The Nexus

01. Afterlife
02. Invincible
03. The Nexus
04. Theory Of Everything
05. Stardust
06. Burn With Me
07. Mechanical Illusion
08. Razorblade
09. Future On Hold
10. Electroheart
11. Transhuman
12. Infinity

Olof Mörck (Guitars & Keyboards)
Morten Løwe Sørensen (Drums)
Jake E Berg (Vocals)
Elize Ryd (Vocals)
Andy Solveström (Vocals - harsh)
Johan Andreassen (Bass)

Amaranthe (2011)


recorded, mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen in Ribe, Denmark
Gustavo Sazes (Art)
Patric Ullaeus (Video)

Released 2013-03-20
Reviewed 2013-02-23


The Swedish-Danish sextet made a big impact on the world with their debut album a couple of years ago, now they're back with the follow up and the record label is aiming to make it a real commercial breakthrough. The band is of course aiming for the same thing and hence we've got an album even more hit- and radio friendly than the last one and the choruses reminds me more about something we call schlager here in Sweden rather than hard rock. Nothing particularly bad in that - the hard rock is hardly harmed by getting more radio friendly but when it comes to Amaranthe and this album… It's not a clear cut.

The first couple of times I listened to this album I didn't like it very much at all. Sure, it was well made and everything but the songs didn't appeal me and the longer in to the album I got the more frustrated I got from hearing it since more or less everything sounded the same (sound wise, I mean then - not that the songs sounds the same because they're pretty varied). Then something happened and for a while I actually started to like this album, for a brief moment even quite a lot. But those feelings didn't last very long and soon I was back in thinking it was a good, well made album that couldn't entertain me. And that haven't changed this time. I've been listening to this album for over a month now and played it well over 20 times. It feels like I've heard enough to coat my point by now.

In Sweden the country is bonded by what we call Melodifestivalen, a competition of songs contenting for the spot to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest later this year. Last year we had a hard rock contribution in that contest from Dead By April and when I hear 'The Nexus' I'm seriously wondering why Amaranthe hasn't entered the competition with any of these songs. Their songs have at least double the radio friendliness you need in that competition and about twice the quality - if you ask me. And I don't think that's a problem, as I've said already. It's nothing wrong with having strong choruses and catchy melodies, the problem with Amaranthes music is that it's predictable on this album. Focus clearly lies on the choruses in all the songs and because of this the verses tend to be a bit tedious, a long waiting for the explosion of catchiness that comes in the chorus. The music is defined by plenty of electronic stuff and to me it feels a bit like they're trying to hide how simple their music is below all these electronic sounds. Their basic riff and melodies are both very simple and basically the same in all songs and my point is that Amaranthe doesn't seem to take their instrumental performance very serious. Or at least see it as a bit of secondary matter. Half the group in Amaranthe are vocalists, that's quite a lot considering how most bands are built with around 20% vocalists.

Amaranthe doesn't only have a guy singing, they also have a guy shouting, screaming and growling. And then a woman singing too. And then, like this isn't enough vocal focus the album is also mixed in a way that the vocals dominate the sound of the songs. Almost all songs lack instrumental passages and bridges, there are almost no solos or anything else like that and all songs feel written around the vocals and the vocal melodies and never the music. In my world music is the best when there's an interaction between music and lyrics - instruments and vocals, an interplay between different sounds. Vocals are one sound, but so is also drums and harmonica or whatever. When the focus is put on one thing it's very rare you get something good out of it, just look at Yngwie Malmsteen or whatever when the songs are 98% guitars or something. It never ends well, regardless of what instrument (including vocals) that has got the focus.

In the case of Amaranthe it feels like 98% vocals and that ends with most of the album becoming a bit repetitive, despite it being three different vocalists (a tenor, a soprano and a bass). Don't get me wrong, the vocalists do a great job and especially Jake and Elize (the clean singing vocalists) are superb - they do two of the greatest performances I've heard in a long time, but scraping a bit on the surface and you'll soon realize how fragile this construction is- It's a bit like a house of cards - it might look good but it's very vulnerable - if anything goes wrong it all falls to pieces, like some tracks on this album do. But when it goes right it goes very right and it's pretty impressing to hear Amaranthe in the songs that does so, which on this album is Burn With Me, Razorblade and Electroheart. I also think Infinity and The Nexus works pretty OK. The eagles eyed reader will have noticed that almost all of these tracks are at the second half of the album.

Amaranthe plays fast music, catchy music, have lots of electronics and hit-feeling and mostly focusing on their choruses. I think it sounds good in some parts of the album but most of the time the album gets stuck in the same kind of sound and songs. In short, a decent album with some good songs.



Label: Universal/Spinefarm
Three similar bands: Dead By April/After Forever/Sonic Syndicate
Rating: HHHHHHH (4/7)
Reviewer: Caj Källmalm

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