Amaranthe – The Catalyst (Album Review)

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Over the last decade, few modern Metal acts have achieved the success of Sweden’s Amaranthe. Not an overnight success, it has been a steady build to the top for the band; first attracting audiences with their 2011 self-titled debut, leading to an explosion of international acclaim with 2014’s Massive Addictive. Now just shy of a decade since the release of Massive Addictive, Amaranthe returns in 2024 with The Catalyst.

Marking the band’s seventh studio album, and set for release on February 23rd through Nuclear Blast Records, it comes a little under four years after 2020’s ManifestManifest, another album which expanded on Amaranthe’s prior works while coupling in a plethora of guest collaborations, was enormous… yet there are still more twists and turns to be had with The Catalyst.

Looking back for a moment, Nils Molin arrived on clean male vocals back in 2017 taking the spot of original member Joacim “Jake E” Lundberg. A significant change, the band moved rather seamlessly, but then in 2022 harsh Male Vocalist Henrik “GG6” Englund Wilhelmsson (a member for nearly a decade) stepped down. Not deterred, the band found his replacement with Mikael Sehlin (the vocalist of well-known acts such as Degradead and Engel). Rather an exciting addition for those who are astute fans of the Swedish Extreme Metal scene, Sehlin joined Molin, Bassist Johan Andreassen, along with founding Guitarist/Keyboardist Olof Mörck, Drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen, but of course, leading lady Elize Ryd on vocals.

Adding intrigue to a solid cast already in place, what they do as a unit on The Catalyst is channel all the best attributes of Amaranthe to this point in history. That being said, if you are someone new to Amaranthe, or simply have lost track of their progression for one reason or another, the band do a fine job of unifying Extreme Metal, Pop, Electronic, and various other elements into their music. A hybrid that makes for a rather grand sound that is powerful and theatrical, they bring everything to higher ground with The Catalyst.

A total of twelve tracks, The Catalyst is dialed-in where each song sounds explicitly strong on its own. Chalked full of catchy melodies, irresistible choruses, and Pop textures that are not too oversaturated, there is little to stick your nose up at here. Sure, if you are a Metal purist (whether it be of Death Metal, Power Metal, or whatever subgenre), Amaranthe and their latest album may not be for you. However, if you are someone who enjoys something that is still full of potentially heavy riffs, but also open about mixing in other elements, then you will love what you hear.

As alluded to, Amaranthe have excelled with bombastic modern Heavy Metal music from album to album, however, it must be said that The Catalyst somehow feels even more cohesive and intense than anything they have done prior. Perhaps a product of good chemistry, or maybe because their songwriting skills have made strides forward, whatever it may be, the proof is in these songs. In fact, each of the tracks on The Catalyst has a distinctive quality that feels like a movement in a theater production or a scene out of a well-directed feature film.

That being said, the theme of each song is nothing less than inspiration; because they remind us of our humanity and our will to fight for life in a world being consumed by technology. Maybe a little science fiction to some, but an undeniable reality, the digital age is in full bloom and artificial intelligence seems to be set to erupt… so should we not be at all concerned? After all, what place do we have in a world when we can easily be replaced by a machine that has no feelings and does not tire? Something to ponder, tracks like “Insatiable” warn us of the dangers of group-think, “Re Vision” rally us to stand up against becoming a numerical code in the new world order, and “Interference” let us know it is never too late to make a change in the course of a treacherous path.

Beyond these bold moments, others that really stick with you are the uplifting “Outer Dimensions,” about finding light when it seems as if you are surrounded by darkness, while “Damnation Flame” is a rousing composition fit with a message about the absolute control we are permitting to be dictated over us from outside entities of authoritarian power. And bringing it all together is the band’s absolutely compelling cover of Roxette’s “Fading Like A Flower.” Sped up significantly, it somehow works well and is a fantastic rendition worth listening to and turning onto others.

Overall, The Catalyst is arguably the most grand and ambitious effort ever from Amaranthe. Powerful, catchy, potent, and exceptionally performed, it could be their best work to date, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives The Catalyst 5 out of 5 stars. 

amaranthe the catalyst album art
Amaranthe – The Catalyst / Nuclear Blast (2024) 

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