Amaranthe - Maximalism
Spinefarm Records
Swedish Pop Metal
12 songs (39:42)
Release year: 2016
Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

Holy burning bush Moses! It seems like I just heard the debut self titled Amaranthe album a couple years ago. But looking at my time keeping device, it's been nine years and the band has four more albums out! Amaranthe are a high energy, pop metal band from Sweden. I know the term "pop metal" gets thrown around as an insult, but here it is not used in such a derogatory way. There are three vocalists and there is extreme importance placed on their interplay. You have the frontwoman Elize Ryd, and on this album Jake E. Lee on clean male vocals, and some guy named Henrik who does all the growly vocals. The hooks, melodies, and tons of vocal harmonies between the singers lead the band more than any of the instruments. Guitar wise, there's not that much going on that's really spectacular. Olof Morck (formerly of god tier Power Metal band Dragonland) and the guitars take a backseat in this band. If you've heard him in his previous outfit, you know the guy can seriously play! It's just for Amaranthe he tones it down ALOT to fit with the song. Keep in mind he's one of the main composers of the band, so he is doing this purposefully. That speaks highly of his lack of ego. Olof does manage to have several sweet solo spots throughout the album and while each one is brief, there is not a single unnecessary note. In order to keep the songs hovering around the three minute mark there are no extended jam spots. He also handles the keyboard duties so he gets to get his rocks off that way as well. As far as I know, they have yet to employ a live keyboard player.

Straight away the album kicks off with the supremely catchy Maximize. Wow. This is a double shot of energy and is nonstop in its infectiousness. Electro keyboards dominate the intro and Elize sounds amazing on this song. The chorus is a shotgun blast to the face of hooks, hooks, and more hooks. It worms its way into your brain and gets stuck forever. Amaranthe obviously know this because they don't go overboard with repeating the chorus in the outro. In fact, it only rolls around three times throughout the entire duration. Following that massive mega hit are two extremely poppy songs, Boomerang and That Song. In both tracks, Elize channels her inner Rihanna. Showcasing her versatility like this as a vocalist is actually pretty cool. There's some vocal effects used in Boomerang that are commonly used in radio songs like the stutter effect after the chorus. Still, I dig this. That Song however is a flaming piece of shit, leaking out of a brown paper bag. This has a godawful "clap track" drum beat that is a rip off of We Will Rock You. The bulk of the song sounds like a reject Halestorm b-side, and then there's a guitar solo that screams "European guitarist's idea of bro country," and it sounds just as bad as the tons of American metalcore bands that tried to mimic European melodic death back in the mid 00's.

Thankfully, we are blessed by the gods because this type of "experimentation" doesn't turn up again. The closest is the song On The Rocks with its "na na na naaa" part but it doesn't sound like the horrible straight fucking pandering that was on That Song. Limitless and Fireball should get a mention for being straight forward metal tracks that help wash away the butthole taste of That Song. Amaranthe had a ballad on their first album, Amaranthine, that was this crazy amalgamation of piano, soft vocals, guitar solo, and growly guy getting in a couple lines. Ever since then they've tried to recreate that type of track but haven't been able to. If Elize was channeling Rihanna earlier, on the closing ballad Endlessly, it's more of a Katy Perry vibe. Seriously, this sounds a whole lot like KP's Unconditional. Elize is the only vocalist on this track and she delivers a spirited and heartfelt performance.

I actually do like some pop music. Just because something is catchy doesn't mean it's bad. Just because someone "normal" might like a metal song doesn't mean it should be shunned. For the most part, and from what I've heard of the rest of the band's catalog, Amaranthe straddle the line of pop and metal and they do it well. The band is comprised of all talented musicians, and Elize is one hell of a frontwoman. But on Maximalism the band tried to shoot for the pop stratosphere just a little too hard. While some songs like Maximize and Fireball rule my butt, there's certain elements that feel like discussions centering around the topic of "hey guys, let's make this... mainstream!" happened a bit too much. And then there's the entirety of That Song. From here on out I will just pretend this aural diarrhea does not exist, the same way I do with Blow Your Speakers from Manowar. Blow what? That Song? Exactly.

Killing Songs :
Maximize, Boomerang, Fireball, Supersonic, Endlessly
Ben quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Amaranthe that we have reviewed:
Amaranthe - Massive Addictive reviewed by Joel and quoted 86 / 100
Amaranthe - The Nexus reviewed by Rob and quoted 82 / 100
Amaranthe - Amaranthe reviewed by Chris and quoted 90 / 100
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