Sometimes you have to wonder what it is about Scandinavia that means they produce such vast amounts of metal bands compared to the rest of the world. Perhaps it's the long winter nights or something. Whatever it is though long may it continue.
Followers of the Swedish scene will no doubt already be familiar with Amaranthe, who have consistently bothered the upper echelons of the charts in their homeland as well as making decent inroads into the US market. And it's easy to see why, their clean, crisp approach to metal is so polished it makes your speakers gleam. Less easy is defining their sound, it's not many bands whose Wikipedia entry has Power Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Metalcore and Dance-Rock listed as genres. And that still doesn't quite cover it. They have choruses that occasionally border on Europop, there's a liberal dose of post-Linkin Park nu-metal and moments when they almost stray into the symphonic. It sounds like it should be a mess, but it's not.
What it certainly is, is distinctive. The three pronged vocal attack consisting of clean female singing, clean male singing and harsh growls makes them stand out even in the crowded Swedish market. If there was any mainstream market for metal in UK you could imagine them breaking through here too. Their sound is easy on the ear in the same way as, say, Evanescence were back in the early noughties. Metal, yes, but accessible and acceptable for the non-metal listener. Even the death growls do little to tarnish the overall pop sheen.
The negative is that it all feels a little too controlled, calculated even, and as such the only thing on the album that doesn't shine is the band's personality. It all feels a bit sterile, although you imagine in a live environment with their big choruses and expansive style they'd sound immense.
Helix is at its best when the band let go a little bit, the energy of 'The Score' and 'Momentum' which bookend the album are stirring and headbanger friendly, between the two are a whole host of finely honed, if a little too one-paced, commercial metal tracks any of which would sit happily on any rock radio station. However, the album is perhaps a little overlong, and while there aren't any obvious stinkers on it, equally a few too many songs fail to really stand out. It will no doubt please existing fans and should certainly grow their reputation in the States and hopefully the UK too, and it would certainly go down well on next year's festival circuit.
And who knows if it catches the right ears it could well propel them into the big leagues, its mass market appeal is undoubted. It's just a question of whether that mass market still exists outside of Scandinavia. Perhaps it does, and perhaps Amaranthe are exactly the type of band that could tap into it. Who knows? It could be their time to shine.
Olof Morck – Guitars, Keyboards, Synthesizers
Elize Ryd – Female clean vocals
Morten Lowe Sorenson – Drums
Johan Andreassen – Bass
Henrik Englund Wilhemsson – Unclean vocals
Nils Molin – Male clean vocals