AMARANTHE has been around now for quite a while, even though in many ways they still feel like a new band. Having swept the metal scene with their triple vocal threat self-titled debut in 2011, now not quite a decade later, they’re already releasing their sixth studio album, “Manifest” on October 2nd, 2020. Nuclear Blast Records were wise to pick these guys up as they have quickly taken the world by storm.
Let’s be frank here: AMARANTHE revs up my critique engines. I’ve been following this band since their debut single for “Leave Everything Behind” and I have loved and hated this band passionately on both ends of the spectrum. While I found the first two albums fantastic, most of their songs sounded too much alike. “Massive Addictive” (2014) turned up the musical diversity, but as much as they turned up the diversity, they turned down the heavy metal, so that by the time “Maximalism” came out in 2016 and Jake E. left the band, they seemed to be a pure pop band with a randomly inserted growler and, if you read that review, you’ll note that I was aggressively not a fan, to the point where I flat-out refused to listen to “Helix” (and I’ve been told it’s their worst album, so it seems that was a good choice). I also saw a dip in the quality of their live shows around the same, but they also came around on that front, putting up a stunning show as they opened for Sabaton in 2019. All that considered, when “Viral” was released, I was almost surprised to find that… it was actually pretty good.
The first thing to say about “Manifest” and why I (spoilers) actually really enjoyed it, is that they’ve added a heaping dose of heavy back into the overall mix. On the band’s spectrum, this album feels a lot like it could have been situated between “The Nexus” and “Massive Addictive” in the discography, as it maintains the synth-driven, tri-vocalist, heavy sound from the earliest material, while maintaining a far more diverse sound than their first two albums. Early tracks like album opener “Fearless” and “Archangel” could be right off the first two albums due to the heavy sound and vocal blend, while other pieces like “Make it Better” could easily have been on “Massive Addictive.”
Singles like “Virus” and “Strong” are really quite good on the whole and don’t compromise any heaviness for the sake of radio play, which is a different and welcome move from the band. The former is a rather poignant piece that’s very relevant to the world at the moment, which is equally true of the latter with its girl-power vibe as BATTLE BEAST vocalist Noora Louhimo loans her voice to the song; the gentle strength of Ryd harmonizes easily with the harsh beauty of Louhimo.
“Scream My Name,” “Adrenaline,” and “Do or Die” feature all three vocalists in equal measure, which in the case of “Adrenaline” is the best part about this track, as it otherwise is a bit more of a direct synth-disco piece that sounds a bit like filler. Nils Molin does get to show off a bit in songs like “The Game” and “Die and Wake Up,” the former of which has a vaguely ABBA-influenced feel to it on top of a decent solo, though Molin‘s sound is not the same as you’d expect based on the way he sings in his other band, DYNAZTY.
The band also breaks a regular habit of putting the slowest song in the track-6 slot, with the first ballad coming into play in track 7. “Crystalline” is a very light, pretty song lead by Ryd that’s got power in its dynamics despite its delicate sound, though Molin takes the male lead with his own unique force, resulting in the best ballad they’ve done, in my opinion, since “True.” One of the strangest songs on the album is “BOOM!1” (and no, that’s not a typo), where Henrik “GG6” Englund Wilhelmsson mixes some rapping into the mix. It’s the heaviest song on the album, so it’s a true bummer that there’s a shameless “valley girl” spoken part that says, “Oh wow, that’s so cool, GG. What else goes boom?” that frankly hurts. Fortunately, every other time I hear it, I don’t notice it. This’ll be a great live track, so hopefully they leave that part out?
The album comes to a close with “Die and Wake Up” and “Do or Die.” The former is a fairly straightforward pop metal track but has a lot of vocal creativity to keep it interesting, while the latter is a high energy, harsh piece that originally featured the band’s manager and former ARCH ENEMY vocalist Angela Gossow on growls in the single version, but the album version has GG6 doing the growls in her stead. Both versions are pretty great, so be sure to check out the version with Gossow too if you get the chance. On top of that, the guitars and rhythms are really strong throughout this track, making it an awesome end to an overall really solid album.
So here I was all revved up to be critical, yet I can be anything but. To put it frankly, this is one of, if not the best albums AMARANTHE have released thus far. For those who have become jaded by the poppy messes that were “Maximalism” and “Helix,” fear not, for this album has abandoned the heavy focus on Ryd (and her tiny pants) in favor of genuinely good music and brings all of the vocalists back to the spotlight, stronger than ever. On top of that, the rhythms aren’t lazy and the music doesn’t all sound the same, so really, these guys kind of knocked it out of the park this time. Nice work!
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Make it Better
- Scream My Name
- The Game
- Die and Wake Up
- Do or Die
Elize Ryd – vocals
Henrik “GG6” Englund Wilhelmsson – vocals
Nils Molin – vocals
Olof Mörck – guitars, keyboards
Johan Andreasson – bass
Morten Løwe Sørensen – drums
Nuclear Blast Records