Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Amaranthe's 'The Nexus' - Album Review

Amaranthe are one of the biggest rising stars in the metal world at the moment. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2011 and was instantly popular as its simple songwriting built around massive hooks and catchy riffs appealed to so many people. Metal fans often are extremely (over)protective of their favourite subgenres and, in my opinion, create so much animosity between themselves that they are all missing out on a lot of good music. Amaranthe are one of the few bands in recent years to really bridge the gap between the different subgenres and appeal to a lot of people. Founding member, guitarist and principal songwriter Olof Mörck has found fame in both the power metal world as a member of Dragonland and the melodic death metal world as a member of Nightrage. Amaranthe seems to aim to fuse those two sounds - with great success - as well as adding in huge doses of good old fashioned pop music. Obviously, there are some metal purists that turn their nose up at this sort of music, but it seems that the majority has been hooked. This year sees the release of their second album The Nexus and the formula has not really changed at all. The songs are still built around simple, yet memorable riffs with plenty of keyboards and the band's trademark tri-vocal attack with Elize Ryd and Jake E providing the clean vocals and Andreas Solveström providing the harsh vocals. The Nexus is the natural successor to Amaranthe and fans of the first album will be pleased with the results here providing their happy with the band not really moving forward in their sound (which I am, at this stage).

 Afterlife gets things started and all the hallmarks that were so successful on the band's first album are present here in swathes. Mörck is a proficient keyboardist as well as a guitarist and the song is built around a big keyboard riff that is carried by some fast footwork by drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen. As expected, the chorus is massive - as with pretty much every Amaranthe song - and Ryd and Jake E intertwine their voices together to create melodic heaven. Solveström's harsh vocals are usually only reserved for the verses and breakdowns where his growls give them extra punch. There is also a short but flashy solo from Mörck that allows him to show off his chops. Invincible follows and the formula is very much the same. The keyboards take more off a back seat on this song however and the guitars and bass are more upfront creating a heavier song. Even though the keyboards are not as prominant, electronics still bleep away in the background creating an irresistible dancefloor atmosphere. The title track, which is also the first single from the album, is up next and this is one of the best tracks on the album. A really interesting and different vocal melody in the verse set it apart from the rest of the songs before a seriously delicious chorus blows you away. I think this song really brings out the best in all three of the voices on display. There is also another really melodic and memorable guitar solo from Mörck who shows that it is possible to be technical and still be fun. The next highlight is Stardust. After a simple guitar and bass riff, the instruments drop out and leave Jake E's voice backed only by gentle keyboards and pulsing electronics before eveything kicks back in and Solveström's screams create a great contrast. The chorus is yet another contrast, a seeming change of pace with an interesting melody that becomes an earworm almost instantly. It shows that while the formulas of the songs do not change drastically, subtle changes can create something vastly different keeps things varied and from being boring.

The ballad Burn With Me is next and starts out sounding a bit like Avantasia's Carry Me Over before Jake E's vocals sing a melody that would not sound out of place in your average Top 40 smash hit. In fact this whole song has hit written over it. It will never be marketed in a way that would take it to the top of the charts but if Radio 1 would play it I suspect it would - metal or not. It just goes to show that a good song is a good song, even if it sounds like a chart hit - no snobbery here! Mechanical Illusion is up next and this is back to the metal. With the sheer amount of harsh vocals on display here, it is probably the heaviest track on the album but the chorus is still massive and stops the song from being an onslaught of brutality. The mix between light and shade has always been a key part of the band's sound and it is great to hear it so well displayed here. Electroheart is easily the cheesiest song on the album and borrows heavily from disco music and modern clubland. There is not much to say about this song, but if the band can get a whole load of bearded metal heads to get into songs like this, then they have done well. I'm not proud, I saw turn it up loud and just go nuts! Transhuman is next and this is back to more traditional Amaranthe territory. It seems heavy after the disco beats of Electroheart but that is only relative. The chorus is catchy as always. Ryd and Jake E's voices go so well together and sometimes it is hard to tell who is actually singing because they meld together a lot of the time. Both of them are powerful voices and it is freshreshing to hear a female singer singing in a more pop oriented style and still being successful without having to go down the more classical route that many women in metal go down. The album comes to an end with Infinity and rounds out the album nicely with more big riffs and vocals. I like how Amaranthe make very simple song writing and arrangements sound so big and epic - this is testament to the band's vision and also producer Jacob Hansen who has done an excellent job here with quite a complex mix. I just hope the band have some UK dates in pipeline to promote this album over here!

The album was released on 25th March 2013 via Spinefarm Records. Below is the band's promotional video for The Nexus.

No comments:

Post a Comment