Review by Jeff Maki
Amaranthe’s fifth album, “Helix” is still undeniably Amaranthe, yet with two of its original vocalists departed (Andreas Solveström and most recently Jake E.), their replacements, death metal growler Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson (appearing on his third album) and power metal vocalist Nils Molin (making his debut) have changed the musical dynamic alongside siren Elize Ryd. For the good? That’s for the fans to decide.
Nils has a big voice to fill. Jake E. left following the recording of 2016’s “Maximalism” and formed a new band, CyHra. His absence was noticeable when seeing Amaranthe live on the touring cycle. Nils has more of a power metal/’80’s style in his singing, which is the first thing to change the dynamic. He takes lead on the ballad “Unified,” which is “his” song of the album.
The second is Henrik’s now recognizable growl. Whether the intention or not, a bulk of his parts are more of a death metal rapping, like on “Helix” and “The Dream.” He absolutely owns this style on his “own” song of the album: the machine gun riff/electro-infused “GG6.” This one is sure to be a highlight live. Imagine Busta Rhymes or Xzibit, and you wouldn’t be far off. Still, this guy has charisma and lights a fuse in the band. They eventually cut him loose later on “Iconic.” Good, because I’ve found myself waiting and trying to anticipate his parts while listening to the past two Amaranthe records.
Elize Ryd is now THE voice of the band. Still a pop singer undercover in a hard rock/metal band, she opens up the album on “The Score,” taking lead and carries the listener through a “Nexus” type of song. Same goes for the standout title track. Singles “365” and “Countdown” are new but familiar, and on more than one occasion, I found myself thinking hard about who Elize reminds me of. My final answer? Katy Perry. That’s not a rip, and that’s not a bad thing—even through these lineup changes, Amaranthe has never said it is the heaviest band or most original band, and never denied its pop influence either.
If anything, the titles of “Helix” and “Maximalism” should swap albums, as I feel like “Helix” takes everything that Amaranthe has done thus far and reach the max. So if Amaranthe is “maxed out,” where does it go from here? First, a tour. But then does the band keep churning out this style of album like the past three? A great idea would be albums with Nils and Henrik taking lead and the other two, respectively, backing up. Now that would make for a cool double or even triple album. My guess is either a live album or covers EP. Either way, “Helix” should hold fans of Amaranthe over until then.
October 19, 2018, Spinefarm Records