Sweden’s Amaranthe took the rock/metal world by storm in 2011 with their self-titled debut, a genre bending mix of metalcore, anthemic soaring pop choruses, and electronica/techno/dance elements and their unique triple vocal attack using melodic male and female vocals and metal growls. The band then released the follow up The NeXus in 2013 to rave reviews and a hit single Burn With Me as well as a successful U.S. headlining tour with Kobra and the Lotus. Now three years and two albums under their collective belt, Amaranthe return with their third studio effort Massive Addictive. Massive Addictive is the first album featuring new “growler” Henrik Englund, who replaces former member Andreas Solveström who left the band in 2013. Massive Addictive was tracked at Hansen Studios in Ribe, Denmark with the sound engineer extraordinaire Jacob Hansen (Anubis Gate, Volbeat, Epica) so you can already imagine that sonically it will be impressive.
Now before I go into my review of the album, I wanted to touch on the critiques that I have heard from the so called “metal elitists” who claim that Amaranthe is not “true metal” and that Elize Ryd is not a “female metal vocalist”.
For the record, Amaranthe have never claimed to be a “metal band”. Are there metal elements incorporated within the bands sound? Absolutely. One of the unique things about the bands sound is that they blend elements from different musical genres to create a sound that is unique and all their own. When you hear an Amaranthe song, you identify the band right away. You want power metal? Listen to Hammerfall. You want “serious prog”? Listen to Pain of Salvation. If you want to listen to a fun band with great hooks, danceable beats, and melodies, listen to Amaranthe.
As for Elize not being a traditional “metal vocalist”? Of course she isn’t. She never claimed to be, but the metal elite condemns her for being an attractive woman with charisma and talent to spare. Obviously Elize is a beautiful woman with an amazing voice that can sing in a pop style as well as rock and you’re your heartstrings with a tender ballad. In my estimation it’s her vocals combined with Jake E that are a huge part of Amaranthe’s success. You can’t just put a random female metal vocalist in her place and expect the chemistry to be the same. Now that I have the op-ed part of my review off my chest, on to the review!
The album starts off with the sound of a fuse being lit and we explode into Dynamite, a electronica meets metalcore barnburner with heavy chugging guitar courtesy of Olof Mõrck and pulsating electronica throughout the song. Elize and Jake’s vocals are filled with melody and energy with a catchy as hell chorus while Henrik’s guttural growls add an aggressive spark. The first single Drop Dead Cynical has a swaggering Marilyn Manson “Beautiful People” vibe from the rhythm section of Morten and Johan. Elize’s sultry vocals trading off with Henrik’s aggressive vocals blend together perfectly. The second verse is 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.
Trinity is a shining rock anthem with Jake and Elize’s powerful and emotive trade off vocals at the forefront. With Henrik’s barking vocals adding a metallic emphasis to the song. The title track is a mid-tempo rocker with a powerful and emotive duet between Jake and Elize and features one of the best sing-a-long choruses on the album. The pulse pounding energy of Digital World is another strong anthem with soaring lead and harmony vocals with a breakdown that will have your body moving to the music. The first power ballad on the album, True, has Elize in her element using the beautiful voice with emotion and passion and blending perfectly with Jake to create a spellbinding duet. The second ballad Over and Done is a softer piano tinged heart-tugger with Jake taking the lead and Elize coming in when the song turns up the power. Henrik’s aggressive vocals take over the lead on Danger Zone as Jake and Elize provide the harmonies during the melodic chorus. Olof makes his presence felt with a blistering and tasteful guitar solo as he does throughout the album. The band goes for the jugular on the straight up rockers Skyline and An Ordinary Abnormality that really shows off the traditional Gothenberg metalcore style while adding Amaranthe’s trademark catchy choruses. The albums final cut Exhale is a symphonic metal epic which brings Within Temptation to mind, which is ironic since Amaranthe have just started their latest U.S. tour opening for Within Temptation on their Hydra tour.
My only critique on Massive Addictive would be that there is nothing immediately catchy as Burn With Me or Amaranthine on the album, two of Amaranthe’s signature songs. However, this is a minor critique as the band scores points for exploring new (perhaps even controversial to some) modern sounds such as dub-step, vocal studders, danceable beats, and breakdowns. This is clearly a band that wants to broaden their sound and are unabashedly are proud of who they are and what they do. Massive Addictive is a perfect description of the album…massive in scope and addictive to the auditory senses.