History lesson: At the Gates, Soilwork, and In Flames were all Swedish bands that helped to pioneer what came to be known as the “Gothenburg sound,” which I guess now you can simplify to “melodic death metal.” Since those bands broke on the worldwide stage in, let’s say, the mid-90s, it hasn’t exactly been pumping out bands that have been doing a lot to expand the genre. Don’t get me wrong, there are still bands coming out of the city, but not a lot are focusing on adding to the melodic death metal sounds.
Enter the subject of this article and Gothenburg natives, Amaranthe, who has been at this dance for quite some time, first releasing an EP in 2009 and putting out six studio albums leading up to the latest record, which came out on Nuclear Blast in early October, Manifest. Over those twelve years, they seem to be doing more to push the genre forward than most, adding electronic synths and more pop sensibility in a way that In Flames wishes they could do.
Amaranthe sets themselves apart by having three lead singers (which sounds like triple the divas, amirtie?), each of which has a different singing style. One is the girl one (Elize Ryd), who is doing typical clean female vocals, the variety of which you might expect from such bands as Lacuna Coil or Delain. There are also two guy ones, which have effectively split up the vocals you’d find in the melodic death metal genre: growly (Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson) and clean (Nils Molin).
All of this sounds like a recipe for a hot mess, but surprisingly it all works out remarkably well. Of course, this is all helped by quick songs that don’t fly off into self-indulgent territory. A positive factor in play for the band is keeping their songs to a standard 3-minute formula that is catchy and punchy in equal measure.
The first five tracks (“Fearless”, “Make It Better”, “Scream My Name”, “Viral”, “Adrenaline”) are all upbeat, synth-heavy tracks with just the right amount of death elements to keep it interesting, all of which have vague “messages” so as to not offend anyone in any direction. Sure, they all kind of run together and are a bit samey, but it’s nothing overtly off-putting.
“Crystalline” is a definite low point; a saccharin ballad song, which severely breaks up the record flow. I suppose it does halt the sameness I mentioned before, even though it goes right back to formula for the next track.
This is then followed by the oddest track by far, “BOOM!1”, which is basically a straight djent track with modified rap verses before going back into an Amaranthe melodic chorus. The track feels a bit like its trying to incorporate many different genres in a very “kitchen sink” mentality. It even has a weird spoken-word interlude before a serious breakdown.
This album also has a feature from Noora Louhim from Battle Beast on the track “Strong,” but thanks to the triple threat vocals, I didn’t know she was on the track until I looked to see Spotify telling me this, so if that’s a point that might sell you on the record, I wouldn’t be overly excited.
This record strikes me as a pretty good “gateway record”, one to play if you’re trying to get someone into melodic death stuff. It’s a trim 40-minute playtime and with most songs being under 4 minutes, its there and gone before you have a chance to really grow tired of it.
Written by Andrew Wieler
*Edited by Dominic Abate