LIVE PHOTOS: Amaranthe, Failure Anthem, Citizen Zero, Cypher16, Smash into Pieces
Review by Jeff Maki
It had been more than two years since I had seen Amaranthe open for Within Temptation (read review), also in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, with the success of Massive Addictive and its most recent album, Maximalism, Amaranthe has graduated from opening act to headliner. This was the third to last show of its North American Maximalism Tour, which featured four bands in support.
I’ll skip the minor details of the openers so you won’t have to wait as long for Amaranthe as we did, but let me say that if there were such a thing, Citizen Zero won the “batttle of the opening bands,” with its brand of classic and hard rock. Soundgarden and Shinedown come to mind, particularly the latter on the ballad “Home,” which also had shades of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Bangin’ in the Nails” and the set-closer, “Save the Queen,” were also standouts.
The most interesting thing about the first band, Sweden’s Smash into Pieces (other than their drummer’s light-up EDM-style face mask), was that the singer, Chris Adam Hedman Sörbye, was filling in as an Amaranthe vocalist for the recently departed Jake E. We’ll get more into that shortly.
After “Drop Dead Cynical”–the lead single from Massive Addictive–became a hit on rock radio in the U.S., Amaranthe released its next album looking to capitalize on its success and maximize all the elements of the band, the appropriately titlted Maximalism. Already boasting two hit singles/videos in “That Song” and “Boomerang,” there was a decent size crowd, many of which lined up before doors opened, anxiously waiting to see vocalist Elize Ryd and these Swedish sensations.
Before the tour, one of the band’s three vocalists, Jake E., announced he had left the band. Jake was responsible for the clean vocal parts, provided soaring melodies and also was a founding member of Amaranthe. It’s a big loss for a band that has followed this formula from the start. Chris, from Smashed into Pieces, was an admirable fill-in, but he doesn’t possess the charisma or vocal range Jake has. It definitely felt like something was missing and that the band was incomplete, which isn’t a good sign. No announcement has been made regarding a permanent replacement.
What was lacking without Jake’s presence, vocalist Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson did his best to make up for. He performs the death metal, unclean vocal parts, which translate much better live than on record. On Maximalism, he mostly echoes Elize and Jake, and even seems like an extra, yet he is the most metal part of Amaranthe. He reminds me of Lacuna Coil vocalist Andrea Ferro, the complement to Cristina Scabbia. Much like Ferro, he doesn’t always have a lot to do except headbang and stalk about the stage while he waits for his parts, but when his number is called, his high energy and loud, aggro-vocals drive the songs home. He’s also the guy responsible for keeping the crowd fully engaged. I appreciate him much more now after this show.
Elize Ryd is the main draw of Amaranthe. Her Wikipedia page says she is 5 feet 6 inches tall, but that must be with high heel boots on. What she lacks in size she makes up for with a huge voice. She is also now the sole remaining vocalist from the band’s initial lineup.
Her pop style, amidst the three-vocalist attack, is what sets the band apart from other run-of-the-mill “beauty and the beast” female-fronted metal bands. She’s also a dancer, and her sexy moves were on display for “Boomerang” and “That Song,” much like in the music videos for the songs. When she wasn’t singing and and shaking her hips, she threw playful jabs at the other vocalists and did her trademark kicks above her head.
With her mic outstretched to the crowd, the fans serenaded her during the ballad “Amaranthine,” and she performed “Endlessly” beautifully. “The Nexus” was obviously a standout live and the heaviest song in the set. It is still the band’s biggest online video hit, as it displays all the styles and power of the Amaranthe formula, including the riffs of guitarist Olof Mörck—let’s not forget him. The set-closer “Drop Dead Cynical” received the biggest response. It tells you how far Amaranthe has come in a short time, as it was the second song they played in the set in 2014.
An 18-song set more than satisfied the fans who came out to Baltimore Soundstage, some traveling hundreds of miles to see Amaranthe—I talked with some who had. When Elize asked the crowd, about half of the crowd cheered that they had come from outside Baltimore. Yes, Amaranthe is becoming a draw far and wide, and its combination of styles reaches a wide-ranging audience. They should only continue to get bigger and more well known.
AMARANTHE SET LIST: “Maximize,” “Boomerang,” “Hunger,” “Invincible,” “1.000.000 Light Years,” “Trinity,” “True,” “Fury,” “Endlessly” “On the Rocks,” “Automatic,” “The Nexus,” “Amaranthine,” “Call Out My Name,” (encore) “Digital World,” “That Song,” “Dynamite,” “Drop Dead Cynical”