Amaranthe is a new face to the metal scene, with this month's release of its self-titled debut being the band's first mark on the map. Seems this group has friends in high places however, given their appearance on the bill with some lofty names during tours this spring and summer. With a pretty face at the front of the band and someone talented writing their melodies, I anticipate commercial success for this young group over the next year or so, but do they really have staying power with their sugar-coated take on melodic death metal?
Amaranthe meld the sounds of slick, poppy, female-fronted gothic metal (Within Temptation) with a few power metal elements (think perhaps Visions of Atlantis) and couple it with the crunchiness and occasional vocal aggression of modern death metal/metalcore. I include metalcore in the description for a few different reasons, not the least of which is the presence of the irritating harsh screams that are prominent at times. The guitar is also used much more rhythmically here, with the melody being provided primarily by the trio of vocal lines (yes, three vocalists). In the end, I'm not quite sure where to place this, but it doesn't belong completely in the metal realm due in part to its simplicity and very concise songs (most all of which fall under the four minute mark).
I'll make no secret about it: this would be a monstrously enjoyable pop-metal album for me if it weren't for the terrifically awful screams. When melodies are written this proficiently and combined with a reasonably tasteful instrumental background, I don't mind that I'm listening to heavy, glorified pop quite so much. Amaranthe has accessible and memorable choruses in spades, and the overwhelming factor that redeems this album is that they just won't get out of my head. It takes a bloody lot for me to overlook vocals like these atrocious screams, so I want to make clear just how intense the rest of this music is.
Lead vocalist Elize Ryd is an above-average female vocalist (who, unlike Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation, didn't need to record three studio albums in order to learn how to sing), and when combined the clean male vocals (which sound a little like something you'd find in a mid-90's American boy band at times), they create a rather pleasant-sounding vocal mixture. Good thing too. The double bass pedal is used quite liberally and in bursts, the bass is mostly nonexistent, the guitar is deep, growly, rhythmic, and generally devoid of anything involving virtuosity. In short, all other elements clearly take a backseat to the heightened focus of Elize's voice. Let's not forget that this is a pop album made for a metal-obsessed European audience.
After a number of listens, I think that while this is a great album to play for something to hum or sing along to for a while (and very enjoyably so), it doesn't have much depth at all, and is ultimately going to be dismissed by most of us who generally care for something more substantial in our music (read: metalheads). In spite of all this, I certainly recommend an occasional listen of this to just about anyone who will appreciate the sheer melody of the work. This album is worth the purchase for those like myself, but is going to divide people. Delicious but unfulfilling, this is the dessert course of the melodic death metal table.
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The Protagonist's Rating: 7.0 out of 10