It was a great day in Baltimore, Maryland on Thursday, March 9, 2017. The only thing better than the 60 degree weather, was the fact that Amaranthe was scheduled to play the Baltimore Soundstage that evening. The band started their U.S. tour in February to support their fall of 2016 release, ‘Maximalism’. Joining them on this tour are Smash Into Pieces, Cypher16, Citizen Zero, and Failure Anthem.
I arrived at the Baltimore Soundstage 15 minutes after the doors opened and the place was already filling up with fans. Walking around the venue you could sense the excitement of mostly 20 something crowd. Those that arrived early had already secured their spots at the barrier in front of the stage, while everyone else filled in behind them.
Opening the night Smash Into Pieces. The Swedish alternative metal band had a large digital display set up in front of the percussion/DJ area, which was manned by The Apocalypse DJ. The Apocalypse was the only member whose face was hidden as he donned a LCD mask and hooded outfit. Overall, the group was impressive and their stage antics were fun to watch as they played songs from their latest release, ‘Rise and Shine’, during their 30 minute set.
Next up was Cypher16. The British band released their initial album, ‘The Great Surveyor’ in 2015, although they have several EP releases as well. Their website touts, “you don’t have scream to be heavy”, and they represent that onstage. Clean vocals, provided by Jack Doolan, are backed with metal guitar riffs by Stuart Deard and Doolan. The group played a 30 minute set which was well received by the crowd. Hopefully in 2017, we’ll see more new music from Cypher16.
Supporting their first full length album, ‘State of Mind’, Citizen Zero took the stage next. The band was tight and Josh LeMay’s vocals were perfect as they blazed through a set that included “Go (Let Me Save You)”, “Lure and Persuade”, and “Save the Queen”. Near the end of the set, LeMay stood atop the barricade while singing and took the time to greet fans and toss out guitar picks. When band left the stage, they left the crowed wanting more. Thirty minutes wasn’t enough, but with five bands on the schedule it’s tough to get more time than that.
Failure Anthem was the final act before Amaranthe. Despite releasing a successful album, ‘First World Problems’, the band has experienced several unfortunate setbacks. They lost original singer, JD Eubanks,, when he stepped down last year. He was replaced by Chris Pierson, but he left after a few months. Needing a singer for this tour, the band recruited Johnny Jamison of More to Monroe. Jamison drew cheers from the crowd when the band announced that he was from Frederick, Maryland which is just outside of Baltimore. The group played for nearly 45 minutes and Jamison performed well as the fill in vocalist. Watching them interact with the crowd, there was no doubt they were down to earth, good guys. I hope in the near future, they find a permanent singer that matches their talents.
After four solid performances, the audience was pumped for Amaranthe. After the lights dimmed, Morten Sorensen stepped behind the drum kit as Henrik Wilhemsson, Johan Andreassen and Olaf Morck followed. As the music started Elize Ryd took the stage along with Smash Into Pieces singer, Chris Adams, who is filling in for the recently departed Jake E., who left the band months ago. The band played a nearly 20 song set that covered all of their releases including several from their newest album such as ‘Maximize’, ‘Boomerang’, ‘Fury’ and ‘Endlessly’. I’m happy to report that Ryd’s and Wilhemsson’s vocals were incredible. If you shut your eyes, you’d think you were listening to album. As for Wilhemsson, he even talks in the same gruff voice that he sings which was apparent when he spoke to the crowd on occasion. The electro-pop elements transitioned well live which was critical since it’s such an important component of their overall sound.
If you told me a few years ago that I’d like a metal band that had elements of electro-pop music, I would have called you crazy, but Amaranthe’s sound is infectious. Somehow, the metal riffs, the clean and crunch vocals and the electro-pop infusion works and this band does it very well. Overall, it was a great performance by Amaranthe. Their sound, the light display and their stage presence at times seemed overwhelming for the mid-sized Baltimore Soundstage. Hopefully, the next time they come to the Baltimore/D.C area they’ll visit one of the larger venues. Their production and sound demands it.