REVIEW: AMARANTHE – “Manifest”
If there’s been one constant in Amaranthe’s post-‘Massive Addictive’ album trajectory, it’s been their fun, festive and fabulous signature sound. Combining pop and electronica with power metal and Grindcore vocals, each album feels like every great party you’ve ever been to all in one. With a lust for big singalongs, Amaranthe are an outfit that are almost impossible not to enjoy. Fans of the Swedish sextet will be glad to hear that there is more of this to come on their upcoming new album, ‘Manifest’ which is set for release on October 2nd. But if the party lives on as Amaranthe shed their old skin, it all gets off to a pretty bumpy start.
We’ve all been to that bar, club, or house party where the keeper of the playlist takes a while to warm up. Playing songs with choruses just catchy enough to briefly pull your attention away from the beer-pong tournament you’re only really half invested in. Such is the energy found in the opening track “Fearless”, as well its direct followers “Make It Better” and “Scream My Name”. Each track features a chorus that feels lifted from better Amaranthe songs that could have been but that didn’t make the final cut. Which is both unusual and disappointing, for Amaranthe are masters at creating immediately gripping openers. They’re also a leading authority on producing albums that are thoroughly enjoyable throughout. So when a third of this record falls short and misses the mark, it’s a little unsettling.
Leading single ‘Viral’ sees Amaranthe experimenting in the more atmospheric territory. Tense guitar lines courtesy of Olof Morckm, coupled with dramatic vocals from lead vocalist Elize Ryd, clean vocals from Nils Molin, and harsh vocals by Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson all make up for a compelling effort. But ‘Strong’ takes home the gold for memorability as Ryd delivers a hefty vocal performance, ensuring ‘Strong’ is guaranteed to explode when the band returns to live performances. Similarly, the groove-driven “Die and Wake Up” alongside “Adrenaline”, with both sounding eager for the stage. Unlike other curious pieces such as “Boom”. With its bland tones, stale delivery, and blatant Frankenstein arrangement, “Boom” is about as enjoyable of assembling a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle of the color grey.
Refreshing heavy metal heroes or Eurovision icons that never were? Amaranthe are unafraid to boldly activate the pop spirit that gives the metal its fun factor, but with the integrity it rightfully demands. The sound of a band evolving at a glacier slow pace toward a heavier, more atmospheric new chapter, ‘Manifest’ retains the attractive Amaranthe sound with a series of intriguing, if not always fulfilling, twists. Sleek, sexy, and soulfully stylish in its best parts, ‘Manifest’ sounds like the start of a new, unprecedented journey for Amaranthe. If it is too early to tell just how this new direction plays out, you could do a hell of a lot worse than to come along for the ride.