September 28, 2020 Amaranthe – Manifest (Album Review)
All across the globe 2020 has presented a series of nearly endless challenges. Amid the chaos and uncertainty, one band is asking their listeners to stop and consider what kind of energy they are manifesting into the world. As massively addictive as ever, the Swedish modern Metal force Amaranthe blaze their way back to our eardrums with the aptly-titled Manifest, which arrives on Friday, October 2, 2020, thanks to Nuclear Blast Records.
Formed in Gothenburg in 2008, Amaranthe was practically destined for sonic greatness. From their 2011 self-titled debut onward, the sextet has built an impressive name for themselves as a formidable, positive and fervently melodic force. Flawlessly blending infectious melody, crushing brutality, cinematic feels, and futuristic sparkles, the band has proven their ability to hold listeners in their thrall. As they began to streamline their unique sound with 2014’s Massive Addictive, and then fine-tuned themselves to perfection on 2016’s Maximalism, they cemented themselves as a truly exciting name on the modern scene and one of its finest live acts.
For their sixth studio release, Amaranthe—’Clean’ Vocalists Elize Ryd and Nils Molin, ‘Unclean’ Vocalist Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson, Guitarist/Keyboardist Olof Mörck, Bassist Johan Andreassen, and Drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen—is set to deliver a Metal rollercoaster full of infectious harmonies, lofty guitar solos, and some of their heaviest work to date. Produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by the Grammy Award nominated Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Epica), Manifest will be available in multiple formats, including a 12-song standard edition and a 16-song bonus edition.
Either way, it all kicks off with “Fearless,” an anthemic call to shed your anxieties. Initially establishing a darkly ominous mood, they go on to explode into massive layers of blistering guitars and infectious synths. All of this as the three-headed Cerberus that is Ryd, Molin, and Wilhelmsson combines the trio’s vocal might into a frenetic rocker that gets the blood pumping. In this, they set the stage for an album that is chock full of modern themes anchored in Amaranthe’s technical proficiency and undeniably delicious, easily digestible sound.
Thematically, they waste no time by dipping into “Make It Better.” Opening to a sound bite that clearly states “the media has been brainwashing you,” the band offers up the idea that, despite society’s dismal claims, we can work together to improve, to take a stand, and to be a better human race. There’s no partisanship amid their crunchy guitars, not a single political slant buried inside Wilhelmsson’s bestial growls. Instead, they craft an entry into the growing vault of material that encompasses the hope inspired by 2020’s tragedies and our need to aim higher as a global society.
Similarly, the dirgey-catchy slink of “Viral” challenges its listeners not to sing along. Exploring the current epidemic of those who hide behind their personal pain in the glow of a monitor, the lies and the falsehoods of virtual life, they open the door for discussion about what it really means to ‘live your best life’ in our modern age. And if this all seems a bit overwhelming, well, midway through the LP “Strong” sweeps in to offer a moment of self-empowerment and a reminder that we all have the power within us to rise above. Featuring vocals from Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast, the track is a lovely moment, one of many that beautifully blends blistering riffs with infectious, soaring choruses that displays the sextet’s Pop sensibilities along with Ryd’s dramatic vocal theatrics.
And then there are the straight-up rockers like the bold arrhythmia of “Scream My Name,” pulsating “Adrenaline,” racing “The Game,” and the alluring spell of “Wake Up And Die.” Though some of the LP’s heaviest moments are its most fun. Take, for instance, the ominous “Archangel.” Chanting and synths open up the drive into the track that sees Wilhelmsson delivering some of his most incendiary howls as his bandmates stoke a fire all their own. This paves the way for the album’s most playful track, “BOOM!,” which features guest vocals from Heidi Shepherd of Butcher Babies. Here, Djent-y bass and guitars detonate as Wilhelmsson dons his cool black shades to lead the charge, one that clearly harkens back to (and references) Helix’s “GG6”.
For those of us that just love an amazing, genre-defying song, the album’s showstopper lies in “Crystalline.” With evocative cello thanks to Apocalyptica’s Perttu Kivilaakso and exquisite keys from Dragonland’s Elias Holmlid, the emotional ballad places Ryd, Molin and Kivilaakso into the spotlight for a beautiful moment that is destined to warm even the coldest of hearts. Though it is understandably a rocker that the band chooses to end with, the brutally satisfying “Do Or Die,” featuring a killer guitar solo from Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy. Fraught with racing keys and chugging guitars, Amaranthe seeks to break the routine and inspire change with this look at our fictional realities, vanity, destruction, and delusion. This is, in effect, the greatest thematic thread of Manifest: What will our legacy be?
The caveat being, however, that if you want the Angela Gossow version of this track—which was released as a single/video—then you have to buy the bonus edition of the album. Gossow, former Arch Enemy powerhouse and, ironically, Amaranthe’s manager, shreds alongside Ryd as the two ladies deliver a sweltering version of the already impressive track. Conversely, the album version features the men—Molin and Wilhelmsson—tackling the clean and dirty with Ryd only making an appearance on the choruses.
To say that one is superior to the other would be a lie: both versions of the song have their merits—and, to be honest, fans are going to want to make sure that they purchase the bonus edition of Manifest, anyway. The inclusion of an excellent cover of Sabaton’s “82nd All the Way,” along with an acoustic take on “Adrenaline” and an orchestral version of “Crystalline” make the bonus well-worth adding to your collection.
But that’s up to each fan. No matter the version of the album that you choose to digest, throughout its duration Molin’s powerhouse clean vocals complement Ryd’s flawless theatrics as Wilhelmsson adds that gritty edge that keeps the band grounded in their Metal roots. It’s exactly what we’ve come to love about Amaranthe: the daring dynamics, chaotic riffage, and inspired artistry. Above all of this, the band has fun with their ‘massive addictive’ sound: touching on topics of vital, global importance but never becoming so self-serious as to be boring or preachy. Manifest is very much a positive experience, one that is apt to leave its listener with a smile on their face—and isn’t that all we really need right now? For this, Cryptic Rock gives Manifest 4.5 of 5 stars.