Record Reviews

Amaranthe “The Catalyst”

Amaranthe is back with its seventh studio album. It’s the band’s weakest effort so far.

When Swedish band Amaranthe came to Tokyo to do a showcase gig in 2011 in conjunction with the release of its debut album, I immediately fell in love with the band’s fresh take on modern metal. It was different, exciting and bloody good. I loved it.

13 years later, the band’s seventh studio album, “The Catalyst”, is about to be released. Is it a good album? Yes. It is more of the same music that Amaranthe has been crafting since the self-titled debut album. The musicianship is spot on, the vocals are as good as ever and the production is top-notch. The problem for me is the songwriting. Sure, the new album has the trademark Amaranthe sound – a mix of modern melodic and heavy pop-metal. However, it lacks the standout songs of the band’s early albums. There’s no “Hunger”, “Amaranthine”, “Burn with Me”, “Afterlife”, “The Nexus”, “Drop Dead Cynical”, “Massive Addictive”, “Digital World”, “Dynamite”, “Trinity”, “That Song” or “Boomerang”. It is a good album that lacks the big songs, the kind of songs that get people out of their seats.

Maybe it is me. Maybe I am expecting too much. I feel a bit like an English football fan. After England’s national team won the World Cup in 1966, the English fans expected them to win every World Cup. It has (so far) never happened. Following Amaranthe’s terrific early albums, expectations were raised. If one listened to this new album and ignored the past, the reaction would probably be “Oh, yeah!”. Alas, for me it is impossible to ignore the great early albums and, thus, my reaction is more “Oh, yeah? That’s it?”. The band’s line-up changes have been OK from a performance point of view – the current line-up is as good as the earlier ones – but it seems that some of the strong songwriting has been lost.

The album’s strongest tracks are “The Catalyst” and the ballad “Stay a Little While”. Great songs, but they are not quite at the level of the highs of the back catalogue. The rest of the songs on “The Catalyst” are too bland. Perhaps it is a matter of taste. To me, not much stands out. The album features a cover of Roxette’s “Fading Like a Flower”. Recording covers is always a risky move, especially when it is a cover of a big hit. This version of Roxette’s song comes across like the album as a whole. It is good but not good enough considering what Amaranthe has done in the past. It is a good album rather than the great album I was hoping for. I expect more from a band that has delivered better in the past. I hope they can find their songwriting mojo again.

Amaranthe’s album “The Catalyst” will be released on 23rd February via Nuclear Blast.