“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever but to create something that will…” begins the fifth Amaranthe album, all proudly released by Spinefarm. And while this particular release may not be quite in and of itself destined to live indefinitely in our hearts and minds, as a collective, the band really must be given credit for carving a sound and style that is wholly and completely their own. Ten years deep into a healthy and prolific career, Helix not only shows no sign of letting up but feels like a second wind to launch the band into a second decade.
While the defining characteristics of Amaranthe has always been the triple vocal interplay setting up Elize Ryd to bring home the nineties pop choruses, Helix is actually Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson (heavy vocals)’ breakthrough album, spitting and rapping like Ryan McCoombs on heavier ‘GG6’ and ‘Dream’, and roaring over the title track as synths and electronica dance, and guitars and drums pound in rhythmic bounce. The playoff with new clean singer Nils Molin, whose performance means Jake E isn’t missed, and Ryd is always well crafted, with Ryd providing classy pop and power metal vocals effortlessly, while on the aforementioned ‘Dream’ she channels Sharon den Adel to add an extra dynamic option.
‘Breakthrough Starshot’ is silly and ridiculously catchy and you get a sense that being in Amaranthe is great fun. For the most part, the approach is to be simple, effective, and, well, massive… ‘Countdown’ and ‘Iconic’ are more infectious than a room of primary school kids with head-lice, and they even find time to get more serious and balladic on ‘Unified’, while ramping up the heaviness and snap elsewhere.
If the last couple of albums were, a smattering of singles aside, the very definition of diminishing returns, matters of complacency have been well and truly redressed. ‘The Score’ may be a decent if unspectacular starter, but from the phat electronic pulse of the Ibiza Metalcore of ‘365’, Amaranthe are back on track. The formula that serves them well when they’re at their best is present and correct, and while there is a deliberate Pop construction to the choruses and most of the vocal deliveries in the dropouts and verses, fortunately, the band haven’t fallen for the modern pop tropes of minimalism – the cult of Maximalism is still strong!