To say that I’ve had an ongoing “love/hate” relationship with Amaranthe would be a far too forgiving description of my feelings towards Sweden’s very own ’90s pop-commodity-metal band’s first two albums. I even took a moment last year to openly admit that I had spent far too much time and energy hating Amaranthe, and that frankly I couldn’t cope with listening to another one of their records. I have to admit, this was partially a lie: I actually have been giving Massive Addictive more listens than I would ever have wanted to admit publicly. But after six months of listening to Massive Addictive with my Last.fm scrobbler turned off, I have to come clean: Massive Addictive is a whole new level for Amaranthe, impressive on a number of different levels.
Whether the band is nodding towards Marilyn Manson‘s superb 1990s output (“Drop Dead Cynical”) or incorporating that patented Melodifestivalen tinkly keyboard sound into their groovy songs, Massive Addictive takes the whole endeavor a step further in their quest to develop a sound entirely unique in metal. They do this by combining the brilliant modern production techniques of the post-melodeath Swedish scene with techno-stylings and dubstep. Unabashedly modern, the drums sound like machines—perfectly replaced to sound like drummer Sørenson has never touched a drum stick in the making of this record—while the bass brings up the bottom end enviably, a chameleon, blending into the background perfectly.
Furthermore, the band has continued to expand on the use of modern electronica by not only incorporating dubstep (the drop at the beginning of “Digital World” is absolutely epic), but they continue to draw on their influences—E-Type, UR Crew, Planet E—making their music an undeniably sexy combination of crunchy modern metal and enough unz-unz-unz to make anyone high enough on ecstasy to take off their pants. “Sure,” you say, “this doesn’t sound like it’s so much different than their earlier records,” but there you’d be wrong. Because what separates this record from the band’s previous material—aside from the ever-expanding bag of production tricks, and hyper-modern sounds—is that the new screamer Henrick Englund picks up his quarter of the vocal-three-way-split with the absolute professionalism of someone who knows he has huge shoes to fill. Former screamer Andreas Solveström was such an important part of the band’s sound, and Englund works hard to make sure that no one could even tell that he had left the band. And the new guy can really scream “THE GAME IS ON!” with conviction that moves even the most Angry of Metal Guys.
To top it all off, Elize Ryd and Jake E. combine to deliver a heart-wrenching ballads (“True” and “Over and Done”) in addition to their other vocal duties, and that song helps to make the whole thing feel fantastically deep. Really, the lyrics here are exemplary: a feeling of driving determination and self-realization wafts across the whole record. While they might take the occasional turn towards something that addresses a real modern issue like “Digital World,” the record is generally filled with happy, powerful, positive lyrics that reminds me of Tony Kakko’s best lyrical contributions. No defeatist realism, here. Instead, these Swedes and Danes have a pure dedication to existentialist self-determination. Even in the darkest of moments, there’s an objectivist spirit that wafts through these songs.
And I can’t help but love the slick songs—nothing longer than 3:45—and the earworms the band produces, embedded in the grooviest of chunky tracks that remind me of Sonic Syndicate, or Killswitch Engage. The combination of all these elements with undeniably catchy songs means that Massive Addictive shouldn’t have been given the miss. What do you get when you add the melodies of Max Martin, the guitar sound of late Soilwork, with uplifting music, a powerful artistic vision and the dynamic range of Skrillex? A massive addiction! Get it?!
Songs to Check: “Digital World,” “Drop Dead Cynical,” “Danger Zone”