Review Summary: "Oh no, yet another Swedish Pop metal band". Fortunately, Amaranthe have enough individuality in their debut album to rise above the others...
I know what you're thinking when you put this CD in your disc drive.
Of course, it's very easy to pass this off as just another Sonic Syndicate/Dead By April clone. This isn't helped by the fact that the first few notes you hear on the album are a carbon copy of Sonic Syndicate's song 'Aftermath'. It also doesn't help that the radio-friendly choruses are accessible, likely to make a more hardcore metal fan's ears bleed (metaphorically of course). In one way, this album effort offers nothing new to the format laid down by the two aforementioned bands. In another way, though, this album is more than that.
It is not until third song '1,000,000 Lightyears' begins that a listener will noticed the main musical difference (albeit the trio of vocalist which is noticed from the first few lines of the opening song). This difference is Amaranthe's tendency to slip in time changes and detached rhythms into their guitar work. In fact, so much is this influence apparent that this sounds like fellow Scandinavian metallers Scar Symmetry especially in the opening musical run, and in the chorus itself. Having three vocalists works well for this band, too, with the female vocals of Elize being a particular highlight. The songstress possesses a set of lung capable of reaching most notes, and she also has a variety in her voice that has enough bite to sound suitable for the heavier songs on the album, and enough soulfulness to not sound out of place on the ballad 'Amaranthine'. Clean vocalist Jake E is also very good, but his vocals don't really add a new dimension to this type of music, and he is often drowned out in the choruses by Elize's stronger vocal performance. The real saving grace from the trio of vocalist is 'screamer' Andy, who really is an impressive metal vocalist. His screams are effective, gruff and the words he screams are indentifiable, which is actually a rarity in bands of this ilk (both SS and DBA have pretty terrible screamed vocals).
There is also a real sense of musical talent on this album, as songs such as 'Hunger', the ridiculously catchy (but, beware, very poppry) 'Automatic' amongst a few other possess some rather effective guitar solos. They're not exactly Yngwee Malmsteen, but they're not stupidly simplistic either. The use of synth is actually used mostly to add ambience and atmosphere to the guitar work, rather than to overwhelm and dominate it (this is not true of the more commerical sounding 'Leave Everything Behind').
There is still a real 'pop' sensibility about this album, akin to the likes of the bands Amaranthe will be compared to, but outside of the soaring melodies in songs such as'My Transition', 'Hunger' and 'Enter the Maze' is a band that really seems to enjoy playing good music. The ballad 'Amaranthine' is a highlight to the album, rather than a poorly thought out attempt at a change of pace, with a perfectly catchy chorus melody and beautifully flowing piano harmony. However, the album suffers from one too many songs following the same structure almost religiously. This isn't necessarily bad, as many bands have forged a whole career from sticking to a tried and tested formula (AC/DC, step forward), but it is very apparent on an album like this, where every song works on the whole "build up verse, uplifting chorus" formula. Despite the catchy songs, there are also songs that seem to lose their way slightly, including closing song 'Serendipity' and its predecessor 'Act of Desperation'. This reflects badly upon listening as it almost brings the album to a slower, mediore finish.
This isn't an album that's going to set the world alight, but it IS a darn sight better than the majority of the rivals out there. Amaranthe are a band who seem destined to produce radio friendly, easily disgestable albums, which will please fans of this type of metal until another throwaway band with catchy melodies and a knack for synths comes along. That said, there is enough originality and a unique use of vocals and musical direction to give this album a replay value far surpassing the likes of, say, Sonic Syndicate's earlier efforts, or that of Dead By April's self-titled debut. It's not going to win around your local Slayer fan, but that was never the audience Amaranthe were aiming for anyway. All in all this isn't a bad effort from a band who have slotted themselves into a very busy Swedish pop metal scene.
- Effective use of three vocalist, utilising the talents of all three to benefit the sound of a song
- Interesting time changes and rhythmic differentiation
- Catchy choruses
- Is not going to convert people who dislike this genre
- Songs follow the same generic pattern of structure too often
Songs to Download
- My Transition