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Amaranthe - The Catalyst

Album review - Amaranthe - The Catalyst

Release date - 23.2.2024

Record company - Nuclear Blast

"Amaranthe", the Swedish metal band, released their seventh album "The Catalyst", on February 23, 2024, under the "Nuclear Blast" label. The album was produced by Jacob Hansen, who previously produced for bands such as "Epica". "Amaranthe" was formed in 2008 as a metal band that combines elements of pop and electronics in its music. But its main characteristic (at least in my opinion), is the three vocalists - Elize Ryd - a clean vocalist who also gives the band a poppy touch, Nils Molin who is also a talented clean Impressive vocalist, and the new player who joined the band (replacing Henrik "GG6" Englund who left the band to spend time with his family) - Mikael Sehlin who is responsible for the growl singing (or as the band calls it unclean vocals).

"The Catalyst" was released four years after the band's last album - "Manifest", released in 2020, in which "Amaranthe" went for a slightly heavier sound, which raised expectations of which direction the band would pull in the current album.

Shortly before the release of "The Catalyst", in August 2023, guitarist Olof Mörck was quoted saying that in this album "Amaranthe" decided to release all their boundaries and do something more adventurous. This promo created a "build-up" and an expectation to hear something new and promising. After listening to this album I can say that if it's an adventure - then it's a very mild one... (maybe the age is taking its toll?...).

The album opens up with the theme song "The Catalyst". It starts with an electronic-future vibe that builds up - just like the background of a thriller movie, which corresponds well with the music video the band created for the song. Less than a minute from the beginning of the song, the new player - Sehlin comes in with a mighty roar and shows us what he's worth (well, I was impressed), all this alongside the fast drumming of Morten Løwe Sørensen, the heavy distortion of Olof Mörck that comes right after and of course the vocals of Ryd and Molin who end up crafting a song that is no less than an energy bomb. This energetic boost at the beginning of the album reminds me of the boost you get when you listen to "The Score" which opens up the "Helix" album from 2018 - and it is a song that you would want to listen to again and again.

The album ballad comes in the shape of "Stay A Little While". It's common knowledge (At least for the band's fans) that "Amaranthe" has it in ballads - it's a strong side of the band - after all, they have two excellent clean singers and all the right elements that would make the common Metallist allergic. This song has everything you need - a catchy piano and a melodic guitar solo by Olof Mörck, who I must say is an excellent guitarist who, in my opinion, can do much more than what he gives in this band. Come on, how much room is there for a guitar solo when each song, on average, is three minutes long and no more? elements of pop we said? Technical vocals, simplistic and kitschy lyrics in my opinion, it is as if "Amaranthe" followed all the known patterns because they wanted to meet expectations and force a ballad into this album. The result is mediocre, dear friends, you've done it much better in the past.

The third track on the album "Flame Damnation" is also the second single released from it. At first, the song really felt a little different to me. Its music video is genius and I totally recommend watching it (it seems to me that all the band members are actors in disguise here). The song talks about a powerful matriarchal rule (a rule in which the authority is a woman) ("Voices of the matriarch, a hierarchy outside of the status quo...") and the consequences of such a rule for those under it. Well, it's quite a uniqe subject to sing about in my opinion, and I think that "Amaranthe" really nailed it here. Ryd and Olof (who wrote all the songs on the album except the bonus track which we will get to later), have said in the past that they tried a lot of new things on the album, and in this song you can really feel it. To me, it's a song that could be part of a musical / theater performance / rock opera.

"Re-Vision" is the penultimate single that was released at the very beginning of 2024 and it is also accompanied by a somewhat "futuristic" music video. The message here is a "reexamination" of life, expression, and self-challenge instead of blindly following social norms - ("Maybe there's a light at the end of the line.... Or just a concept, a vision to improve it, Let the night wash away from your eyes. It's your decision...."). There is no doubt that "Amaranthe" combines here elements of Cyberpunk and Synthwave, with its metallic style of course, so that God forbid they would not be considered a pop band... Nevertheless, in my opinion, this song is the catchiest on the album and many pop listeners will be able to connect with it and find themselves humming it after A few listens.

The single "Insatiable" is very similar to previous songs of "Amaranthe" and when I listened to it, I felt as if I had already heard it on another album of theirs, which is a feeling I have many times with them - a lot of their songs sound the same to me, but on the other hand you can't get confused for a moment with them, And this is actually their uniqueness - to create heavy, short, catchy songs that sounds as Metal, but underneath all the layers feel like Pop hits - and always make you want to move/run/head bang... The song talks about a world full of lust that encourages a culture of mass consumption and the consequences of such behaviors. ("Mass consumption, testimony to our condition, Your conscience is blind, now the mob control tour mind.)"

Another song worth mentioning is "Breaking the Waves" which talks about overcoming obstacles, ("Breaking the waves, Until I'm saved, escape the remains, And build me up again"). This song has some really beautiful moments like the piano parts and Ryd's operatic-angelic vocals.

The album closes with "Find Life" which is the first single released from the album. In a March 2023 interview, Mörck said that this song represented the band's "mature and darker" material. In the depths of "Dark" (I didn't really feel that way) you can find a message of hope - of holding on to life ("Feel the corruption rise, A billion souls adrift, But life can save us..." Overall a relatively calm and nice song to end the album with.

It should be noted that the album also contains a bonus track which is a cover version of the song "Flower A Like Fading" by "Roxette", but it is not yet on "Spotify" to date.

In conclusion, "Amaranthe" promised an adventure, but I felt they were still playing in their safe zone here. You can hear more electronic motifs in this album, and the band is going on a more "theatrical" style, but to me, it felt like minor changes as opposed to "breaking boundaries". So, I did not fall off my feet as I expected, but because there are still good moments here, "The Catalyst" gets a score of 3/5 from me.

For Listening: Apple Music, Spotify 

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