Review: Amaranthe – The Catalyst

Amaranthe are a band that took me a while to get into, something I’ve been honest about in the past. I wasn’t too impressed the first time I saw them (opening for Powerwolf), feeling that the dance beats were a little too pronounced and that they just didn’t fit with the set that night.

Then I listened to an album or two, they hopped on board with Sabaton and a fan was born. That would be me. As they’ve continued since then with Manifest, the music has become a touch more ambitious. The band state that The Catalyst is more orchestral and I can see what they mean. It’s not all strings and tubas, but it is brasher and bigger than anything they’ve done before.

The title track and opener is as good an introduction to the band as you could hope for. The aforementioned dancey beats open, but quickly give way to a poounding heavy rhythm. There are little guitar flurries, and all three vocalists get to impress. The song itself is a catchy beast and deserves to have the album named after it, one you really ramp up while you’re in the car.

The groove continues with “Insatiable” and at this point I think I’ve sussed what Amaranthe’s secret is: creating a song that’s heavy as fuck, but still something you can groove to. Like many of their other songs “Insatiable” works on multiple levels. You can pound your head or you can dance and jump around in circles. Do either and nobody at a gig would look twice, they’re both completely appropriate.

If you want something which really throws everything at you, then scroll down and check out “Re Vision”. It’s got in your face metal, rock beats, samples, vocal effects, and a thumpoing drum track. As a heavier number it’s a brave choice for a single, but does show the direction that Amaranthe are taking.

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Conversely, there is “Stay A Little While” which shows the band’s softer side. This is the one that’ll have the arms waving from side to side in the concert halls and arenas. Great vocals from Nils and Elize, and some classic rock guitar solo wankery from Olof. It’s edged with cheese, but the good cheese, and marks the halfway point in this epis 13-song release.

Which is handy, as the remainder is pretty much heaver fare again. “Breaking The Waves” really gets across the feel of a tempestuous ocean voyage (including brief periods of calm). “Outer Dimensions” soars, “Resistance” is simply a belter and simply must make it onto the setlists when the band tour (and by “tour” I mean more than three bloody dates in London and the surrounds).

“Find Life” is rather proggy and the final original track on the album. It’s without a doubt one of the more experimental songs that Amaranthe have attempted and it just about pulls it off. The final notes, though, go to “Fading Like a Flower”, a cover of a song by fellow Swedes Roxette originally released in 1991. Amaranthe have fed it whatever the Swedish equivalent of porridge oats is so that it comes in at the heavier end of the scale, and it really does the original proud. I’m quite sure that Marie Fredriksson would have been very happy to see her music being given such a polish.

I’ve not covered every track, but that’s not because the ones I’ve not mentioned lack any quality. Far from it. The Catalyst is a beast of an album, and definitely a big step for Amaranthe. They have their sound and they’re really starting to push it to bursting point – much to this reviewer’s enjoyment. I am definitely looking forward to seeing them play some of the material live. Who knows, maybe they’ll come back later in the year and bring DragonForce in tow for some date in Ireland, Wales and Scotland! Hint, hint…

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The Crystal is out on February 23rd

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