Amaranthe – ‘The Catalyst’

By Katherine Allvey

Amaranthe have levelled up on their new album ‘The Catalyst’ in more ways than one. Evidently buoyed by the success of their gaming anthem ‘PvP’, they’ve devoted themselves to making an album which absolutely sounds like the music to a combat scene in an MMORPG: fast-paced, energetic and makes you want to swing a sword.

They’ve maintained their roster of three vocalists taking the lead, with Mikael Sehlin now responsible for the harsher male side of the Amaranthe sound after Henrik Wilhelmsson’s departure in 2022. There isn’t a huge difference in the two guys’ vocal styles (Sehlin is slightly more throaty in his roars), leaving the band to focus on making their brand of metal even more maximalist than ever, as if we even thought that was possible. This album makes every recent release from a similar band seem relaxed and stripped back. It’s pure megacity fight music in the loudest possible way. 

There’s a lot to enjoy about ‘The Catalyst’. From the outset, you’re barraged with this huge wall of addictive optimism with layers upon layers of complex, unceasing electricity. ’Re-Vision’ is the song you want to hear as walk into the rock club of your dreams. If this is playing when you roll up to the bar for your first drink, there’s a one hundred percent chance you’re in for a great night, and ‘Outer Dimension’ is refined Eurovision fuel; eighties euphoric chord changes with a hefty dose of synth and positivity. Amaranthe are sticking to a formula which works for them – keep Elize Ryd at the forefront and support her with a bucketload of robotic effects, twiddly drama and multilayered power metal set pieces. Sure, some songs deviate slightly from their model. Big stomper ‘Insatiable’ affords more space for bass and lengthier guitar solos in amongst the clubland vibes and slower ballad ‘Stay A Little While’, rich in power strings and overwhelming guitar,  demands to be belted out from a mountaintop with the one you love. But, on the whole,  Amaranthe are cruising on the same flight path they’ve been taking for the last fifteen years, just with more nitro in their musical engine. 

Lots of bands can get away with having a very prescriptive sound that’s set in stone, and that’s not automatically a bad thing. Bad Religion have made a multi decade career out of basically playing the same song over and over again, and we love them for it. Amaranthe have found a comfort zone that works for them and guarantees a great live experience, chock full of speeding circle pits and pyrotechnics, and ‘The Catalyst’ will surely be a great addition to their upcoming setlists.

If you love what they’re doing already, you’re going to put this album on repeat. If you’re hoping for innovation rather than just ‘everything’s a bit louder and more complicated’, then this will not be the release you’re dreaming of. Escapism is the game here, much like their gaming inspiration, and ‘The Catalyst’ is perfect for nights out, road trips or any time you want to imagine you’re somewhere else. Somewhere in a parallel world, Amaranthe have taken an introspective left turn and made a thoughtful, nuanced exploration of their place in this crazy world, equal parts anthems and soul searching, but in our timeline they haven’t made that jump yet. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Until then, let’s dance like we’re big haired, power metal robots in an animated rock club to ‘The Catalyst’. 

KATE ALLVEY

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