Amaranthe - "Maximalism" (CD)
"Maximalism" track listing:
3. That Song
5. On the Rocks
9. Break Down and Cry
Reviewed by xFiruath on November 8, 2016
As the guy who will equally listen to the most abrasive black metal in existence and then enjoy a rap / symphonic crossover from Within Temptation, the task of reviewing Amaranthe's “Maximalism” fell to me. Of course I'd seen the storm of negativity across the web after a certain song was initially released, but I came into this album with fresh ears having heard none of it and ready to give anything a fair shake.
As opening song “Maximize” is pouring through my headphones I'm initially wondering what the problem is – why don't people like this? It's a pulse pounding intro, and in typical Amaranthe fashion the band mixes melodic death metal with pop segments. Sure, the harsh vocals have a fast delivery that border on rapping, but that's not exactly a surprise for Amaranthe (although they are more pronounced here on several songs). Overall there's nothing that explains all the hate from the band's fan base on this first track.
Then follow-up song “Boomerang” hits and oh my dear sweet Jesus I get it now – this is going to be the biggest metal flop of the year.
The problem isn't that the album is exceedingly poppy – it's that its BAD pop. The repetition of “you can always bring me down but I come around like a boomerang, like, like, like a boomerang” is some middle school level, Bottom 40 radio nonsense. The equation has also completely shifted, whereas before Amaranthe was a metal band with poppy songwriting, now it feels more like a pop band with some metal influence. Expect to hear a lot of phrases like “drop it like its hot” and “nah, nah, nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah.”
Next up we have prime offender “That Song,” which originally set off all the controversy, and it's well deserved. Simply put, this is as radio-friendly as it gets. The band is known for blending popular music with metal, but what we've got here really has no connection to metal at all. I don't know if Amaranthe is trying to get a track on Empire or wants to resurrect Glee or what, but this certainly isn't what I want to hear from a Swedish melodic metal band.
Before any of the die hard fans scream that I'm just not open minded enough: I've listened to "That Song" half dozen times now trying my hardest to give it the benefit of the doubt – maybe the foot stomping aspect would be fun at a live show? - but I'm struggling to defend this and coming up empty handed. “That Song” is completely ridiculous, and not in a good way.
After that nonsense, there are a few songs worth hearing. Take out the rapping growls on “Faster” and you have a quality melodic metal track that gets the blood pumping, and “21” has a decent toe-tapping groove.
The harsh vocals presented in a semi-rapped style sometimes work out, but are becoming more frequently out of place as the band's style shifts. “Fury” is probably the biggest problem, where the vocals come so fast its all just a big jumbled mess. Musically, “Fury” has a sort of Dance Dance Revolution quality, like a Kontrust b-side. At least this one has some heavy guitars in it, I guess? The disgusted “Yeach!” sound the vocalist makes at the end of the song sort of sums up how I feel about a lot of this album.
“Limitless” is clearly the band's statement about how the album will be received, with the lyrics “Can we be just who we are? There are no regrets, together we are limitless.” In fact there are several tracks where it seems like the band is specifically talking to the audience about this style change. I actually cringed a little at the lines “We are not ironic, we're supersonic” and “They say I'm crazy, I'm not a fool, not even listening, I make my own rules.”
There are elements that I liked on "Maximalism" – particularly the energy – and I'm the metal fan who always wants bands to mash together opposing styles, but overall this one's just not up my alley. Amaranthe has gone way off the deep end on the pop side and pretty much left metal behind. Frankly, I feel like the band should really throw in the metal towel and make the next album a collaboration with Geoff Tate.
Highs: Cull out "Boomerang," "That Song," and the rapping growls and you've got an alright poppy album with occasional metal guitars.
Lows: The vast majority of the disc: we've gone past pop metal into pop that maybe nods to metal every now and again.
Bottom line: Did you hate "That Song?" Probably shouldn't bother with much of the rest of the album either, then.
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