Review Summary: Amaranthe unveil their true Helix.
The world of modern listening has certainly become a jaded affair. A multitude of new bands offering old-er sounds are as quickly shunned as the old-er bands that try something new are dismissed. Both fans and critics alike offer confusion to the bands releasing new music, offering little to no direction in what they actually want to hear. Despite the outward unhelpfulness of listeners in the modern day there are those albums that defy classification into the categories mentioned above. Amaranthe’s newest offering, Helix
is just one of those records that creates both joy and moments of cringe as it proceeds through its forty one minute run time. Convolution. Not unlike defining the helix
itself Amaranthe allows itself neither to be over or even underrated, sitting exactly in the middle, while falling incredibly short of being a raging success. Helix
showcases just how an album can have ‘everything’ yet achieve nothing simultaneously. There are moments of greatness, of bliss achieved in the very foundations of sounds that would normally disassociate the very listeners waiting for that all important uniqueness.
At times tracks are barely discernible from each other instrumentally. The often up tempo, clean male/clean female/nu-metal harsh wrap stylings of the vocals blend from one to the next continuing predictably up til the nth degree. The rhythmic “365” pushes on the very limits of predictable cheese, making the most of the group’s female vocal efforts in Elize Ryd (to which the entirety of Helix
is [thankfully] centred). If you’re at a loss to what a vocal hook actually is, Amaranthe’s newest piece barely goes a minute without one, painstakingly creating each chorus to be as infectious as possible. It’s this overused ability to meld song title and chorus together that draws the listener in, before they hate themselves for it. Despite an ability to overbear as much as sonically possible throughout the album’s forty one minute run time, Amaranthe manage to entrap their listeners in the music they love to hate. “Inferno” borrows from the mainstream and even the less practiced listener can hear snippets of Ed Sheeran’s vocal syncopation. “Countdown” continues in the same systemic vein, without remorse or slowed tempo. The half screamed nu-metal rap stylings of Wilhelmsson belt into the pop leanings of Amaranthe’s core and combine all too well into the triple vocal efforts.
Unfortunately, the group’s newest vocalist Nils Molin is also the album’s “weak link”. As unfair as it is to lump dissatisfaction on what is one part of this Gothenburg based powerhouse, Molin’s cleans don’t mesh properly into the Amaranthe framework. It could be his entry into the band just last year, but most of his lines are forced and unnatural. See the opening lines of “Breakthrough Starshot” where Molin namedrops Lady Godiva before teaming up with the other two thirds of Amaranthe’s vocal team. Fairly, his melodic croon does manage to soar on the piano led “Unified” unveiling just how this band leans too heavily on always having three vocalists belt notes into the listeners’ ears. “Unified” also allows a glimpse of the band’s potential assuming they turned down the overly ambitious pop leanings. Well placed guitar solos, ringing vocal harmonies and just enough harsh noise to stay “metal” enough for their fan base. A few more power ballads like this and Amaranthe could really make waves.
When it comes down to it, Amaranthe can actually write music. Helix
is certainly an example of that simple fact, but there’s as many positives to take away from the group’s newest album as there is negatives. Where the music sounds natural, Amaranthe excel. But where this Swedish myriad of styles push too hard the music becomes forced and unnecessary. Trim down a couple of meandering motifs, take away some of the overwhelming layering and what’s left is a showcase. Amaranthe’s music may be designed to be as wide reaching as humanly possible by bridging multiple genres but it’s just as likely to lose as many listeners as it gains.