Swedish dance-metal masters AMARANTHE are back in the form of their fifth, yes that's right FIFTH […]
By Jon Conant
November 3, 2018
Amaranthe - Helix album cover

Swedish dance-metal masters AMARANTHE are back in the form of their fifth, yes that's right FIFTH full length release, "Helix". They were one of the bands that first got me into metal, "Amaranthe" and "The Nexus" were some of my early favorite albums, and it's kind of hard to believe we're already here at #5. And yet they've somehow done it yet again, delivering a banger of an album that is true to their style, but still freshly different, following that same trend in pretty much all their releases.

They've certainly built the hype through their last four albums. I think one could argue each has been better than the last, and this was especially true in the 1-2 punch of their last two efforts, "Massive Addictive" and "Maximalism". They've avoided slumping, which is easy to do in early years of a band, and they've kept growing. It's been exciting and impressive. Haters be damned, dance-metal is the shit, and AMARANTHE is the shit. Coming into #5, there was a lot to prove, but there was also a lot of questions. Especially given the departure of previous vocalist Jake E. and the band reaching a crossroads of whether they'd double down on being a metal band, or venture further into their progressively poppier 4-album path. But they added vocalist Nils Molin, and hit the studio to record "Helix", boasting more of a confident attitude on social media and insisting they were making a metal record.

Single "365" was the first taste of the new AMARANTHE we got, and we heard AMARANTHE go to a place that was somehow more pop oriented AND more metal than their last album. Interesting, but I guess it is true to their mission statement. "365" is ultimately one of the more stale tracks on the album, and I'll admit when I heard it as just a single it made me concerned for the release. But, it fits in nicely with the entirety of the album, as other tracks bring out the more classic AMARANTHE style we know and love, and everything balances out. The most important takeaway I think we all had from the "365" release was what a MASSIVE upgrade Nils is. No offense Jake, but goddamn Nils rounds out the AMARANTHE sound beautifully. His voice clearly compliments the songwriting style of Olof better, and harmonizes with Elize better, at least when you can hear him in the mix. I mean that as a jab, WE WANT TO HEAR MORE OF HIM.

The next two singles "Countdown" and "Inferno" are honestly my two least favorite tracks. They were fine and catchy and all, but for my money they were the most stale and derivative songs on the album. I personally don't understand why they were singles, and having just those 3 songs at the time, I was feeling particularly cynical in the weeks before the release of "Helix". But, it wasn't a problem in the end, because "Helix" is DEEP. Opener "The Score" is CLASSIC AMARANTHE, bringing the poppier melodic side with the metal guitars still being present, and a catchy-as-all-hell chorus. It felt like something more from their first two releases. Following the opener is the 3 singles, and then the middle 4 tracks of the album which is I think the strongest bit of it.

Title track "Helix" is possibly my favorite on the album, and I think best represents AMARANTHE in their most modern and evolved sound. The guitars are chunkier, the melody is more epic, but we still get that classic synth and classic Olof songwriting that made the first 4 albums great. The chorus is so fucking good, and the outro riff with Henrik is dank. Next is "Dream", one of the token album ballads, but is better written and much heavier than the token ballads in the previous albums, an absolute improvement. An absolute killer that would have been great as a single. Also, Henrik rap-screaming (he does that in title-track Helix" as well). Then we get "GG6", the most experimental track on the album taking AMARANTHE to one of the most electronic yet most heavy places for them to date. It strongly features Henrik, and some of my favorite riffage from Olof. Plus, another banger of a chorus. After that, the other track that I might argue is the best on the album, "Breakthrough Starshot". It is one of their most upbeat and dance oriented songs BUT OH MY GOD it is a banger. The chorus is NUTS catchy, Elize and Nils show off how out-of-this-world talented they are, and they even manage to anchor in heavy sections with Henrik seamlessly that don't feel out of place backed against the dancey vibe of the song. That synth breakdown was everything I've ever needed.

After that, we ease into the back third with "My Haven" a heavy and chunky, but slow and more balladic number, with a much more somber attitude to contrast the high of "Breakthrough Starshot". We get another catchy number "Iconic" that reminded me more of the singles and had some classic AMARANTHE I and II vibes, and then the slow and soft inspirational track "Unified", before capping out in the upbeat finale "Momentum" that closes out in the classic AMARANTHE style, again giving more of those vibes like their first two releases. Truly, they've made an album that simultaneously pushes their sound forward, but stays true to, and even extensively revisits, their early sound. I don't see how any AMARANTHE fan could dislike this, and I don't really see anybody hating on it. I think it represents a DISTINCT step forward for the band. They've settled into their sound, defined it as their own, and it kicks ass. Olof's songwriting style and the melodic influence continues to blow me away, and adding Nils was absolutely critical for the group, and a fucking amazing decision.

My biggest takeaway from the album is probably what a tour-de-force trio of vocalists they've assembled. Elize Ryd has already established herself as one of the best vocalists in metal with the previous 4 efforts, and she just continues to back that up in "Helix". She is an absolute goddess of metal. For years I had been kind of bummed she didn't become the vocalist of NIGHTWISH back after Tarja left and she auditioned, but she takes "Helix" (and AMARANTHE in general) to such a next level of excellence that I'm just happy things are as they are now. Backing her up, Henrik provides some of my favorite screams in metal, and shows off a huge range of ability in how he can switch between styles and try new things. He also takes things to a higher level on this album. And of course Nils, who is in his first go-around with AMARANTHE, but hopefully is here to stay. As I've previously gushed, he is a HUGE upgrade, and maybe the most exciting part of the album. All in all, what a kick ass array of vocalists they have, and it truly shows in this latest effort.

"Helix" is a near-perfect banger that delivers on just about every level. I have some minor complaints about occasional bits of the songwriting and some of the production, but who even cares because everything else is so good. AMARANTHE continues to successfully push forward and become better without slumping. With 5 successful albums under their belt, the future is looking very bright for this 6 piece of dance-metal gurus.

9 / 10

Almost Perfect








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"Helix" Track-listing:

1. The Score
2. 365
3. Inferno
4. Countdown
5. Helix
6. Dream
7. GG6
8. Breakthrough Starshot
9. My Haven
10. Iconic
11. Unified
12. Momentum

Amaranthe Lineup:

Elize Ryd - Vocals
Henrik Englund - Screams
Nils Molin - Vocals
Olof Mörck  - Guitars and keys
Morten Løwe Sørensen - Drums
Johan Andreassen - Bass

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