You can see the metal elitists frothing at the mouth over Swedish sextet Amaranthe. The aural explosion of pop, power metal and dance beats, jagged riffs and songs that will take a number of extremes, heavy hitters mixing with ballads, three vocalists, growls and male cleans and then the delectable Elize Ryd, gorgeous production wraps up more bombast than many can handle or appreciate.
Amaranthe was something of a bit of a underground secret when they burst out in 2011 with their self titled debut. Follow up Nexus pitched further forward but it was 2014’s Massive Addictive that really blew the lid off of what this talented band had to offer. A freight train ever since and culminating in 2018’s Helix, an album that was bigger everything and Amaranthe had once more raised their own bar. So the question is where the band go from here.
While the answer may well be the new album that is Manifest, it is a super-charged new chapter in that it is their first for Nuclear Blast and overall, the record is one where the band continue to play to their strengths and manage to elevate themselves in the terms of quality of song writing. It is true that the new album hardly sidesteps Amaranthe’s winning formula and in that sense, there are no surprises. What makes Manifest an excellent record is the quality of songs, the aiming to raise their own bar and rather than repeating themselves, still offers something new that uses the band members and their respective performances. One of the strengths of Helix – with new clean singer Nils Molin on board – was that it was a unified line up and it is fair to say that Manifest does build on that.
While Fearless does lay down the blue print and is laden with bombast, it does feel more of a scene setter than a truly riveting opener, it brings all of Amaranthe’s elements together, distant parping keys before a stomping riff and some pinch harmonics courtesy of Olof Mörck which then introduces the vocalist one by one in the verse but the chorus could have been lifted from any Amaranthe song. Make It Better has a mid-paced crunch in the guitar and it is the different instrumentation behind the voices on the verses that piques the interest. Scream My Name loads in the metal-core giving Henrik Englund “GG6” Whilemmson a bit more of a starring role and all credit to the guy as to rolling those growls behind shimmying keys and juddering guitar. It is first single though that really throws down what Amaranthe do best with a chorus that (like its title) is just so damn infectious that it will ring in the head for days and the steady gallop of the tempo it really is impossible not to be moved by. Adrenaline is pushed by the electronica, the keyboards are upon high and there is some nice drum work from Morten Løwe Sørensen and terrific vocal play between Whilemmson and Molin as well as a soaring solo by Mörck. Strong features backing vocals by the formidable Battle Beast vocalist Noora Louhimo and as much as it is does have a ballad sheen, it is undeniable as to the chemistry on display between Elize and Noora. Ballad proper Crystalline with its serene cello (courtesy of Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica) also has some simply gorgeous vocals courtesy of Elize plus if there was any doubt as to the wow factor on Nils Molin then look no further. Archangel is an absolute banger of a track, the guitar kicks the door in, Whilemmson smashes it into the wall with his growls and even Molin has some aggression in his delivery but that chorus is killer, the pace is totally amped, the song whizzes by with some (hell) fire in its belly. BOOM! is likely to be the divisive track and it is not the first time that Whilemmson has rapped his vocals but the second part of the second verse is pretty mind blowing by anyone’s standards and with a chorus that is completely opposite to the those verses, Amaranthe deliver another stunner created by polar opposites.
Make no mistake that Amaranthe has delivered a stunning piece of work in Manifest, ram packed with diversity and a tremendous set of songs. Even that weaker first track in the context of the whole album can easily be forgiven, still a great tune but just not a strong as some of the others. What is unmistakeable is the vocal interplay by the three singers which is staggeringly good and there is so much going on it is impossible not to be impressed. Similarly with the music, expertly delivered, edge of your seat tempos and with a production that has more polish than the crown jewels on the Queen’s birthday. Manifest is fun. It is exciting, positive to the hilt with songs that lift and will rattle around the cranium long after it has ended. The latest album in the band’s cannon is a quality release that will keep fans happy but it is unlikely to bring the band’s detractors to heel. Amaranthe may not be reinventing their wheel but in Manifest has succeeded in adding some new spokes to the one it already has.