Review by Jeff Maki
I appreciate the over-the-top pop-metal of Sweden’s Amaranthe. I love its talented, sexy vocalist, Elize Ryd. I even like clean singer Jake E. and appreciate his Chester Bennington singing style. I even like its death metal vocalist—yes, the band has three vocalists—Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson. The band’s previous release, Massive Addictive, was Amaranthe’s breakthrough in the U.S. thanks to the hit single “Drop Dead Cynical.” I liked the band even more when I saw it open for Within Temptation in 2014. Amaranthe’s live show is the best of all of its metal styles (and Elize). When I heard the title of the new album, Maximalism, for the first time, I thought it was perfect. We were going to be getting Amaranthe to the max.
Well, sometimes, more is not always better. Maximalism is full of heavy guitars, hooks and bombastic choruses, and Elize Ryd should become even more recognizable after this performance. But the pop infusion had me cringing more often than not, and may or may not be a turn off for those who became fans of the band with Massive Addictive. I would compare it to In This Moment’s transformation on Black Widow or, to a lesser extent, Halestorm’s Into the Wildlife.
This is the most radio-friendly Amaranthe yet, with the first single, “That Song,” leading the way. It’s “We Will Rock You” beat and hard-rock flair brings to mind Joan Jett or Halestorm. As catchy as it might be, this is an obvious attempt at radio and a far cry from “The Nexus.” Despite Elize’s dance moves and choreography, the music video for “That Song” is equally painful to watch.
“Boomerang” is “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” reworked into a metal tune, the first of my many cringe-worthy moments. But it’s the lyric “drop it like it’s hot” sung in death metal style that appears in “On the Rocks” that induced the most hair-standing cringe.
The album does have its moments. The ballads “Limitless” and album closer “Endlessly” capture the power and beauty of older Amaranthe, and remind me of Within Temptation. When they do turn up the metal, the album opening title track, “Fury,” “Supersonic” and “Break Down & Cry” sound like they could have appeared on any Amaranthe album.
As memorable and unique as Amaranthe is, I hard time getting through Maximalism. It gets better on repeated listens—hopefully you can reach this point.
(Spinefarm Records, Oct. 21, 2016)