Reviewed: November 2020
Released: 2020, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Jack Merry
Swedish cinematic electro-metallers Amaranthe return with their sixth full-length studio album Manifest, after spending the best part of the last decade establishing themselves as a formidable, positive, and feverishly melodic force for sweeping heavy metal goodness.
Now more than ever, music has an incredibly important place in people’s lives. The ongoing global pandemic has had a devastating effect on the physical and mental health of millions of people across the world, and the simplest of things such as a new release from a favourite band can make you forget all of that, even for a short while. Along with a handful of other releases from this year, Amaranthe’s brand of joyous, exhilarating heavy metal scratches that itch and puts a Cheshire Cat grin across my face. Suddenly, the world isn’t so dark anymore.
Amaranthe have successfully blurred the lines between melodic metal, crushing brutality, cinematic scope, and futuristic sparkle to such a degree that I am unable to listen to just one of the band’s songs; one just isn’t enough. Led by the endlessly addictive and ingenious songwriting of guitarist Olof Mörck and powerhouse ethereal vocalist Elize Ryd, their rise to prominence in recent years and consistent high-quality releases has been a joy to behold, and just this year, back in February, they had a monumental support slot at the sold-out Sabaton show at Wembley Arena (check out my review of that show HERE!).
Manifest‘s opening track ‘Fearless’ is an anthemic tour-de-force combining Euro dance-pop with a bouncy heavy metal riff, all set to a chorus that seems custom-built for arenas and stadiums. It’s ridiculously catchy, and it took me a few listens before I moved onto the following track ‘Make It Better’ because it’s just that good. ‘Fearless’ oozes confidence in becoming something entirely new; wanting to be better than you are, and the chorus pushes this home brilliantly as Elize sings “Out of the dark, into the sun / I’m in a higher state of mind / A brand new start / I will transform into the fearless / A stronger force above the ground / The radiant era has begun / Out of the dark, into the sun / ‘Cause now I’m fearless” with her fantastic dynamic vocal range.
Lead single ‘Viral’ is another slab of perfect electronic metal as Elize and Henrik Wilhelmsson trade vocals; the latter providing the growls alongside Elize’s stratospheric performance, and the guitars chug nicely atop a stomping rhythm section. For newcomers to the band, ‘Viral’ is an ideal track to be an introduction to Amaranthe as it manages to contain everything great about them in a concise three-minute package. ‘Strong’ is a meticulously crafted tale of overcoming heartbreak, with an impressive guest vocal from none other than Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast that gels excellently with Elize, and ‘Archangel’ is unashamedly malevolent as it meshes black metal and a tale about Lucifer himself with a Eurodance beat and ABBA pop sensibilities.
‘Boom!’ takes a surprising left turn by having Wilhelmsson deliver rapped verses, but ultimately it works and includes a breakdown so filthy you’ll need a wash and a neck brace. ‘Crystalline’ is an aching ballad beautifully performed by the clean vocal duo of Elize and relative newcomer to the band Nils Molin, who rounds out the vocal dynamics of male and female clean singing along with growled, harsh vocals. Amaranthe has got it all, and they absolutely know how and when to use each different vocal style to suit the music. There’s no filler here either, which is a rarity. They’ve crafted an album experience from front to back. ‘Scream My Name’ is a little weak and by-the-book compared to everything else on offer here, but it’s still a solid and well-crafted song.
Longtime fans of Amaranthe will have no complaints when listening through Manifest, and newcomers will absolutely find something to love. Although the Swedes have made their eclectic approach to making heavy music a trademark, the huge soaring melodies, incisive riffing, and multi-dimensional sonics that has typified their rise to glory are here in abundance. But as with every Amaranthe record to date, Manifest is also a clear and purposeful leap forward, too. Manifest is the sound of a band taking their next step into world domination, and they’re nearly there; brimming with unbridled confidence and armed to the teeth with irresistible hooks and technical prowess. Manifest has cemented itself as one of my favourite albums of the year.