Sweden’s Amaranthe took the metal world by storm in 2011 with their self-titled debut, a genre bending mix of metal, anthemic soaring pop choruses, and electronica/techno elements. But what really made Amaranthe stand out from the pack of new metal acts was their triple vocal attack using melodic male and female vocals and metal growls. I like to use the analogy of a gallon of neopolitan ice cream. In this analogy, “clean” vocalist Jake E. Berg (also of Dragonland) would be the “vanilla”, bringing silky, smooth and rich vocal textures, female vocalist Elize Ryd would be the “strawberry”, sweet and bright melodies with a pop flavor, and Andy Solveström’s metalcore vocals would of course be the chocolate in the mix, dark and heavy screams that have a harsh quality to add a distinct “Gothenberg” sound to the music preventing them from going to far into pop territory.
I was a huge fan of the debut with pop infused tunes like Hunger, 1,000,000 Light Years, and the ultra melodic Amarathine, so when I heard the news about their sophomore album The NeXus I was excited to hear what the band would do next. In comparing the debut to NeXus, not much has changed, the band continues to do what brought them to the dance, anthemic pop-infused modern metal. The heavy moments are heavier, the melodies are stronger, and the production is crisp and polished.
From the first notes of the uber-melodic Afterlife the band steps on the pedal and away we go. The chorus is a sort of metalized version of Ace of Base meets Abba. The breakdown of the song features some cool electronica keyboard programming influences courtesy of guitarist, Olof Mörck. The onslaught continues with the self-empowering metal of Invincible, a powerful soaring anthem about working hard to achieve your dreams. The title track is a headbanging slab of modern metal with the keyboards and melodic vocals smoothing out the underlying rough edge perfectly. Once again, a memorable killer chorus keeps the focus on strong melodies and the use of Solveström’s growls is the (chocolate) icing on the proverbial cake.
Theory of Everything features some wicked riffs and rhythms from Mörck and some killer drum work by Morten Løwe Sørensen. One of the albums highlights is Stardust, in which Ryd and Berg’s melodic exchanges blend together perfectly and Solveström’s growls are minimal here. Another standout is Burn With Me, which is a similar melodic track to the first albums Amaranthine, with great vocal harmonies, clean guitars, and killer lead guitar work. It is a brilliant song with great commercial crossover potential. On the verses to the metal chugging of Mechanical Illusion, Solveström’s growls take center stage and Ryd and Berg’s sweet harmonious chorus is one of the best on the album. Mörck’s guitar solo has a neo-classical feel to it that fits in perfectly.
The next track, Razorblade is a pop metal rocker with Elize’s sultry tones on the verses and a bouncy and fun chorus highlighted with some great electronica infused metal. The programming intro of the aptly titled Future on Hold has a sci-fi vibe to the modern sounding metal with a breakdown that will get the folks in the mosh pit moving. Electroheart is a fun dance-pop metal tune that will get your pulse racing and your body moving to the punchy chorus. The futuristic metal of Transhuman is a headbanger features a glorious refrain and some killer guitar work by Mörck. The albums finale Infinity is another heavy song with Elize’s powerful vocals reaching for the stratosphere while Solveström’s growls are used to perfection.
Amaranthe is obviously not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but those metalheads with an open mind will find something to enjoy here. As a band, Amaranthe has created a unique, albeit formulaic, yet compelling sophomore release with The NeXus . With a fantastic U.S. debut at last years ProgPower USA festival under their belts and a current co-headlining tour with Stratovarius, the best is yet to come.