Amaran - Pristine in Bondage
Listenable Records
Progressive Melodic Thrash Metal with Female Vocals
10 songs (43'32")
Release year: 2004
Amaran, Listenable Records
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

I have a virtual friend who got his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. For those not living on these shores, Yale is one of the prominent schools in the US in both technical and humanitarian disciplines. I guess what you need to know is one does not get admitted to Yale graduate school if he does not have exceptional abilities. To simplify further, this guy is very smart. Trust me, I sampled his thesis. Last year, he tried to alert me to this unknown Swedish band Amaran coming out with a debut full-length A World Depraved in 2002. My friend proclaimed it Debut of the Year and pointed out a few tracks I especially had to check. Human’s reach is not infinite, in terms of both time and money, so I did not heed my friend’s advice at the time. Having just listened to the newest Amaran offering Pristine in Bondage, and not fully done picking up my jaw from the floor, I promise myself to always listen to what my smart friends have to say. If you ever considered your taste to be close to mine, here is one CD you should not miss in 2004.

If you ever liked the dark thrash of Nevermore, if you ever wanted Arch Enemy to combine rhythmic tightness and melodic escapades, if you ever thought Lacuna Coil is too gothic with its keys and male grunting, and if you ever, gulp, thought Evanescence is the best thing since sliced bread – try Amaran. What you will get is one non-stop sonic barrage of awesome up-front twin guitars, massive driving drums, booming bass and powerful female voice presiding over all this. These Swedes have not been at it long, but this is the best combination of Nevermore chops, Arch Enemy melodic licks and female singing these ears have ever heard.

On all ten songs of the promo guitarists Kari Kainulainen and Ronnie Backlund don’t fool around. Just about every song opens up with a raging supertight maelstrom of twin guitar power. The guys can either thrash together (Atropine) or throw a captivating lead (Coming Home) right from the get-go. With all due respect, Arch Enemy will not be embarrassed to take a few notes from Amaran. The guys can change rhythms (Atropine, Grow Me) or be super heavy. When the “hammer drops on the proverbial anvil” in Coming Home I do not know what to “grab” first the air-drums or air-guitars. Combine this with a voice of clean female power, Johanna DePierre, and I am in seventh heaven.

Johanna would not dazzle you with her range. Instead she will kill you with her sense of harmony and slight voice modulations which are replicated by almost non-stop leads in just about every song. These leads are absolutely integral to the fabric of the song. The rest of the band doesn’t shut up, so the lead guitarist can show off his scales. The leads are almost a counterpoint to Johanna’s singing and they combine to the flow of melody. Ms. DePierre almost reminds me of a Las Vegas prima dancer. She may not dance the best in front of all of her supporting cast, but when she is raised on their arms above the crowd, you know she is a centerpiece. Katharsis is the only place where death male vocals enter the fray, and that is only for a brief moment to share the stage and do a duet with the female numero uno.

Amaran has a very interesting and dynamic approach to songwriting – you can hardly distinguish verses and choruses. All songs are heard as one whole, and you don’t even notice how 4-5 minutes flow by. This way not just some melodic hook sticks in your mind, but you want to hear the song over and over again, only to discover more and more precious guitar nuggets.

Even though the intense guitar music is a foundation of every song, Pristine in Bondage does not leave you tired even in the absence of a quiet, acoustic song. The closest Amaran comes to that is a middle break in Wraith with a great bass lines and "a capello" guitar outro where no rhythm section or vocals disturb two guitars singing in perfect harmonic unison. Songs tempos and moods may change from dirgy and stretchy Inflict and Grow Me to in-your-face Atropine and Katharsis. No matter the tempo, the laws of harmony are always upheld with Amaran and metal heaviness is applied.

Somewhere in my review I mentioned Evanescence. While popularizing the genre in the US, those guys could never in a million years duplicate what Amaran did with a single song in terms of music complexity. I challenge you, all Evanescence fans, to go out and seek Pristine in Bondage to expand your musical horizons. For everybody else in love with heavy and melodic guitar driven music, my Yale friend was 110% correct. Don’t repeat my mistake and wait a year and a half when you can take pleasure in Amaran today. The limited edition slipcase will have a bonus track, while those lucky Japanese will have 3 more.

Killing Songs :
There is no weak song on the album, but if I had to pick Atropine, Coming Home, Inflict, Katharsis
Alex quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Amaran that we have reviewed:
Amaran - A World Depraved reviewed by Jack and quoted 80 / 100
Amaran - Demo 2001 reviewed by Chris and quoted 68 / 100
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