would they go back into the studio to further push the boundaries of what the Amaranthe trademark sound is? Since the band released their debut album in 2011, they have influenced a new generation of bands, Italy’s Temperance and fellow Swedes Dynazty (seriously, listen to Sultans of Sin and then compare it to the follow up, Renatus if you don’t believe me) to name two, with their pop melodies, pulsating electronica rhythms, and alternating clean/growling triple vocal attack. So the main question is; what is next for Amaranthe?
The answer will be revealed on October 21st when the band releases its fourth album, Maximalism on Spinefarm records. Firstly, lets talk about the pink elephant in the room, and that is the albums first single, That Song, which has become a polarizing single for the band, dividing the bands legion of fans into two camps. There are the fans who absolutely hate the song, saying the band has totally gone “pop” and they have “sold out”, then there are the other fans who feel that That Song is a natural progression from what the band has previously done with Drop Dead Cynical. My opinion on this is, unpopular as it may be, is that the song doesn’t stray too far from the bands trademark sound. The song is meant to be a pop rock anthem homage to Queen’s We Will Rock You or Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part Two. The song is meant to be a fun, silly, catchy earworm and with that in mind, the song succeeds on all fronts. To back up my statement, the video for That Song is (and the time of this writing) number seven on the most watched videos on all of YouTube. That being said, in comparison to the rest of the albums songs, it is the weakest track but that only shows the strength of the rest of the material on display. Whether it becomes a massive hit like Drop Dead Cynical remains to be seen.
The rest of the album is just what you would expect from Amaranthe. If you’re a fan you will be enthralled with the techno-metal intro and pulsating rhythm of the first track Maximize. This song has everything that Amaranthe fans have come to expect, Elize Ryd’s beautiful melodies, Henrik’s guttural growls, and Jake E’s warm powerful vocal tones. For the guitar enthusiasts, no need to fear, Olof is well represented here with some impressive lead and rhythm playing.
Boomerang is a catchy pop metal anthem that finds Elize’s vocal range and melodic sensibilities never sounding better! Henrik’s aggressive growls are the perfect complement to Elize’s warm crystalline vocals.
The next track, simply titled 21, is a straight ahead rocker that has an attitude and swagger to it. On The Rocks is another heavy pop metal anthem with energy and aggression. The chorus is especially catchy with pop hooks and soaring melodies.
Limitless is the first of two ballads on the album. This one is a duet between Elize and Jake and shows the chemistry the two have when they trade vocal lines. In direct contrast, the next song, Fury, is the fastest and heaviest song on the album, and quite possibly the heaviest song Amaranthe has ever recorded. Naturally this song features growler Henrik for a majority of the song, which just adds to the intensity and heaviness of the track.
Now we come to my two personal favorite songs on the album. First up is Faster, a song that features Jake E taking the lead vocal reigns with an incredibly powerful performance and sweet harmony vocal lines throughout. Henrik’s growls just add to the chemistry of the song. This one just gets better each time I hear it. Next up is Break Down And Cry, an emotional tour de force that features all three vocals in perfect harmony. The chorus alone is one of the best that Amaranthe have ever recorded and that is saying a lot! Hands down, this song is my pick for best song on the record!
Supersonic is a grooving slab of metal that seems made for a live setting with great harmony lead vocals and a bouncing rhythm. Fireball is another massive track with vocals that reach out into the stratosphere and growling that hit you right in the gut with intensity.
The albums closing track is another tender ballad with a solo performance by Elize. The song has a symphonic feel which at times feels cimematic with its use of strings and orchestrations. This is the perfect song for someone with Elize’s talents and a nice way to close the album.
My final thoughts on Maximalism would be that it’s another step up in Amaranthe’s progression and one that will continue the bands ascent into the heirachy of todays modern rock/metal scene.