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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.

Plot: small-town girl discovers the sordid underbelly of Stockholm

Scandinavian exploitation starlet Christina Lindberg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1950 and originally studied for archeologist before venturing into the world of modeling and later cinema. During high school Lindberg started modeling, first in swimsuit for newspapers and later in nude pictorials with Mayfair, Lui and Playboy. Lindberg was a Penthouse Pet in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. Sehlberg refused to let her work with other photographers and forced Lindberg out of exploitation cinema. For much of the 1970s Gothenburg-born starlet Christina Lindberg was the subject of a number of mostly impoverished exploitation films awash with full frontal nudity and simulated sex. Together with Janet Ågren, and the lesser known Leena Skoog, Christina Lindberg was one of the more recognizable faces in the European exploitation industry.

Maid in Sweden, the most innocuous of Lindberg’s early oeuvre, professes to be a coming-of-age story and a journey of sexual awakening for a naive smalltown girl in the big city. Co-produced by Cannon from a screenplay by Ronnie Friedland and George T. Norris it is exploitation masquerading as a legitimate drama. Screenwriter Friedland had served as a second unit director on Joseph Sarno’s The Seduction Of Inga (1968), which goes in part to explain the many similarities between this and the source material. Norris would later pen the screenplay to the Robert Ginty vigilante actioner The Exterminator 2 (1984). Maid In Sweden leans closer to French erotic cinema of the day than to the mesmerizing surreal Czech fairytale Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) from Jaromil Jires. In the movie Lindberg does exude the same kind of cherubic charm as genre starlets Gloria Guida, Tina Romero, Susan Hemingway, or Jaroslava Schallerová.

The plot, or what little is supposed to pass for it, concerns itself with milkmaid Inga (Christina Lindberg, as Kristina Lindberg) who lives in a sleepy farming hamlet in Sweden. One day she receives a letter from her emancipated libertine sister Greta (Monika Ekman) inviting her to spent a weekend in Stockholm. The visit starts out innocently enough, but soon Inga’s beauty, and her tendency to disrobe at the drop of a hat, has her involved in a number of compromising situations. Perceptive viewers will have surely noticed that Inga and Greta were both characters in Joe Sarno’s The Seduction Of Inga, that starred softcore scorcher Marie Liljedahl - who starred in a number of sexploitation movies from 1966 to 1970 from directors as Hubert Frank, Torgny Wickman and the inevitable Jesús Franco - and which Maid in Sweden pilfers in terms of plot. Maid in Sweden is both episodic and formulaic with Lindberg’s often naked form as the only selling point for what is otherwise a trite and banal exercise in low-budget filmmaking. Lindberg’s later Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973) had better production values than this little number.

Instead of embracing its exploitation undercurrent Maid in Sweden actually tries to pass itself off as a coming-of-age story and a tale of sexual awakening. Something which the French Don’t Deliver Us From Evil (1971) and the Italian Monika (1974) did far better. Unlike Monika  and Honeybun (1988) a decade and a half later, Maid in Sweden does not hide its more dubious aspects behind a veneer of comedy and slapstick. Once Inga sees the bewildering effects that her considerable physical assets have on those around her, specifically men, she remains gridlocked in her conviction that everybody has her best interest at heart. When seemingly everybody around her then continues to take advantage of her smalltown naiveté it completely negates whatever little dramatic effect is supposedly generated as Inga learns nothing from her experience in the big city. When she returns home after the weekend nothing substantial has changed, neither has she (or anybody else) undergone any mentionworthy growth, or arc, as a character.

None of the plot is particularly believable. Greta’s douche canoe boyfriend Carsten (Krister Ekman) first opines that Inga is too much of a goodie two-shoes and lines her up with the abominable delinquent-in-waiting Björn (Leif Naeslund). After a tedious date montage the contemptible Björn, true to form as an acquaintance of the equally rephrensible Carsten, attempts to rape an oblivious Inga. Later, seeking trust and solace in a relative, Inga is raped a second time by her own sister in the prequisite bout of sapphic seduction. Far more damning is that twice does Maid in Sweden brush said behavior off as acceptable social etiquette. Adding an extra ick factor is that the Greta and Carsten coupling, who are the subject of one or two simulated sex scenes, are played by sibling actors. After taking a steamy shower, shot in slow motion for maximum effect, Inga then returns to boink the despicable Björn a second time in what can only be construed as Stockholm syndrome. Returning in silentio noctis to the apartment Carsten comes onto Inga, something she is – for reasons both unfathomable and unexplained – all too eager to reciprocate. Greta catches the two in flagrante delicto and, against all logic and reason, throws Inga (and not the far more deserving Carsten) into the streets.

The entire raison d'être of Maid in Sweden is to showcase Lindberg’s luscious hourglass figure as often and early as possible. It’s hard to fathom that the voluptuous, uninhibited, and then-twenty-one year old Lindberg never ended up working in productions from continental European directors as Jean Rollin, Jesús Franco, Joe D’Amato, or Tinto Brass. Brass especially would have shot Lindberg - whose figure is similar to that of Debora Caprioglio - in loving detail. At least the writers/producers behind Maid in Sweden were smart enough to realize that the minimal plot is merely a preamble to have Lindberg disrobing, or engaging in assorted lewd activities, with regular interval. Whether it is her changing clothes in a train compartment, imagening getting sexually assaulted, taking a soapy bath, or simulating intercourse. Maid in Sweden is exploitative to a fault and this movie would have fallen into obscurity if it weren’t for the frequently disrobing of its top-heavy star. In fact it frequently borders on a Scandinavian equivalent to an Armando Bó directed down-market Isabel Sarli exploitation flick. None of it is particularly pretty to look at, but nobody's here for the art anyway...