Artist: Amaranthe

Album Title: Manifest

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 2 October 2020

Aaaarrrrrghhhh…how the hell does this band manage to do this to me every single time? When I heard the first couple of singles from ‘Manifest’, the sixth full-length release from Amaranthe, I felt cold, unmoved. Having championed their brazen and unflinching brand of sugar-coated pop metal over the years, I began to wonder whether the sheen had finally started to rub off. Would this latest batch of polished Eurovision fodder, clad in heavy metal clothing be the end of line for me? After all, based on a first impression, there was nothing new to see here; it’s Amaranthe, and it’s more of the same. Well, that’s what I thought.

Based on these initial observations, it took a while for me to finally take a listen to the full album, and my expectations were lower than ever if truth be told. A first spin through and aside from a couple of moments, I stood steadfast. ‘Manifest’ is where I part company with Amaranthe – thanks for the fun and the memories, but no more, thanks.

Ever the true professional (in mindset, not because I get paid – calm down all of you in the back, please), I took another listen. Headphones on, lights out, dog by my side, stone-cold sober…and would you believe it, something went ‘ping’ in my mind and suddenly I had a huge grin spread wide on my face. Yes it’s saccharine, yes it is shiny, yes it is polished to within an inch of it’s life, but by heavens is it addictive. It’s also fun, and even if you’re one of those that has strong reservations about the band, you’ll have a hard time in denying the fact that these guys can write a tune.

Listen carefully, and you’ll also have to grudgingly admit that there is some fine musicianship within the music too. Want examples? Exhibit A: Drummer, Morten Løwe Sørensen is a beast behind the kit, delivering some beats that are deceptively complex and flamboyant, whilst being able to keep it simple and tight as hell when required. Exhibit B: Guitarist and co-songwriter Olof Mörck can deliver a scintillating lead break with precision and flair, whilst being able to lay down some sharp riffs to go along with the djent-like down-tuned chugging that remains an integral ingredient. Exhibit C: the vocalists. In Elise Ryd, Amaranthe are blessed with a charismatic frontwoman with a beautiful voice. Equally, Nils Molin has undeniable ability, whilst Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson’s gruff delivery is rich and powerful.

But, as I said before, and I’ll say again, it’s the quality of the songs themselves that ultimately draws you in. Ironically, I would have picked three very different cuts as singles ahead of this release, because none of them are favourites from the album for me. ‘Fearless’, which opens ‘Manifest’ is solid and likable, but really can be described as standard no-frills Amaranthe fare, with a good, but not essential chorus.  ‘Archangel’ is a little different for the band, as it features some Gothic atmosphere through choral vocals and harpsichord sounds. It has what I want to describe as a Rammstein-meets-Nightwish central riff, and overall, it’s a grower for sure, one that I like it quite a lot more the more it sinks into my brain. ‘Viral’ is the best of the three, starting off with a modern-era groovy, stomping In Flames-like riff, strong electronics, and arguably the strongest and most hook-laden chorus of this chosen trio.

None of the aforementioned tracks are bad – indeed, they are very good, and will delight existing fans of the band. But, for me, the best cuts on this record are as follows:

‘Make It Better’ is absolutely irresistible, it really is. The chorus is definitely one of my favourites that the band has ever penned. Sitting at number two on the album, it is the follow-up that was required in order to kick me into life, and to sit up and take notice of the record. A great lead guitar solo, as well as some nicely-placed Middle Eastern effects, give this song added strength.

It’s a one-two of great songs in actuality, because ‘Scream MY Name’ features another fabulous chorus, featuring a duet between Ryd and Molin, which works really well. Wilhelmsson sounds pretty spiteful too as he growls menacingly in the verses. It is ultra-modern, slick, powerful, and is just a smidgen away from being the next mainstream music hit.

Deride ballads all you want, but when they are of the standard displayed by ‘Crystalline’, it is hard not to be sucked in ever so slightly. In classic ballad tradition, it begins in quiet, serene fashion, complete with piano and orchestration beneath Elize Ryd’s smooth, delicate voice. Molin takes over behind the mic as the intensity grows, including a really nice, meaty guitar tone. But it’s the flamboyant vocal duet, coupled with a hook-laden chorus that is impossible to ignore, and takes the song to another level.

I’m also a huge fan of ‘Die And Wake Up’ and closer ‘Do Or Die’ thanks to a gigantic chorus within each that are both totally irresistible in their own way – the kind you’ll be humming for days to come. In the case of the latter, the lead guitar solo is insanely good.

Mind you, they both benefit from their placement on the record because being placed immediately after ‘Boom!’ will do any song a whole load of favours, because this has to be the undisputed low point of the album. I can see what Amaranthe are trying to do, but I’m just not convinced at all. The cheese factor is off the scale for a start with bass bombs all over the place, ridiculously low strung guitars, rap vocals and lyrics that make my toes curl, especially around the mid-song pause and subsequent break down. And yet, I can’t entirely hate the song because the chorus is really annoyingly strong, pulling you in, albeit kicking and screaming admittedly.

In essence, Amaranthe are an anomaly. I really shouldn’t like them, but I do. Always have. And even when I thought their sickly-sweet output might have finally reached a natural conclusion for me, I find myself listening to ‘Manifest’ with as much interest and joy as their previous five records. Even when there’s an argument to say that they’ve shuffled even closer to the realm of the mainstream, their music still wins me over. It’s a curious conundrum, but perhaps one that underlines even more strongly the magnetic pull of a well-written song, whatever genre it cares to fall within. And Amaranthe can definitely write a good song.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews