The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CD Review: Amaranthe's Self-titled Album

I've seen an awful lot of buzz on the internet about Amaranthe since they recently released this new self-titled CD, so my curiousity was piqued, even though I have listened to some of their ealier stuff from their demo and didn't think too much of it. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am not overly fond of growls, but you'll also know that I don't mind them in some instances (Crimfall, Epica, Dawn of Destiny) if they are executed in a way that isn't overbearing or in a way that enhances the music rather than takes from it. Amaranthe's growls fall into the latter category, so I didn't give them much thought after the initial listen because the music just didn't do it for me.

With the release of the full-lengthed CD Amaranthe and the accompanying promo and aforementioned buzz, most of which in my reading was positive, I decided to give this young band another go. Hailing from Denmark and Sweden and containing no fewer than three vocalists, there is no doubt that this band has energy and talent, something that their label, Spinefarm Records, no doubt was attracted to. But after two listens to this CD, I can't help but feel the hype is slightly misplaced.

Bear in mind that I'm old, all right?

No question this is a quality album with slick production. Sound-wise it's great. But my first impression after the first listen was "man, this is poppy." Now, I'm not one of those elitist metal snobs who uses the term "poppy" when referring to metal with derision. I like my fair share of poppier metal for sure, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it in general. But even I have my limits and Amaranthe really tested them.

For one thing, the three vocalists is a bit much. There are two clean vocalists, a male, Jake, and a female, Elize, and the growler, Andy. Individually, they are all strong singers, but as a trio they sound a bit bizarre. For instance, Jake sounds like he belongs in a 1990s boy band, and combined with Elize's notably strong voice (she reminds me of Anette Olzon sometimes) they sound together like a typical pop duo you'd hear on any old radio station. When you throw in the growls, it just sounds like they added that element to add some "brutality" to their sound just to give them some street cred. I don't think it works.

Writing-wise, there is nothing mindblowing here at all. The song structures are simple and are certainly pop-influenced to my ear. Most of their songs are in the low 3-minute range, with only two above the 4-minute mark. The most complex song is "Director's Cut" which is pretty decent, but like I said, not terribly mindblowing. The songs are fast and heavy and I like that about them, but the music overall isn't very complex or interesting. There are a lot of techno elements in here, too, and I'm on the fence about how I feel about them. Lyrically, the songs are pretty average, with some typical Gothic overtones. But remember I'm old, right? To my mind, they lyrics tend towards the slightly emo-ish, and that does nothing for me.

I did see on that this band has been tagged as "pop metal" and there is a good wiki there with a definition of this term:

The term is used to reference bands within the heavy metal music subgenres that perform more accessible forms of metal, most notably nu metal, glam metal, and metalcore, due to the heavy usage of techniques used in pop music that permeate bands within these genres.

"Accessible" is a good descriptor for Amaranthe.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, and despite all of what I said above, I did enjoy this album for what it was, which was fun, fast, and catchy. Songs I particularly enjoyed were "Amaranthine", "Leave Everything Behind", "Hunger", and "Automatic." "Amaranthine" is the pinnacle of poppiness in this album, too, by the way, but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless. They look like they are set to succeed with not only the label they've signed to, but because they are touring with Kamelot.

All told, I'm on the fence about Amaranthe. While I enjoyed parts of this album, I'm not sure they're all they're cracked up to be. But that's just me and my two cents. I will say that I'm liking this stuff better than anything Sirenia has put out lately.

But damn is "Amaranthine" catchy!

Here are some samples for you. The single "Hunger" has a pretty sleek video.

EDIT: there is a great, scathing review of this album here that I totally enjoyed, along with the accompanying comments. It's defintely worth a read!


Eric James said...

Nice review! Yeah, this band sounds really generic and I wasn't that impressed from what I heard of them.

The Protagonist said...

I like to describe Amaranthe as "The band that will get your preppy girlfriend into melo-death". I'm sure you've probably read my review, and it's quite similar. Lots of sweet melodies, but little actual substance.

Anonymous said...

I like this release for what it is worth. A melting pot of Euro-metal with a slick candy coated pop formula. It is not sophisticated and lacks substance but good to crank up in the car. I want to hate it but it has quickly become one of those guilty pleasures and that is really what the appeal to this release.

Not to mention it is a quick buck that Spinefarm records can take to the bank.

When you think about it the music industry needs bands like these. It works for Kamelot and tour promoters. An opening act who's music is ideal for live shows that primes up the crowds but hard pressed to show up the headliners. Everyone wins.


Anonymous said...

I've listened to both of their albums. There were a few good tracks, and those are the few that bear repeat listening. The others, unfortunately, sound basically indistinguishable from each other. I played the few memorable songs for my 15-year-old daughter, who while not a metalhead is pretty cool musically, and she started laughing. Laughed even more when I said they're kind of how Britney Spears would sound if she tried to do metal songs.