Amaranthe – Manifest (Nuclear Blast)Tuesday, 22nd September 2020
No doubt about it, Amaranthe has been moving modern metal forward since the release of their self-titled debut in 2011. Taking an idea that shouldn’t have worked – utilizing three vocalists and merging a sound into a melodic death metal meets power metal meets cyber/electronic beats with more than a sprinkling of pop sensibility – and turning it into a breakout success. Whether you liked it or not, you can hear the growing number of bands trying to tap into that elusive formula but none seem to be able to handle it in quite the way that Amaranthe did from their debut. It was a fresh and exciting vibe, and something that you can still hear loud and clear with Manifest.
As already stated, Amaranthe designed their own template from the start so they’ve had to really experiment to try and improve it. While one could argue that there have been some experimental tracks that maybe took things too far in previous releases, Manifest feels as if the band has finally locked in what their essence is and have the confidence to let it shine through without restraint. Opener “Fearless” makes some instant feelings of nostalgia with it’s hard-hitting melodeath-inspired riffs and driving electronic beats, complete with a chorus that will then bounce around in your head for days. There’s a similar urgency to the music here that will make one recall the debut and The Nexus, and it’s a tone that sticks for much of the release. Amaranthe usually have strong openers, and this one completely sets the vibe of the album.
Other high-energy tracks like “The Game” and “Scream My Name” capture a similar notion in providing some ear-catching electronics and pulsating riffs and trading things off into memorable choruses that keep things playful on the vocal end, not to mention some eloquent solos from Olof Mörck. That says nothing of “Archangel” though, which may in fact be the band’s crown jewel to date. It’s a cinematic and consistently driving track that never loses steam while still maintaining the band’s unique approach. It unloads copious amounts of energy and is going to leave fans’ hair standing up on the back of their neck and even impress some non-fans with its fireball approach and merger of fury and melodic sensibility.
Even with tracks that seem to push the traditional Amaranthe dynamics to the max, there’s still some experimentation to be had. “Boom!1” is the most obvious case, with a vocal presence dominated by Henrik and a darker riff approach. There’s an expansion of his speedy death-rap vocals that were toyed with on the last album, and the act adds a ‘love it or hate it’ section in the middle that will make you laugh or cringe before diving into a full-on breakdown alongside some vocals from Nils (to an interesting effect). The album’s ballad also plays around with the norm too, and has a greater sense of longing to it than the usually more upbeat and sincerely sweet vibes. The Elize/Nils dynamic really shines here, and both offer some breathtaking moments. Lastly, Elize’s more triumphant and poppy vocal lines on “Die and Wake Up” continues to showcase her growth and they provide a nice contrast to the mid-tempo stomp of the riffing.
One could easily wax on about each track and its particular merits, but it’s safe to say that the entirety of Amaranthe is in top form here in 2020. The vocal interplay between Elize, Henrik, and Nils feels more inspired and is a clear step up from Helix, giving each of the three performers plenty of time to shine (just check out lead single “Virus”) and the heavier approach gives more props to the rest of the band in providing added hooks. Simply put, Manifest is Amaranthe’s most definitive mark to date. No one can match their futuristic version of modern metal that deftly balances frenetic melodic death riffing and pulsating electronics with soaring melodies to create a sound that’s well, massively addictive. This one should not only bring back some fans that may have jettisoned the act in recent years, but launch them into far greater successes with this razor-sharp approach.