Amaranthe / An Impressive Evolution With Latest Album The Catalyst

The Catalyst sees the arrival of the seventh full-length album from Amaranthe, and it is not unreasonable to say that all the usual ingredients of a great Amaranthe album are contained within. It’s a particularly strong album, and though it carries that familiar Amaranthe sound, there are enough enhancements to their sound and songwriting approach to make this an interesting and fruitful listen. 

Amaranthe – The Catalyst (Nuclear Blast Records)

Release Date: 23 February 2024

Words: Adrian Stonley

Personally, it feels as though the band have moved up a gear, and this release moves their musical output up a level.

This may be down to the change in lineup with Mikael Sehlin replacing Henrik Englund Wilhelmson, who departed back in 2022 on vocals. As such, the vocal dynamic of the band remains unchanged, with the three vocalists, Elise Ryd, Nils Molin on clean vocals and Mikael on growls, still using their different styles in a creative and stimulating manner.

Amaranthe - The Catalyst.
Amaranthe – The Catalyst. “There is so much on show in this album it really is a joy to immerse yourself in.”

It seems as though with the arrival of Mikael, the vocal dynamic between the three singers has changed, and Elise and Nils have stepped out of the comfort zone that the previous release, Manifest, provided. 

It’s as if they have thrown down a gauntlet to bring the most impressive, vocally varied performances that they can possibly produce. Mikael is clearly not here to make up the numbers and this can be heard clearly throughout the album.

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Mikael was announced in June 2023. “His versatility and musicality completes and underscores our vision for our new album and the general future for Amaranthe perfectly,” Olof Mörck said. |From the deepest guttural grunts to soaring screams, Mikael is growling perfection incarnate.”

The album itself has a strong conceptual theme running throughout, which the band have dedicated to ideas of transformation and revelation. The lyrical writing of this concept certainly is strong and deep, drawing the listener into the ideas here. 

This isn’t a straightforward head-down Heavy Metal album. It shows how the band are developing their songwriting maturity, as this album drips with thoughtful ideas, perceptions and notions.

Of course, musically, this album contains all the hooks and melodies that you would expect from Amaranthe, with a sprinkling of pomposity as the band utilises an orchestral element that fits perfectly into their sound and redefines the listening experience. 

With thirteen tracks contained on the album, there is plenty to immerse yourself in here, and the band is clearly not shying away from showcasing a progressive element in their song structure. The power and intensity expected from Amaranthe clearly remain, yet the enhancements take these pieces to a higher musical plateau.

The album starts with the bombastic title track, The Catalyst. This clearly sets out the intention of the band, with hard-driving guitars and riffs that rip into your very core.

The first single, Damnation Flame, is where the widening of the sound becomes particularly noticeable as the band incorporates the orchestral element into their sound. This not only provides a wider musical level for the band but also enables them to widen their direction, and this creates an enthralling mix. 

Certainly, this could be an indication of future intent, as the orchestral element intertwined within Amaranthe’s own trademark sound creates a decidedly impressive musical vista which entirely suits them as a band. 

Obviously, they are not the first band to use orchestral elements, and they won’t be the last. But it is the nature in which this is utilised that makes it all the more fascinating.

As a song, Re-vision has it all. Again, this track in itself shows the band embracing wider musical textures containing a strong techno-dance vibe. The nature of the techno sound provides an underlying change in the musical nuances and shows clear intent in utilising wider influences throughout the piece. 

There has always been a techno-pop outline within previous songs, and this change highlights the band’s intent to build on that and widen the overall soundscape. However, for those wondering where this is going, this is definitely not a lightweight piece and still contains skull-crushing breakdowns and killer guitar work courtesy of Olof Mörck.

Stay A Little While, with its delicate keyboard introduction, does take the power of the songs down a level. It is the big power ballad on the album, containing an incredible vocal duet between Elize and Nils. At times, this sends shivers down the spine due to the vocal passion exhibited between the two singers as they strive to outperform each other and subsequently create an absolute tour-de-force.

This is an album that is pumped full of strong melodies, interesting time catechisms, variable influences and a remorseless barrage of musical intent that drives throughout.

Songs such as Ecstasy and Outer Dimensions have the potential to be serious crowd-pleasers in the live environment and show the three singers’ vocal relationships at their very best. These have moshpit heaven written all over them.

Closing out the album is a cover version of fellow Swedish band Roxette’s Fading Like A Flower. Here, they have taken the electro-pop of the original and given it a robust shake-up, with Mikael’s backing growls providing an element of vocal shade to the overall lightness of the piece. 

None of the intent is missing, and this song shows how Amaranthe are more than capable of taking another artist’s work and redefining it within their own sound.

There is so much on show in this album it really is a joy to immerse yourself in. For existing fans, this is a great addition to their collections. To new fans, then, it is the perfect introduction to Amaranthe. The Catalyst can be pre-ordered from here.

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