There is no denying that the metal scene is flexible enough to accommodate all types of music that have a heavier edge to it, from traditional rock and heavy metal to such sub-genres as symphonic death metal, progressive metalcore, or neoclassical darkwave. By the scene’s very nature, hybrid bands have flourished and Swedish melodic death metal masters AMARANTHE are no exception. After such brilliant albums as “Amaranthe” (2011), “The Nexus” (2013) or “Massive Addictive” (2014), the six-piece is now ready to take its blend of pop melodies, huge choruses, relentless guitars, and multi-layered soundscapes to the next level with the release of its most ambitious work to date, “Manifest,” out on 2 October 2020 via Nuclear Blast.
I’ll start this by saying, “Welcome to the band, Mr. Molin!” It’s not uncommon for metal bands to have a “safe period” when a new vocalist joins, where they give fans what they expect from the band, then on the next release, dig deeper into the new member’s potential (think KAMELOT when Tommy Karevik joined) to create something more bold and innovative. This Swede – who also fronts melodic metal outfit DYNAZTY – sounds even more like himself on AMARANTHE’s upcoming album. No longer just the third voice of the band as was the case with many of the songs from the band’s previous album, “Helix,” much of his vocal work on such tracks as “The Game,” “Archangel,” the album version of “Do or Die,” or “BOOM!1” can almost rival most of his vocal work on “The Dark Delight” (DYNAZTY’s 2020 output). He also brings more of his personality and unflinching attitude to the songs, elevating them to incredible heights.
Therefore, expect the songs from “Manifest” to be overall better than many of the tracks from “Helix,” as they took all the best aspects of the last album, built on that strong foundation, and crafted quite a diverse offering. The album in itself is heavier, faster, more guitar-driven, and better-balanced vocal-wise, with fewer keyboard soundscapes and fewer predictable moments. Songs like opener “Fearless” or mid-paced “Adrenaline” are classic AMARANTHE pieces, very catchy and memorable, while such cuts as “Scream My Name” and “BOOM!1” are fast-paced, heavy tracks that ground the album. Elize Ryd changing her singing key is a major factor in the overall sound of this album and her lower vocals mesh better with Nils Molin’s clean vocals and Henrik Englund’s harsher vocals, creating some beautiful harmonies. To quote a line from the chorus of “Archangel,” “the trinity has synchronized” and the listeners get to hear this synchronicity all throughout the album; not just in how present each of the three vocalists are, but how well their vocals are combined, especially in the choruses, as it’s not just Elize Ryd in the forefront. For example, the choruses to both “BOOM!1” and “Do or Die” have Nils Molin leading the charge, while in the case of “Fearless” or “The Game” we hear a great mix of both Nils and Elize. I would even dare say that Elize’s role is more low key, with the two gentlemen being featured more predominantly; this shift in dynamics is felt progressively as the album unfolds. Henrik Englund is again growling and rapping his way through most of the album, which makes him one of the most impressive extreme metal singers. He’s particularly imposing in “BOOM!1” with his signature growl-rapping style of performing that he does so well. ARCH ENEMY’s Jeff Loomis makes a guest appearance on the album version of “Do or Die” by delivering a magnificent guitar solo that adds melody and elegance to the track.
The way this album is put together is quite interesting, starting off with “Fearless” and “Scream My Name,” which set a rather familiar sound for the listeners. The same idea goes with “Viral” being the first single, as it is reminiscent of “365” and “Drop Dead Cynical,” only heavier and with a groovier twist. The album continues with bouncy and melodic tracks “Adrenaline” and “The Game,” and superb ballad “Crystalline,” all which engage the listeners further with more recognizable melodies, lulling them with a false sense of security so that by the time such heavy hitters and darker tracks as “Archangel” and “BOOM!1” come around, they are hooked and don’t know what hit them. With “Archangel,” the band gets as close as ever to sounding symphonic because the backing orchestrations are sleek and fierce, while the strings and cello melodies, courtesy of APOCALYPTICA’s Perttu Kivilaakso, add a touch of melancholy to “Crystalline.” The all-girl-power of “Strong,” where Elize and Noora Louhimo (BATTLE BEAST) share vocal duties, is a solid indication that “Manifest” is not a linear album by any stretch of the imagination and the last couple of tracks reinforce this idea.
Sound-wise, the fact that Olof Mörck’s guitars, Johan Andreassen’s bass, and Morten Løwe Sørensen’s drums are more distinctly heard in the mix makes the keyboard feel less preeminent, like it doesn’t have that big of a role to play on this record. However, where it does appear, it makes an impact – from the atmospheric backgrounds of “Viral” and“Strong,” to the chiming keys piercing through the layers of aggression of “BOOM!1,” to the cinematic feel of “Archangel.” As always, Jacob Hansen has done one hell of a job producing this album and making sure all the instruments and vocals are mixed perfectly. To add one more item to the list of things done right, the lyrics are better written this time around, as they tell stories and paint vivid pictures. Case in point: somber “Make it Better” and “Do or Die”; emotional “Crystalline”; and album highlights “Archangel,” “The Game,” and “BOOM!1,” with the latter having my favorite chorus on the whole album.
“Manifest” is undoubtedly the end result of a group of people confident in their individual skills and the incredible creativity and songwriting prowess of band leaders Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd, who never fail to come up with melodies that are heavy but also engaging. However, “Manifest” is more than the sum of its parts, it is a shared vision that will solidify AMARANTHE’s status on the metal scene as one of the most ingenious and trailblazing bands out there. Simply put, this moody, dynamic, and nuanced album is, in many ways, a rebirth of the band, a beginning of a new and exciting chapter. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Written by Andrea Crow
- Make It Better
- Scream My Name
- Strong (ft. Noora Louhimo)
- The Game
- Die and Wake Up
- Do or Die (ft. Jeff Loomis)
Elize Ryd – vocals
Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson – vocals
Nils Molin – vocals
Olof Mörck – guitars, keyboards, synthesizers
Morten Løwe Sørensen – drums
Johan Andreassen – bass
Interview with Scar of the Sun — “I was angry, I was really angry, and that’s why my vocals came out like that.”