Monday, October 17, 2016

Album Review - Amaranthe - Maximalism

Amaranthe is a band that does something that few others dare; make pop metal. Yes, it sounds a bit squishy to hear the words put together like that, but Amaranthe is one of the few bands out there that makes metal that is unabashed about wanting pop-like success. They do their damndest to make their music into the huge, hook-laden music that the rest of the world spends all their time listening to, just with giant guitars backing it up. It's an approach I often lament is not taken more often, because metal's stubborn refusal to embrace elements that speak to people who aren't interested in nothing but screaming and guitars tuned to low-infinity would be a boon for the genre. Sadly, aside from one album here and there every two years, there isn't much music that fits the mold.

WIth album number four, Amaranthe is clearly the leader of this very small movement. With three vocalists running the gamut from crystalline beauty to harsh screaming, Amaranthe shows that you can do a bit of everything and still maintain an identity. There is a core sound that Amaranthe goes for, and when they get the ingredients right, their sound is one that can be massively addictive. What metal fans tend to ignore is that there's a reason why pop music continues to endure; it's memorable, and that's a good thing if you're an artist.

Amaranthe embraces that whole-heartedly. They are making music that wants to spread its wings and bring in as many people as possible. They want to bring in people who might not be metal fans at all, and there is definitely something in here that would appeal to those people. Elize Ryd is always the star of the show, with her soaring voice pumping out choruses designed to fill both stadiums and your head. The aim is to be ridiculously catchy at the same time as being a heavy metal band, and they hit that mark on several occasions. Songs like the title track and "Boomerang" are big, heavy pop tracks in the best way.

There is, however, a limit to whether or not you're going to like this album. That is entirely dependent on how much you like modern pop music. Amaranth's melodic sensibility would fit right in with the material currently on the radio, but that's a world away from what pop music was a decade ago. For people currently invested in what's hot, Amaranthe has made the absolute perfect record. For people who never outgrew the pop music of the late 90s, the effect isn't quite the same. I said the same thing when reviewing the new Sonic Syndicate album that tried much the same balance, and it holds here as well. Modern pop is not my cup of tea, so the appeal of Amaranthe to me is limited. That being said, what I can tell you is that Amaranthe is excellent at what they do, and if I was a few years younger than I am, I would be eating this up.

"Maximalism" is a fun record that is an alternate universe theory of what pop music could have been if it shifted towards guitars rather than computers.

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