Amaranthe – “The Catalyst” Review

“The Catalyst”, has impacted on the metal world with atomic force, delivering a high-speed, full-on aural assault

Released: Out Now

Label: Nuclear Blast

Genre: Heavy Metal 

Members:

  • Elize Ryd – vocals,
  • Mikael Sehlin – vocals,
  • Nils Molin – vocals,
  • Olof Mörck – guitars & keyboards,
  • Johan Andreassen – bass,
  • Morten Løwe Sørensen – drums,

Track Listing:

  1. The Catalyst
  2. Insatiable
  3. Damnation Flame
  4. Liberated
  5. Re-Vision
  6. Interference
  7. Stay a Little While
  8. Ecstasy
  9. Breaking the Waves
  10. Outer Dimensions
  11. Resistance
  12. Find Life
  13. Fading Like a Flower

 

Stellar Swedish sextet Amaranthe’s latest offering, “The Catalyst”, has impacted on the metal world with atomic force, delivering a high-speed, full-on aural assault in typically statement-making fashion.

Released on Nuclear Blast Records on 23rd February, “The Catalyst” delivers their unique fusion of pop-metal and symphonic rock over 42 thoroughly satisfying minutes, and is their strongest release to date.

It’s somewhat fitting that “Amaranthe” is translated as “unfading”; this is their seventh studio album, and it follows a number of highly-acclaimed releases (most notably 2014’s “Massive Addictive” and 2020’s “Manifest”), declaring once more that their triple-vocal attack and feisty, super-energetic style have a definite place in today’s maelstrom of metal.

There is a lot of great stuff on “The Catalyst”: three different yet perfectly complementary voices; melodic guitar solos and crunching riffs; fast and furious drumming with a bombardment of fills; and driving pop-infused keys holding everything together. One of the key successes to the album’s fantastic sound is undoubtedly the addition of newcomer Mikael Sehlin, who has taken over growling duties following the departure of Henrick Wilhelmsson in 2022, and has done so superbly.

Prior to the arrival of “The Catalyst”, Amaranthe released no less than five singles to give us a taste of what was to come. They made us wait, but boy, it was worth it.

We blast off at hyper-speed with the excellent title-track, where a keys-and-voice intro build the excitement tantalizingly until the drums and riffs kick in, and a savage roar from Sehlin gets things fully underway. The opener sets the scene brilliantly for what’s to follow: excellent overlaying voices, a catchy chorus and a fluid melodic solo.

Next up are “Insatiable” which pumps away at a slightly steadier tempo, dominated by crunchy chords and fabulous drumming, and “Damnation Flame”, which incorporates a nice time change (an almost ballroom feel), before charging into an interlude of seriously unclean vocals from Sehlin. Ryd’s voice is outstanding, even sounding a bit like Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) in the chorus.

Some great heavy riffage and an almost non-stop drum barrage dominate the next few tracks. “Liberated” (definitely one of the stand-out songs) includes a back-and-forth battle of the trio of voices, showcasing how well they go together. “Re-Vision” is another of the best tracks and one of the heaviest, firing off riffs before the solo like a machine gun broadside. “Interference” is one of the most creative numbers, with just keys and voices in the first part of the verse, before the drums and bass kick in, with more hefty riffs overlaying the keys.

Midway through the album we come to a ballad, “Stay a Little While”. A beautiful piano/keys intro provides a total change of feel to the relentless electro-beat fury of the preceding tracks, with the vocals handled purely by Molin and Ryd. The drums, bass and guitar add weight in the chorus, with the sensitive solo enhancing the emotion of the song.

The remaining numbers are a mix of poppy, rapid-fire songs, filled with a terrific onslaught of drums (such as “Outer Dimensions” and “Resistance”), and weightier tracks such as the steadier, more anthemic “Breaking the Waves”.

Amaranthe have chosen to close out “The Catalyst” with a cover of Roxette’s 1991 hit “Fading Like a Flower”. Whilst I’m personally not keen on bands recording cover-versions, this one works surprisingly well. Amaranthe have stamped their own style on it, cranking up the tempo, saturating it with keys and even finding a way to incorporate Sehlin’s fierce growls. This closes the album on a satisfyingly powerful note.

This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. I love it’s energy and intensity, and everything is meticulous, precise, and super-tight. The tracks are terrifically well-crafted and arranged, and despite the album’s pace and exuberance, nothing is thrown together, and the short length of the songs prevent them from becoming overkill.

Some will say that “The Catalyst” is nothing new, and that there are too many similarities to their previous albums. But is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so. The old adage of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” applies here; Amaranthe’s style clearly works and their uniqueness is the key reason for their appeal and success.

I would also add that there are some definite similarities (no doubt unintentional) to other artists here. For example, the latter part of the chorus in “Outer Dimensions” sounds a little like Abba’s “SOS”, and the chorus in “Interference” is very much like the Sugarbabes’ “Hole in the Head”. Plus there are shades of Linkin Park and Within Temptation in a couple of places, all of which make the whole thing more fun and intriguing.

In summary, “The Catalyst” is a great album, something that makes you want to dance around like a maniac and headbang at the same time (better not try that though, just in case!). It’s not easy to craft a new, fresh sound in today’s rock arena, but Amaranthe have regularly found a way to pull it off. The fabulous sound of the album is a testament to the time and effort that the band have put into creating it. Kudos to them – “The Catalyst” deserves to do well, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

Score 9/10

Brian Parker

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