Thursday, 20 November 2014

Amaranthe's 'Massive Addictive' - Album Review

The Nexus, Amaranthe's second studio album, was only released about 18 months ago (read my review of that album here) - so Olof Mörck and his band of pop-metallers have wasted little time in capitalising on their success. Massive Addictive is the band's third studio album and, while it makes no great leaps in songwriting or overall style, it delivers another album of highly catchy metal songs that are infused with irresistible pop melodies. The album does however, see the band's first ever line-up change as harsh vocalist Andreas Solveström left the band last year, and has been replaced by Henrik Englund (Scarpoint). Englund has a very similar vocal delivery to Solveström, so this change has not really affected the band's sound in any way. However, it does seem to me that his harsh vocals are slightly more prominent and more liberally used throughout the material here, which does give the album a bit more of a heavier vibe overall. The material here is once again written by guitarist Mörck, along with vocalists Jake E and Elize Ryd. Their voices have always worked well together, and it is good to see that all three of the band's vocalists getting plenty of time to show off their particular skills. Having three vocalists must be a bit of a blessing and a curse for the band. One the plus side, the band have the talents of three vastly different singers at their disposal, which can lead to plenty of diversity. However, it must be hard to keep all three of them happy and getting the balance right so as not to leave anyone out for too long. I have always wondered how the band cope live, as for some portions of the set, certain singers will not have anything to do. Hopefully I will catch the band on their UK tour next year, so I will be interested to see what the singers do while waiting for their next part. The band is rounded out by the dependable rhythm section of bassist Johan Andreassen and drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen, who's work really help to enhance the up-beat vibe that permeates through the band's sound. While none of the songs on this album really stand out as much as some of the band's previous singles (Hunger and The Nexus spring to mind), as a whole the album works very well and has a certain completeness about it. Massive Addictive feels more like a cohesive album, and less like a collection of songs, which does work in it's favour.

The album gets off to a bang (pun intended) with Dynamite, which really sets the tone for the album. The crazy, electronic synths that swirl around the chunky guitar riffs give the song a really modern feel - as the stop-start riffing with double bass drumming adds a metalcore vibe. As expected, the song's chorus is huge, with Ryd really pushing her voice further than she has on any other Amaranthe song before. Her duels with Englund in the verses work well, and Jake E mainly just adds backing here. The metalcore feel returns with a rather bassy breakdown and a short guitar solo. Drop Dead Cynical has a real groove and, even though it really sounds a lot like Marilyn Manson's The Beautiful People in places, actually works well for the band. Anyone who claims that Amaranthe are not a real metal band need to listen to the heavy verses here which sees Englund really shine with his harsh vocals. They have a much more stripped-back feel than most of Amaranthe's music, largely eschewing the synths for more traditional metal instrumentation. The song's chorus, and an industrial instrumental section later on brings them back in a big way, but it creates a great contrast, and makes this one of the more interesting songs on display. Trinity is a more typical fare for Amaranthe, and could easily have sat on their debut album. All three vocalists take turn to sing sections of the verse with Jake E's smooth delivery really standing out. The chorus is probably the album's best too, with really strong pop melodies that are well delivered by Ryd. Mörck also stands out with a short guitar solo, that reminds us of his work with both Dragonland and Nightrage. The album's title track is another more mid-paced affair, but it lacks the solid grooves that Drop Dead Cynical has. As a result, it is less interesting the album's previous songs and seems slightly more bland in comparison. However, the song's chorus melodies are deceivingly catchy, and are likely to get stuck in your head! Digital World takes this formula and hugely improves on it. The synths rumble away in the background as Mörck's heavy riffing leads the song and Englund gets plenty of opportunity to lay his harsh vocals down all over the song's verses. Again, the song contains a breakdown with some fast drumming from Sørensen that is only improved by some rather obnoxious synths. True is more of a ballad which sees Ryd and Jake E use the softer sides of their voices to create something which actually packs quite a punch with delicate piano and big guitar chords creating an appropriate backdrop.

Unreal is another more typical Amaranthe up-beat rocker with melodic synth patterns flowing over the top of a simple guitar riff. The drumming during the song's verses is actually quite interesting, with lots of unconventional patterns that stand out. The chorus is very bouncy with some good staccato riffs helped by some over-the-top synths. There is another guitar solo here too, and it shows that Mörck can really play. Over and Done is another ballad and features Elias Holmlid (Dragonland) on keyboards. Jake E dominates this song, and his voice mixes well with the piano lines that make up the basic melodies. It is a really nice song, that does not really rely on too many electronics. The piano here is well played, and there is a rather emotive guitar solo towards to the end, that has a very 1980s feel to it. Danger Zone is another heavy song that makes excellent contrasts been harshness and melody. Englund's verses are rough and would not sound out of place on your average melodic death metal album, while the choruses are real Amaranthe bread and butter with plenty of flashy synths, and the blending of both Ryd and Jake E's vocals to make something really catchy. It is a simple song, but it is one you can really get into as it is memorable and refuses to leave your head. The next couple of songs are a little less interesting. Skyline has a really catchy chorus, but the rest of the song is a little bland compared to the rest of Amaranthe's stuff. England delivers plenty of excellent vocal lines throughout the song however though, which saves it from becoming really forgettable. An Ordinary Abnormality is similar, although the song's thrashy verses are quite good. Amaranthe rarely get up to that kind of speed, so that is nice to see, but the song's chorus is a let down after the enjoyable verses. To be fair though, nearly all of their choruses are excellent, so it is a bit much to expect them all to be up to the same standard. it is a shame though, as the verses are great with some real metal venom. Luckily though, the album still finishes strongly with Exhale. It opens quite atmospherically with plenty of subtle electronics, and the song maintains this vibe throughout. Although it is melodic, it is not as in-your-face as the rest of the album which actually makes it stand out. The chorus melodies are really interesting, and seem to do something different which the band has not done before. It is hard to explain, but there is something unique about it. Overall, this is another solid and really enjoyable album from one of metal's most melodic bands. While it will not do enough to change anyone's established opinions about them, Amaranthe fans are sure to enjoy this!

The album was released on 20th October 2014 via Spinefarm Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Drop Dead Cynical.

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