Amaranthe has three vocalists. Just let that sink in for a while. From what I can tell, not one of those vocalists plays an instrument. Instead, they found three “attractive” people to do vocals for them. The first is a woman, who sounds like a pop singer (think E Type) and who I guarantee you cannot name a Slayer record. The second is a screamy dude. He’s got a beard (’cause he’s tough and angsty, you see) and he screams, but not too much (he must be very, very, very bored on stage). And then there’s the ‘power metal’ vocalist (Berg from Dream Evil) who’s just as over-produced as the chick vocalist and is there to get 14 year old girls all silly over his perfectly groomed dreadlocks. Behind them are several soulless session musicians (from Mercenary, Dragonland and Engel). Though, frankly, this is a band that is functionally made of session musicians, since integrity seems to be lacking.
Amaranthe uses those three vocalists to punctuate modern heavy metal songs with various types of vocal styles, each in their own way. The music, while not intrinsically interesting, is ridiculously catchy. It is seasoned with just enough chug to make it appeal to kids who like breakdowns, and just enough clean vocals to appeal to someone who likes power metal, and just enough ‘techy’ parts to appeal to someone who likes ‘progressive metal.’ It’s like someone took heavy metal, and then boiled down all the elements of what made it heavy and put that into a pop music format. In a lot of ways, these songs have more in common with things that are on popular radio than with other female-fronted metal bands like Nightwish or Theatre of Tragedy. And I don’t mean “rock radio,” I mean pop radio.
Because, you see, this music is built for pop. This is not a metal record, really. I mean, there are heavily overproduced drums that do nail double kicked 8th, 16th and 32nd notes and dudes with long hair. But there is nothing actually metal about this in the esoteric sense. The music isn’t remotely dangerous, it’s sickly sweet and it’s built to be as catchy as possible. It also lacks any kind of real substance whatsoever. While I don’t have credits, I wouldn’t actually be surprised if the Swedish song-writing industry (which is well-known for writing for Britney Spears and others) isn’t behind this band, because these songs are super slick. And they certainly do stick. The hooks are built to dig in as deep as possible and the songs rigidly follow pop-formulas filled with vapid and vacuous lyrics that have no meaning. The music has some metal to it, but also it has a good share of techno dance beats done in metal form (but not ironically like covering a Pet Shop Boys song, they do it intentionally).
There is definitely a market for this, but this is not metal. And you know what, it makes me sick that the genre has come to the point where a band can do this and people get excited about them having no sense of dignity. The members of Amaranthe probably sleep well at night, now, but they are the metal equivalent of N’Sync or the Backstreet Boys. The band feels false and contrived and I think they’ll have a poor outcome in the long run because of it, though I’m certainly no seer. My gut instinct says “Elize” Ryd sticks with the band as far as it will take her before launching a pop career, while I can’t imagine that these other guys are particularly satisfied with the music they’re making. While the music occasionally wanders into Scar Symmetry or Soilwork territory, the music is simple, with only the occasional guitar solo flourish (lagom really, for the purpose of locking a certain listener base).
To be honest, I can’t even believe that this stuff exists. I have publicly ripped on a few bands in my time here at Angry Metal Guy, but I gotta say that this is the one that makes me the sickest to the stomach, because this is functionally the equivalent of Warrant for 80s metal or that stupid fucking “Click, Click, Boom” band for nu metal. This is fake, plastic and lacking in substance and built to sell records. And it will sell records, largely because it appeals to the lowest common denominator. As Angry Metal Girlfriend said when I was listening to it, “Oh yeah, this reminds me of the kind of stuff that hicks out in the countryside pump in their car systems.” I think that about sums it up. And this isn’t the only Swedish band to take this route right now: over-produced, fake and lacking substance. But Amaranthe takes this cake.
So if you love E-Type and Sonic Syndicate and/or you love your metal to be manufactured in such a way that it should appeal to Melodifestival (or Eurovision) viewers, then you should check this record out. For everyone else with a sense of dignity, respect for the genre or that likes his or her music to have some kind of soul, feeling and technical prowess, you should probably just avoid this band. While they have their moments (the songs are built to be catchy and you will remember them), I can’t get over how ill I feel every time I listen to this record. And I suspect in the dark of night, when these band members are wiping the results of all their hard work off their chins, they probably feel a little dirty, too.