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“Maximalism” might not have been the album where Amaranthe at long last made their collective mind up and decided to go full Eurodance, but it's never for a lack of trying. “Massive Addictive” had the good fortune of living up to its title, and it was damn catchy to boot. On “Maximalism” everything is dialed up to 11: the dance beats, the ear-worm hooks, and Elize Ryd’s vocals. Amaranthe is still how we prefer them. One part Evanescence, one part Republica – and all awesome. “Maximalism” might not yield a ‘Ready to Go’, ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’, or ‘Bring Me To Life’ but it never stops aiming for the stars. If there ever was a time for this Swedish-Danish unit to stop fucking about. That time is now. Seriously, why are there still rock guitars and drums in this band? “Maximalism” is Eurodance. Simple.

They couldn’t be more obvious about it too. ‘Maximize’, the lead single, starts out like vintage 2 Unlimited. ‘21’ is a pale imitation of ‘Drop Dead Cynical’ but is not nearly as infectiously catchy despite being based around a very similar riff. ‘That Song’ is practically urban/r&b if it weren’t for the inclusion of a incidental pseudo-heavy riff. ‘Fury’ really wants to be a full-blown dance track but for some inexplicable reason insists on a rock song format, complete with gruff vocals, a robust riff and clattering drums that really should’ve been electronic beats by now. Similarly is ‘Break Down and Cry’ dogged by the rock stylings that keep it from fully blossoming into a dance ballad. ‘Faster’, quite surprisingly at that, isn’t a Within Temptation cover but clearly that’s where their inspiration lie. ‘Limitless’ and ‘Break Down and Cry’ are the prerequisite power ballads because “Maximalism” is nothing but a slavish retread of “Massive Addictive” and ‘Endlessly’ is a ballad for Ryd to show what she’s capable of. Ryd is all killer. The rest is delicious filler.

Judging by the songwriting credits the only two members in Amaranthe that really matter are Olof Mörck and Elize Ryd. There’s no contesting that Ryd is the face of the band and why she hasn’t gone to grace any album cover yet is a question for the ages. Nobody in the right mind listens to Amaranthe for Henrik Englund Wilhemsson and Joacim "Jake E" Lundberg. Nobody. Clearly this is Ryd’s band and there’s no good reason for the continued presence of the often duelling Wilhemsson and Lundberg. Yeah, it stands to reason that both men fill their respective parts admirably, but Ryd is the only of the three vocalists that matters in any significant capacity. Ryd is what sells Amaranthe. Ryd IS Amaranthe. There really is no excuse why she shouldn’t be the focal point in anything and everything that Amaranthe does. Amaranthe has arrived at a crossroads of sorts. Either go into the Eurodance direction completely or continue this safe neither-here-nor-there routine that frustrates audiences on both sides of the aisle. Everything is bigger on “Maximalism” – but those persistent rock guitars keep getting in the way.

The riffs, as vanilla and incidental as they are, in Amaranthe’s music are about as important as those in Evanescence’s, which is to say: not very much. In point of fact the sheer heaviness of “Maximalism” is actually quite relative and completely fabricated on their end. “Maximalism” is Eurodance at heart and it would benefit Amaranthe tremendously in finally abandoning the last remaining vestiges of that they once were a rock or metal band. It beggars the question why this band insists on three different vocal styles, and a rock style band setup – when they obviously want to be an Eurodance band. Secretly we had hoped that “Maximalism” would’ve finally seen Amaranthe embrace its Eurodance inclinations fully, but for hitherto inexplicable reasons they continue to insist on the rock aspect. Nobody comes to a band as Amaranthe for their riffs, or the drumming – likewise is nobody really invested (or interested) in the duelling male vocals. The focus is, or should be, on Elize Ryd for all the obvious reasons. Ryd is what sells Amaranthe. Ryd is the focal point in all their videos and much of their promotional material. Henrik Englund Wilhemsson and Joacim "Jake E" Lundberg need not to be in Amaranthe. There’s still a sliver of hope that Amaranthe will figure this out by the following album.

Which sort of beggars the question: why isn’t there a Russian equivalent of Amaranthe yet? t.A.T.u. did this very thing in 2000-2001 to incredible commercial success in Europe and Asia despite the fact that Lena Katina and Julia Volkova weren’t all that good singers in either their native Russian or English. The only difference, of course, being that t.A.T.u. actually did have some cultural impact with ‘Нас не догонят’ (‘Not Gonna Get Us’) appearing on the soundtrack to Swedish-Danish drama Lilja 4-Ever from director Lukas Moodysson. t.A.T.u. became idols for an entire subculture of disenfranchised youth. Then there are British bands like Kosheen and Republica that dominated the charts in the late nineties and early 2000s. What has Amaranthe to show for itself? That they can’t really decide what they want to be? Clearly Amaranthe aims for mainstream popularity and radio airplay, then why are they so deadly afraid to shed whatever negligible rock aspects that clog their Eurodance sound? It isn’t like there isn’t any precendent to this. Ukraine’s Semargl went from Satanic Pop Metal to purveyors of Discolove in the fraction of just a few short years. There’s absolutely no reason why Amaranthe shouldn’t, or couldn’t, too. It's as clear as day that they have the chops for it.

Was there a possibility of “Maximalism” topping “Massive Addictive”, the Eurodance surprise of 2014? No. At least not realistically. “Maximalism” is pretty much more of the same. Sometimes more catchy, sometimes not. “Maximalism” is everything that “Massive Addictive” was and then some. Does it always work? Not really, but that doesn’t make it any less of an absolute blast of an album. It only accentuates that Amaranthe have reached the ceiling of how far they can continue to push their sound without betraying their obvious metallic roots. The only way for Amaranthe go from here is to either stagnate (and keep their heavy rock element) or finally commit entirely to the poppy Eurodance sound that has become the quintessential element to their cross-genre appeal and success. “Maximalism”, true to its title, is an absolutely massive record and an addictive one at that – even if it pales slightly compared to the preceding “Massive Addictive”. It’s clear that Elize Ryd and her men have set themselves on the path to relative superstardom in their genre. If only they realized that that very genre is keeping them back from even bigger success.


The most unlikely candidate for pop sentation of 2014 is Swedish-Danish band Amaranthe, who initially formed as Avalanche in 2008. Fronted by Elize Ryd and boasting a sound that combines the best of 90s Eurodance with throbbing rock riffs “Massive Addictive” is one of those pop albums that’s truly hard to stay away from. The songs are catchy, memorable – and it is pristinely produced. Amaranthe combines the best traits of rock, Eurodance and 90s video game music into a danceable, rocking pop songs. “Massive Addictive” is the ideal club music. It has the clubby beats, the techno synthesizers, massive choruses and addictive sensual female vocals.


Amaranthe, who took their name from a plant, released a pair of little heard albums with “Amaranthe” (2011) and “The Nexus” (2013) prior. The non-pop aspect, which in actuality is more of the heavy rock persuasion to the more discerning listener, on “Massive Addictive” is negegible at best and incidental at worst. Olof Mörck, who writes and produces all of the band’s music, apparently realized this, and downplays these elements in favor of tantalizing club beats, big vocal hooks and earworm choruses. From the look of things “Massive Addictive” is more or less the band’s breakthrough album to a wider audience, and it would be foolish for Mörck to not capitalize fully on what can only be truthfully described as a techno-pop hybrid. Consider Amaranthe the Scandinavian populist rock equivalent of Ellie Goulding.

‘Dynamite’ is all but a contemporary Rihanna, Ke$ha or Katy Perry song with incidental heavy guitars to give the pretense of a rock band. ‘Drop Dead Cynical’, which could very well describe the band’s approach to its music, is driven by a beat nearly identical to that of the Marilyn Manson song ‘Beautiful People’. ‘Trinity’ starts off as a Paradisio song with accompanying heavy guitars. ‘Digital World’ has one of the catchiest choruses of all the album. ‘Massive Addictive’ sets the stage for the pair of ballads to follow. ‘True’, a piano semi-ballad, could be passed off as a modern day Within Temptation song, whereas ‘Over and Done’ is the prerequisite emotional, tearjerking ballad. Mörck, the writer and producer behind Amaranthe and its music, should be applauded for being as versatile as he is in producing music this effective so far out of his comfort zone. “Massive Addictive” is a full-blown, electro-pop album from top to bottom.

elize_ryd_by_amcreationss-d8v2z4fWith two male singers vying for the listeners attention it takes but a cursory listen of “Massive Addictive” to realize that Elize Ryd is the true voice and face of the band. That she features up, front and center in the promo shots is only natural as she is Amaranthe’s the most identifiable and marketable asset. It doesn’t help matters that each of the singers, including the angelic Ryd, is cursed by an unflattering accent and inflection. This becomes especially apparent in the more lyric-heavy songs. Amaranthe is at its best when it fires off self-empowering, life-affirming platitudes and hollow slogans at its audience. Each song is built around a catchy hook or memorable chorus, and the melodies worm themselves into the listener’s head practically instantly. “Massive Addictive” was obviously written and produced as a pop/dance album, therefore it gets treated here as such. “Massive Addictive” succeeds with flying colors in its lofty goals.

As with any pop album the production is of the utmost importance. “Massive Addictive” does not fail in that department. In fact one of the biggest selling points for “Massive Addictive” is its smooth and expensive sounding production. “Massive Addictive” was recorded in part at Hansen Studio in Ribe, Denmark with Jacob Hansen producing and Jonas Haagensen engineering. All the guitars were recorded at Gothenburg Rock Studios with Daniel Antonsson producing. The keyboards and programming was recorded and produced at Amaranthe (LA Division) Studios. The artwork was created by Gustavo Sazes while Patric Ullaeus handled all of the photography. Even though none of the parties have a footing in contemporary popular music it is exactly what “Massive Addictive” is, and why it works so well. Amaranthe was a metal band a couple of years ago.  You wouldn't say..