Amaranthe – Manifest Review

Score7/10
GenreMelodic Metal (Pop Metal)
CountrySweden
Runtime40:20
Release Date2 October 2020
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Sweden’s melodic metal masters Amaranthe have continued to hold the pop metal standard high in their sixth album, Manifest. While I’ll never come back to half of the tracklist, the amount of sheer talent Amaranthe continues to display can’t be ignored; whether it’s the relentless, intricate grooving of drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen or the combined vocal talents of Elize Ryd, Nils Molin, or Henrik “GG6” Englund, there’s a ton to appreciate musically.

If there’s one thing that can be said about Manifest, it’s that it’s exactly consistent with what you’d expect an Amaranthe album to be: bright, hopeful choruses in between thunderous rhythm section syncopation, digital synths, and colossal growls. It leans further to the pop side, (like everything since The Nexus) but it contains enough powerful riffs and chugging that it still sits comfortably under the metal banner, although not under the power metal banner, as so many others seem to be convinced.

In all honesty, I was ready to call it quits on this album after my first listen. It seemed like they gave up on everything else and settled into being a metalcore version of late 2000s pop groups. However, being that I’ve been a huge fan of these guys for years (and also that I first spun it on my shitty Bluetooth speaker at work), I decided to give it another spin, for old time’s sake. And, fortunately, that led to a few more listens.

Sure, my initial reaction still holds up for the trainwrecks that are ‘Stronger’ (does someone wanna tell me how you can fuck up a song that features both Elize Ryd AND Noora Louhimo?), ‘Die and Wake Up’, ‘Make It Better’, and the poorly-named ‘Adrenaline’, but Manifest‘s best tracks live up to the band’s full capabilities.

For starters, ‘Fearless’ kicks the album off with all the shiny-yet-ferocious badassery Amaranthe is known for. The following tracks rotate between crap and good-but-not-great (and a full-out Dynazty song in ‘Do Or Die’) until the second half, where we get to some seriously killer tracks in ‘The Game’, ‘Archangel’, and my personal favourite, ‘Boom!’. Seriously, if you lost all hope in Amaranthe because of MAXIMALISM or Helix, ‘Boom!’ is probably the completely wrong song to recommend, but it’s such a shitshow that I have to. It’s the obligatory GG6 feature on the album, so you can expect some of the best growling/rapping metal has to offer, along with shameless self-awareness.

As a sidenote, I can’t say for sure (because I haven’t been bothered to check), but I would imagine that the differing factor between the tracks I like and dislike is how involved Elize Ryd is in the songwriting. In Helix, new male vocalist Nils Molin (Dynazty) didn’t get a proper introduction (in my own not-so-humble opinion), and there was way too much “Oo, look at me!” from Elize. Not that I think she’s a bad vocalist by any stretch; she’s actually one of my favourites. However, it seems like the band is all the better when she takes a step back from the songwriting and allows the music to be more of a team effort.

All in all, Manifest is about the best an album like this could be. It’s easily the best Amaranthe album since 2013 and it blows pretty much every other band in the space (think Metalite (or maybe protect yourself by NEVER thinking about Metalite), Scarleth, CyHra, In Flames kinda) out of the water.

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Interview With The Dark Element’s Anette Olzon

“When I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter.”

Finland’s melodic/symphonic metal outfit The Dark Element was formed in 2017. The band features ex-Nightwish and Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzon as its frontwoman. On the release day of their sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, I got to explore Anette’s thoughts of the new album, the future of the band, and women in metal.

Kane: Congratulations on your new album today! What was your favourite part of making Songs the Night Sings?

Anette Olzon: This album went really smooth. You know, now we all know each other. In the first album we didn’t really know each other. Of course, it’s always easier, you know, and Jani [Jani Liimatainen, Insomnium, ex-Sonata Arctica] knows my vocal style and he believes in what I do so it was all really smooth.

And who does the songwriting? Is it just Jani or is it both you and him?

A: No, it’s mainly Jani. I mean, he is a songwriter so he always makes the songs and sends me the demos and then I go into the studio and, of course I do the vocals how I want to do them. Of course, I follow his melody, but all the harmonies and stuff that I want to do I can do myself.

And this time he actually asked me in the middle of the process if I had any lyrics because I guess he had some writer’s block, so then I sent him some lyrics and he actually took some of those parts from me and put them in ‘Pills on My Pillow’ so I have been a little more creative this time in that way.

What would you say is the album’s strongest quality?

A: Well I believe The Dark Element was very melodic, so we’re still very melodic and have quite catchy choruses, for instance. This time we talked about, after the last album, that I would really like to have a bit more heaviness and more guitars and he actually listened, so he made it a bit more heavy and bombastic this time and I think he has added some more disco, too, which is really nice.

So I think that the melodies and catchy choruses are the strongest part. Somebody said that it’s a bit of “ABBA metal” and that it truly an honour because ABBA is, of course, the best band. [laughs]

Of course! I mean, if you’re gonna do a poppy style of metal then I don’t think there’s a better compliment you could get.

A: [laughs] No, it’s really an honour when people say that. It’s all fine by me, being a Swede. [laughs]

How would you say Songs the Night Sings differs from your debut?

A: You know, I would say that the first one was a little bit of a tryout, both for Jani and for me. He did pull some songs out of his drawer that maybe he had just had there for years and then he wrote them into something new. These songs are all written new for Songs the Night Sings and I think he kind of knew the direction better after how people reacted to the songs in the first album. So think it’s kind of the same vibe as the first one, just a bit bolder and more elements that he has tried out that are a bit different.

I think I would agree. There’re a lot more orchestrations and it sounds a lot fuller and there’s more detail. I’d say it’s like a refined version of the first album.

A: Yeah, I think so. You know, the first album had songs that differed a bit more over the whole album than this one. I think this one has more of a right balance. I mean the new songs do have a lot of different elements but this album has a red thread into it.

For sure. Do you have any favourite songs?

A: Yeah! My favourite since I heard it is ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’. I just love that from the first time I heard it and when I when to the studio to sing it. It’s my favourite song from all The Dark Element. I really like ‘Pills on My Pillow’; there’s a lot of pain in that one, some cool disco, and the poppier song ‘Silence Between the Words’, which is really poppy. [laughs] But I really like it! It’s a really fun and easy song. But I like all of them for different reasons.

So you guys decided to release two music videos and one lyric video. How important do you think music videos are?

A: I think they are important because kids today watch YouTube. That’s how it is. You know, back in the day MTV was the big thing to look at. I think videos today, like our videos, are very easy. They are not like high-cost videos that MTV had, you know, with a big budget, I guess. I mean, Rammstein has a huge budget for their videos. [laughs]

But I don’t think you need to do them so creatively, people just want to see you. There’s something about that thing, you know, when they can look at you. So I think videos are still very important.

Do you guys have any plans to tour the album yet?

A: I mean, yes, we want to play gigs, we just have one issue and that is Jani has joined the big band Insomnium and they are touring heavily. We have gotten a lot of requests and we are very much trying to squeeze in gigs between his touring with Insomnium, so hopefully. There will probably be some gigs but, if it comes to touring, maybe we will just have to join Insomnium! [laughs] Since he is so busy.

We have had to say no to some requests, unfortunately, due to his busy schedule but I think there will be some. Hopefully he has some time off now and then. Not so many days, but some.

Or enough, anyway!

A: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m on him every day like, “Hey, have you checked your schedule? Have you checked your schedule?” because I would like to play a lot next year, much more than we’ve done. It’s really nice that he’s joined Insomnium but it a bit more of a hassle for us. But we’ll see!

Do you have anything you particularly like or dislike about touring?

A: Well, for me, I’ve done that big, heavy touring thing that he’s doing at the moment. I did it with Nightwish. It was fun but it was also very, very hard. I have problems sleeping in the bus, for instance, so either I have to drink beer or take pills to sleep, [laughs] which is hard. I also think it’s a bit boring when it comes to traveling. Nowadays, I don’t really like to go anywhere and I just stay at home because I’ve seen the world, I’ve been in cities. I remember that I woke up many times and I didn’t have any clue what country I was in, what city I was in, and it was kind of scary, you know, when you just wake up like, “Where am I?” It happened a lot. I also have a lot of memory losses from my touring days because it was very intense. So I try to think that I’ve done that, you know, that Jani’s doing at the moment, and I cherish it, but I prefer to do a little bit less gigs. More like “let’s do two gigs and have fun” and then we go home. I prefer that.

I can see how that saves a bit of energy, too, and nobody has to really strain themselves.

A: Yeah, and I think also that when you do a tour like that six days a week, travelling, travelling, travelling, people getting sick and still having to perform, you know, singing with a flu in your body and stuff, you don’t give your best every evening. If you only have a few gigs, normally you’re not ill and you’re good and you’re happy, and I think that shows to the audience, too. You can give them much more for their money, I believe.

Shifting back to the album, do you think the lyrics or the overall sound are more important?

A: Oh. Well, when I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter. They are not happy lyrics. They are sad lyrics, all of them, and you wonder if he’s been through Hell in his life or not. [laughs] So, for me when I listen to the songs, I think the overall sound is what I listen too. Of course, I listen to the lyrics, too, but I think not many people sit down and just nail through and listen really deep to the lyrics. I think people just want to hear a good song with a good tempo and something fun in it. So I believe lyrics are important but the sound is probably more important.

Aside from The Dark Element, what are you listening to these days?

A: Well, I listen to the radio. [laughs] But I listen to many different things depending on my mood. I listen to a lot of metal, actually, because me and my husband share the Spotify account and he’s like a “death metal dude” and “metal dude” so the only thing that comes up in mine is Katatonia and stuff, so I listen to that. I also listen to singer-songwriters, but I listen to a lot of radio mainly, all those hit that are in the pop charts. They are easy listening.

As a female metal artist, do you feel that women are having more success these days?

A: Well, I remember when me and Alyson Avenue came out with our first album and we were out gigging back in the days when I was very young, that was in the late 80s and early 90s. Female-fronted bands were, like, the worst of the worst. It was so bad. People were like, “Female-fronted? They suck!” And I think you still can feel that vibe, in a way, as soon as there’s a girl singing there’s something with a lot of men, because that’s just how it goes, where they prefer a male singer. I don’t know why.

But I think it’s gotten better with so many good singers out there who’ve showcased that they can growl and they can do all those things a male singer can do, too, like belt and sing progressive and stuff. So, I think it’s better these days than it was when I was younger and started singing.

I think it definitely helps having big bands like Nightwish, Battle Beast, and Amaranthe that have fantastic frontwomen to help move it forward, too.

A: Yeah, and where bands like Evanescence are still going, and like you said Battle Beast. Noora is fantastic and she proves inmany ways that a girl can do what a man can do because she really sings in many ways like a guy. And then you have, of course, bands like Arch Enemy that also proves that there are some really good female-fronted bands out there.

We’re just about out of time here so I want to squeeze in one more question! What do you want to see The Dark Element become?

A: Oh! Well. I personally would love to do some more gigs, that’s my aim, because we’ve had so much fun. And hopefully some more albums, before I get too old, with that same happy feeling Jani and I have at the moment, and that his creativity continues the way that it has and that we get better and better with every album because he’s a very talented songwriter. And, hopefully, sell a lot and sell more so we can do more of what we want with more gigs and better videos and have a higher budget for everything. That’s always what you want.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!

A: And thank you! It’s been an honour.

The Dark Element’s sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, is out now! You can catch it on YouTube, streaming services, or buy it >>here<<! And don’t forget to follow The Dark Element on Facebook!

The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings Review

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Edge Of Paradise – Universe Review

Score3.5/10
GenreMelodic Metal (Pop Metal)
CountryUSA (Los Angeles)
Runtime36:11
Release Date8 November 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

Modern melodic metal is something I’ve been on board with since I first heard Amaranthe years ago. To me, pop and metal can complement each other better than anything else, when it’s done properly. The most obvious examples include albums by Chaos Magic, The Dark Element, and CyHra, where the catchiness and electronic elements achieve a balance with heavy metal energy and instrumentation. Unfortunately, LA’s female-fronted outfit Edge of Paradise bypasses this approach in Universe, instead following the footsteps of bands like Delain and Metalite.

What I mean by this is the fact that, where those first bands I mentioned have the majority of their sound rooted in metal, Edge of Paradise sit way the fuck over on the pop/alt side. There are some industrial influences within Universe‘s heavily-electronic style, but it doesn’t help at all to prevent the end result: a sound that’s weak, forgettable, and painfully one-dimensional.

However, I can’t in good conscience say that Universe isn’t metal at all, because that’d be a lie. There’s some decent riffage in a lot of the intros and transitions, such as in ‘Universe’ and ‘Face of Fear’. Plus, the instrumental finisher, ‘Burn the Sun’, is a decent metal instrumental. This hardly outweighs the non-metalness of the vocals, melodies, and straight execution, but it’s something.

While I don’t really have any favourite part of Universe, I do have a least favourite; the vocals are a complete miss for me. Especially the whispered vocals which, unfortunately, populate like sixty percent of the album. I mean, seriously, what the fuck even is that? The whole vocal delivery makes me cringe and writhe in my skin. It’s awkward. In all honesty, it was hard for me to look past them on my first listen of the album when I was trying to figure out if there was anything underneath them that would make the album worth listening to.

Which, aside from a bit of guitarwork, there really wasn’t. A bit of a waste of fucking time, if you ask me. If you want to take a break from all of the great metal that’s come out recently, give this one a spin.

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Melodic Metal: New Single From Edge Of Paradise

Edge of Paradise unleash the ‘Fire’ in their latest single, which is the opening track of their upcoming album, Universe.

Edge of Paradise are a female-fronted melodic metal band from the US. Their style combines elements of symphonic, classic, melodic, and industrial metal to form an electronic, catchy, contemporary style.

Vocalist Margarita Monet on the new video:
We are thrilled to unleash the ‘Fire’ music video, which is the opening track of our new album Universe! With ‘Fire’, we wanted to ignite the album from the start. For me, music, lyrics and visuals always go hand in hand, and I wanted this song and video to be an explosion of empowering energy, exciting adventures, and breathtaking imagery. The song is about following your passions, no matter what obstacles life throws your way. We all have fire and drive inside of us, and we want you to fearlessly follow it!

01. Fire
02. Electrify
03. Universe
04. Alone
05. Hollow
06. World
07. Perfect Disaster
08. Face Of Fear
09. Stars
10. Burn The Sun

The band will also join HammerFall and Battle Beast on their North American Tour in Fall 2020

Their album, Universe, is set to be released on 8 November via Frontiers Records.

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Equilibrium – Renegades Review

Score3.5
GenreElectronic “Folk” Metal/Dance
CountryGermany
Runtime46:40
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

Imagine yourself in a simpler time. A time, perhaps, where you’re me. June is almost over, and one of your favourite folk metal bands, Equilibrium, just released a new single to their upcoming album. ‘Renegades – A Lost Generation’ is super poppy, sure, but its sick riffage combined with its heavy electronic booming is enough to get me excited. A lot of fans are furious at such a preview, but not you. You dig bombast with a side of catchy. So, naturally, you spend the next two months eagerly anticipating Renegades in all its thumping, dancing, metal glory.

But then it comes. It knocks on the door of your heart as you download it and press play for the first time. Your friend, ‘A Lost Generation’ greets you, but he’s brought his friends this time. Except, these aren’t the kind of guys you want to hang out and party with. No, they’re not. They’re some sketchy fuckers, and not the type you’d expect ‘A Lost Generation’ to hang around, either. As they enter, they beat the living piss out of you. One by one. Every minute or so, one of them puts on a different face: a caring face, asking you if you need anything. But, before you can respond, they change right back, smacking whatever hopeful expression you had on your dumb, unfortunate, betrayed face, and continue pounding your stupid ass. Toward the end of this slaughter, though, another walks in. ‘Hype Train’ enters, wipes you off, kisses your forehead, and tells you it’s there for you. Just as you put your faith in her hands, though, it’s stripped off again by the final douchebag of the evening, who spits on your motionless body, leaving you sad and alone.

Fun ride, huh? That’s pretty well how I felt listening to it. Needless to say, Equilibrium have invoked all of my fury and then some, because this is some serious bullshit. I’m not gonna sit here and bitch about how Equilibrium aren’t folk metal anymore, because everybody was expecting it after their previous album especially. Renegades features almost no folk elements, save for some synth interludes or intros/outros, but even those are probably just coincidental, because they follow the same lines as a lot of popular EDM does. But, whatever. I’m over it. What I’m not over, however, is the fact that, despite such a capable lineup and clear ease of executing a solid mix of electronic/pop/heavy metal, Renegades manages to pump out almost nothing but uninspired garbage, except for two songs (which I mentioned before).

Let me break it down a bit. Rather than making something cool and catchy, Equilibrium have just put together an album full of EDM and radio pop tropes that are masked behind bombast and massively heavy guitars and vocals in an effort to hide their overdone, simplistic faces. But that won’t work on me. I see you, mediocrity. I fucking see you, and no amount of flare or weight can hide you. ‘Tornado’ and ‘Himmel und Feuer’ are fine examples of this, where, if you stripped off the thin metal exterior, you’d be left with nothing but some sorry kid on Soundcloud trying to be discovered.

But not all of the songs follow this formula. No, some of the songs are just outright lost causes. Take ‘Path of Destiny’ for example. Who in the god damn brought this Luke-Bryan-makes-an-Apple-commercial idea to the show? Not gonna fly here, no sir. Surprisingly, the best part is actually the rapping in the bridge, which I could handle if the rest of the song wasn’t nu country ass. ‘Johnny B’ also brings its fair share of disappointment in the vein of Owl City (remember them? People listened to them in 2012 for some reason). But these two don’t even hold a candle to ‘Kawaarki’. This reject from the emo/metalcore scene of the late 00s is so unworldly irritating that it actually burned all of the fingers off every pair of gloves in my house. Get this “rawr XD’ shit out of my house. It’s 2019 for Christ’s sake.

Now, in an effort to try to end this review on a more positive note, Renegades does have a few good things to offer. If I went to a party and it was playing, I could handle it. Also, like I mentioned, ‘A Lost Generation’ and ‘Hype Train’ kick all sorts of ass, and, if the rest of the album were more on that side of things, it’d’ve been everything I wanted it to be. Additionally, there are a few cool drum fills and riffs scattered throughout, but for the lengths you have to travel to find them, it’s just not worth it. Honestly, you should still check this album out. It’s unique, to say the least, and there’s such a variety of tracks that you’ll probably like something.

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Majesty – Legends Review

Score4/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime49:14
Release Date28 June 2019
Record LabelNapalm

Yikes.

That’s never a good sign, is it? Beginning a review with “yikes”? I usually wouldn’t begin a criticism of an album with something like that, but this is one of the very few cases that I am actually able to summarize an entire album in one word! So, if you feel like taking my word for it, you can just read that first paragraph and gain all of the knowledge that you need about Majesty’s Legends. Pretty much everything else below is just reinforcing that statement.

All jokes aside, despite being the ninth album of a band that’s been around since 97, Legends sounds like an amateur debut album. It’s painfully repetitive and predictable to the point where I probably zoned out every two minutes and had to relisten to songs way too many fucking times. Seriously, this shit is burned into my head right now. The simplistic song structures, boring melodies, and overall lack of effort are simply embarassing.

Now, before I begin to tear this album to shreds, I’ll get the positives out there. The biggest thing I like in Legends are the guitar solos. They’re actually really good and, if they were surrounded by good songs or background parts, they’d make for some memorable moments. The solos are what prevent this album from being unsalvageable. The mixing is also really balanced, so bonus points there. That’s about the extent of it, though. The bandmembers all play well enough but the vocals could use a bit of work in the passion department. Some of the songs begin promising, but end up succumbing to their overt pop influence, wearing out the introductions’ short welcomes.

To clarify, a heavy pop influence isn’t enough in itself turn me off of an album. Just recently, Chaos Magic released their sophomore album, Furyborn, and that was super poppy. But, it was also a quality fucking metal album. Hell, even my favourite bands like Sabaton and Battle Beast are chorus-driven and commercially accessible and, when compared to other metal bands, fairly poppy. But, they’re charismatic, talented, and manage to build a musical fortress around a often-simplistic foundation.

The problem with Legends is mainly the execution. The melodies aren’t catchy; they’re way too repetitive and end up irritating me rather than making me want to sing along. The songs are also structured so plainly and fail to deliver an impact of any sort.

And these things don’t even hold a candle to the unholy auto-tuned nightmare that is ‘Words of Silence’. Seriously, what in the fuck even is this? Is it 2009? Because this song makes me feel like I’m about to get rejected at my middle school Halloween dance by the most popular girl on the volleyball team. And, that weird pseudo-rap that comes out of absolutely nowhere around the two minute mark surprised me in the worst of ways. I could have lived my life happily without ever knowing this song existed. But now I’ve heard it. And now I’m sad.

I really tried to like this album. But instead of delivering a cheesy, melodic, and anthemic metal record with sick guitar solos, Majesty have missed the mark entirely in this pop metal letdown.

Majesty – We Are Legends (Napalm)

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Solos are pretty good.
Predictable, repetitive.

‘Words of Silence’ what in the holy fuck is this autotuned ballad? Is this 2009? Because I feel like I’m about to get rejected by a girl at the Halloween dance. 2:00 what even is that pseudo rap?

Last track

Majesty Release First Single Of Upcoming Album

German heavy metallers (or, should I say, pop-power metallers) have released a new single to accompany the news of their upcoming ninth album, which will be released under Napalm Records.

Here’s what Tarek “MS” Maghary has to say about ‘Burn the Bridges”:
‘Burn the Bridges’ tells a little story about rebels escaping to an island where they can live free. But the song can also be applied to your every day life because it is about leaving all the bullshit behind and do whatever you want to do. We can’t wait to play this massive singalong anthem live on stage and hear you guys scream a lot of “burns” towards us!

Majesty – Burn the Bridges (Napalm)

The album’s concept will be built around the setting of mankind striving for a better life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. As is their style, we can expect heavy, chorus-driven cheese when Legends arrives on 28 June!

01. The Will to Believe
02. Rizing Home
03. Burn the Bridges
04. We Are Legends
05. Wasteland Outlaw
06. Church of Glory
07. Mavericks Supreme
08. Words of Silence
09. Last Brigade
10. Blood of the Titans
11. Stand As One

If you want to preorder Legends, click here.
Otherwise, go follow them on Facebook!

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