Amaranthe – Helix – Album Review

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Artist: Amaranthe

Album Title: Helix

Label: Spinefarm Records

Date of Release: 19 October 2018

Let’s get one thing straight right from the off: if you’ve never been a fan of Amaranthe, ‘Helix’ will not change your mind. Not even close. In fact, it is likely to push you further away from the band. However, if you’ve enjoyed Amaranthe’s output since bursting onto the heavy metal scene with their self-titled debut album in 2011, you’re sure to take ‘Helix’ to your heart and love it in the same way that you love their back catalogue.

Amaranthe will not be changed. They will never conform to the ideals of others and they will continue to create their own unmistakeable brand of sugar-coated melodic pop metal that throws everything from death metal to electronic synth-pop into the melting pot. Yes, they may push things in certain directions at the fringes, but their core sound will, I think, remain steadfast just like the core of the band.

Guitarist Olof Mörck, drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen and bassist Johan Andreassen are still present and correct as is the powerful, attitude-filled and mellifluous voice of Elize Ryd. As you’re no doubt aware by now, Amaranthe employ three vocalists to deliver their musical vision and it is in these other two spots that the band has suffered a little in recent years. Andreas Solveström took his growls with him in 2013, to be replaced by the equally hoarse Henrik Englund Wilhemsson and so we’ve had time to adjust this change. However, original clean male vocalist Jake E departed just last year, with his position gifted to Nils Molin.

With all due respect to the band’s past and present growlers, the departure of Jake E will have raised the bigger eyebrow, because he possesses a great voice that is quite distinctive, one that was instrumental is delivering that Amaranthe sound. In Nils Molin, Amaranthe have definitely come us trumps though because the Dynazty vocalist has a great set of pipes and, based on his first studio outing with his new comrades, he slots into the band very nicely indeed.

If you’re looking for evidence, then search no further than the track ‘Unified’ on this record. It is a ballad that features a slower pace and an absolutely crushing guitar and bass tone that shakes the earth but it is opened up by Molin superbly. Arguably Molin’s approach suits the space afforded to him within this composition rather than the frenzy of other tracks but he makes the most of it, producing a heartfelt and passionate performance, committing one hundred percent to the performance. This is a cracking song, one of my favourites on this album if truth be told.

The ‘frenzy’ that I referred to earlier is demonstrated right from the get-go on ‘Helix’, beginning with opener ‘The Score’. It is the classic kind of up-beat, high energy song that Amaranthe tend to kick all their albums off with. The chorus is hook-filled and catchy, plus all three vocalists get in on the act to positive effect. The drumming from Sørensen, which is easily one of my favourite aspects of Amaranthe is forceful, tight and commanding, whilst the guitar solo from Mörck is a nice touch. However, the modern electronic sounds and overall vibe is very mainstream, to the point that without the heavy guitars and growls, this could easily feature on commercial radio stations the world over, even on the rock-averse UK airwaves.

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Lead single ‘365’ is another immediate number that is equal parts pop and extreme metal, with chunky down-tuned guitar-led groove and electronic dance music influences all tied together by a chorus that is impossibly catchy and memorable. After the first spin alone, the main chorus hook was in my head and refusing to let go.

I’ve never had a problem admitting that I really enjoy the slick and precise output of Amaranthe. Some will say cynically, that they are trying to be all things to all people, covering all of the important demographic bases in an overt attempt to take over the music world. In contrast, I’d say take a listen to the likes of ‘Inferno’ with its soaring chorus, bass bombs, metalcore chug and cinematic overtones or the more recent Lacuna Coil-esque pop metal-meets-djent sheen of ‘Countdown’ and tell me that this isn’t ridiculously infectious music. I gave up long ago trying to justify my enjoyment of this band, preferring to settle back and let the music wok its positivity, happiness and warmth work its magic.

Speaking of magic, I have to mention the song ‘Dream’. Another ballad-like piece, it is dripping with melody and immediacy, but also is a lot more nuanced and subtler in places. The bass rumble of Andreassen comes through strongly within the quieter passages, whilst the chorus is simply incredible, a thing of real beauty as it soars with elegance over the entire track, led by the silky voice of Elize Ryd. The lead guitar solo isn’t bad either, although it could have been longer for my taste.

There is certainly an even greater emphasis on modern elements within the music on ‘Helix’, with this being the next logical step for the band, as they further explore their sound, influences and inspiration. Songs like ‘GG6’ push the nu-metal quasi-rapping/gruff spoken word delivery further than before whilst littering the track with bold electronic samples and sound effects. ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ then experiments with the dance vibes more than I’ve ever previously heard, leading to arguably my least positive three minutes on the record. It’s the kind of track that could easily crop up on a future Eurovision and will certainly delight in dividing opinion.

More than ever, I can see Amaranthe bridging the gap between previously disparate genres, but crucially for the metalheads amongst us, I can guarantee that the heaviness remains intact for the most part. To illustrate this point, just check out the Soilwork-like death/thrash attack of ‘Iconic’ and many of the bruising riffs created by Olof Mörck throughout the entire album, another of my favourite aspects of the Amaranthe sound.

When all is said and done, I’m glad that I made the effort to explore the latest output of Amaranthe. ‘Helix’ may offer few surprises but what it delivers is a collection of undeniably and unsurprisingly strong songs, created with passion and which once again demonstrate the band’s unerring ability to create music that is simply too damn catchy and fun to be ignored. It stands comfortably alongside the four previous albums, putting a big grin on my face in the process. And that’s more than good enough for me.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
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The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
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Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
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A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
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Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
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Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
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Kino – Radio Voltaire
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W.E.T. – Earthrage
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Susperia – The Lyricist
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Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
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Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
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