Review by Jeff Maki
When I first heard Amaranthe a short time ago, I immediately pegged them for a band that someone like Kerrang would be all over. Featuring three vocalists—the beautiful siren, Elize Ryd; the death metal guy, Henrik Englund; and a power metal guy who looks like he was plucked out of Linkin Park’s lineup, Jake E.—they would have been all the rage and graced every metal magazine cover at Tower Records years ago. They’re pretty, slick and polished. I don’t know about magazine covers, but I can tell you their music video for “The Nexus” has an astounding 6.3 million views to date on YouTube, and the band proudly boasts they have 50 million plays on Spotify. Yet here in the U. S., they are still unknown. Will that change with the release of its third album, Massive Addictive?
Following the debut 2011 self titled album and the 2013 breakthrough album, The Nexus, the new album title makes perfect sense, because even for fans that are drawn to the more extreme metal bands, Amaranthe’s Soilwork/Epica/Linkin Park combination of styles molds death metal, pop, techno and power metal into a sound that is indeed massively addictive.
The songs here build on those albums but stray from the band’s more goth-like beginnings, now with even more power and more pop. While some of Amaranthe’s past material could have been released in the late ’90s during the birth of these “beauty and the beast” bands, Massive Addictive‘s futuristic theme and further incorporation of techno beats leave the listener little doubt that this is a band of today. The beauty here is, of course, the lovely Elize Ryd, whose Top 40-style vocals are probably the most controversial part of the band. Sure, it’s kind of like Christina Aguilera (“Dynamite”) or Ariana Grande (“Unreal”) fronting a metal band, but then again, this is what makes Amaranthe stand out. This marks harsh vocalist Henrik Englund’s first recording with the band replacing former growler Andreas “Andy” Solveström, who left the band in 2013. His style is similar to fellow Swede Björn Strid of Soilwork. His vocals aren’t really necessary and are predictable, mostly just repeating lines as an afterthought, but I see many reasons why the band would want to use them. Musically, the band pulls hard from Soilwork, as well (“Massive Addictive,” “Skyline”). Ryd may be the main draw of the band, but the power metal vocals of Jake E. complement her perfectly—I think it is he who really completes the band’s sound.
As for the rest of Massive Addictive, Amaranthe has taken its biggest hit, “The Nexus,” and run with it. Songs like the ultra-catchy “Digital World” (also the band’s new live opener) set the futuristic feel, both in style and lyrics for the rest of the album. The power metaller “Trinity” is the centerpiece and “The Nexus” of Massive Addictive, another mulitpart mini-metal opera that packs in all the elements of Amaranthe. “Drop Dead Cynical ” is the first single and stands out because it’s different from anything else here. The Marilyn Manson-esque swagger reminds me of “The Beautiful People,” and Ryd’s vocals again sound like a ’90s pop star, but this track shows the most confidence and promise from this still up-and-coming-band and is the most memorable.
Massive Addictive will satisfy the band’s growing fan base and should only accelerate its status in the subgenre of female-fronted metal. Yes, the band is more than this, but this is the audience they’re catering to so far, opening for Within Temptation on its North American leg of the Hydra World Tour in October 2014 (read live recap). This style isn’t something I would listen to regularly, but it’s fun, fresh and exciting. It’s often that bands like this receive the most criticism and hate, but there’s not a bone in my body that hates anything about this. Add Amaranthe to my long list of ever-growing addictions.
(Spinefarm Records, Oct. 21, 2014)