It’s certainly not controversial to say Amaranthe are a divisive band. Often lumped in with the symphonic metal movement, their love of the grandiose notwithstanding, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For just over a decade Amaranthe have honed their unique blend of power metal and danceable pop, with the odd injection of other genres, all leading up to this, the release of their sixth studio album Manifest.
Whereas in the past their albums have had a tendency to contain a little too much fluff and filler, with maybe two to three standout tracks, Manifest is perhaps their most cohesive work to date. To be clear, there isn’t anything particularly new here that they haven’t done before. That said, while they may have done it all before, they’ve never really done it this consistently or this well. A few tracks feel like they’re just vehicles to show off their tri-pronged vocal attack of Elize Ryd, Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson and Nils Molin without truly sticking the landing but they’re few and far between.
‘Fearless’ opens with synths and that uniquely danceable Amaranthe sound and it’s a decent introduction to the album and the band. Showcasing their unique array of cleans (Elize, Nils) and growls (Henrik), it features a huge chorus and plenty of synth-laden hooks to really worm its way into eardrums. ‘Make It Better’ does just that and ups the ante; somehow the chorus is even bigger, Elize’s voice soaring above with crunching guitars and glittering synths. The band keeps the momentum going easily with the excellent ‘Scream My Name’ and ‘Viral’. Certainly that title is more than a little on the nose but Amaranthe are absolutely not known for their subtlety and it’s another sugary pop, hook-laden number that more than makes up for its lack of subtlety or originality with sheer enthusiasm.
There’s plenty of guest spots throughout, from Apocalyptica’s Perttu Kivilaakso lending his cello to the serene power ballad ‘Crystalline’ all the way to the other end of the spectrum and a ferocious appearance by the legendary Angela Gossow (ex-Arch Enemy, conveniently Amaranthe’s manager) on closer ‘Do Or Die’. Interestingly, the official album version of ‘Do Or Die’ is different, featuring the usual line-up of vocals whereas other released versions, notably the accompanying music video, features Gossow’s guest spot. It’s an odd choice as undoubtedly the non-album version is a better version.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though as there’s certainly missteps. More accurately, there’s one misstep here but it’s a big, glaring neon sign of a misstep. ‘BOOM!1’ not only has an utterly ridiculous name but features some ill-advised rapping (yes, really) and some truly cringeworthy lyrics, with “everything starts with a BOOM” being repeated in some form far more than is acceptable. But honestly? It’s so bad and cringeworthy it’s almost good - listen to the line asking “what else goes boom?” and the subsequent scream “the breakdown goes boom” without howling with laughter.
If it’s not clear by now, Amaranthe absolutely know what they’re doing; it’s formulaic, sure, but it’s their formula and no-one else really does this, certainly not better than they do. Manifest is their most cohesive work to date, with practically no filler to speak of - just plenty of danceable songs it’s nigh impossible not to enjoy. While it’s not going to convert anyone who already hated them for not being “trve” enough, going in with an open mind and a taste for bombastic choruses and a sense of humour delivers forty minutes of cheesy, danceable fun - something that’s in far too short supply this year.
Manifest is out Friday 2nd via Nuclear Blast. You can preorder the album here.