Latest album: Manifest (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.amaranthe.se
To achieve international success in the music industry, it takes unquestionable talent, ongoing persistence, hard work and a substantial amount of fortuitous timing. Sweden’s melodic metal band Amaranthe has effectively reached that pinnacle by harnessing those qualities with a shared goal. On their sixth album titled Manifest, the triple vocalist band has refined their sound having continually delivering energetic live performances and are now set to become a huge European touring entity, once the pandemic subsides. Amaranthe combines musical styles ranging from death metal vocals to slick, power pop harmonies, all backed by an aggressive rhythm section and crisp, heavy guitar riffs.
The core songwriters of vocalist Elize Ryd and guitarist/keyboardist Olof Mörck, unashamedly sprinkle their signature brand of metal music with a plentiful supply of musical flavourings from other genres, some of which originate in Sweden, to create a unique sound. The band’s stable line-up has also contributed to making Manifest an album with broad appeal which could see them crossover into the mainstream and even dance music circles whilst still retaining their strong, growing metal fan base.
So, with Manifest, they look set to conquer their home country charts and to also make an even bigger dent internationally. On this latest album, Ryd has excelled in providing brilliant performances and also matured her diplomatic skills needed for a band with three vocalists to function and ultimately thrive. Loud Online weathered the unpredictable Skype gods to discuss all things Amaranthe, with Ryd holding court from Sweden.
The new album has a large amount of different styles on it and some great collaborations. Did co-touring bands help with that angle?
Oh yeah, absolutely, one of them, I would say, is Sabaton who we went on tour with. They were very much inspiring us even before we worked on this latest album. Also, so were Apocalyptica, who added cello for the track Crystalline. Yeah, it was very inspiring to have been doing a lot of great tours after we released the last album [Helix] and then to see how the band is growing is also, again, very inspiring. It is also very nice to seeing all the bands being able to play live in big arenas like Sabaton does here in Europe. I don’t know about there in Australia but for us, the metal scene here is definitely growing. It is great to be a part of it.
What led to covering Sabaton’s recent track 82nd All the Way?
That was actually from Pär [Sundström – Sabaton bassist] who contacted us and we have known each other for a while, especially since we have toured together. In fact I think it was somewhere around 2012 to 2014 when we opened up for them, I cannot remember exactly as it was a long time ago but we’ve kept in touch, and have been following each other’s careers. We played at Sabaton Open Air, of course, in the past and we were supposed to play there this year but unfortunately it got cancelled, just like everything else [due to the pandemic]. Anyway, he asked if we were interested in doing a cover track because we were going on a tour together. So he sent us a few options and one of them was 82nd All the Way and that is the one that I picked immediately because I really thought that song was amazing.
Indeed. There are a lot of guests on the album too. Usually that would be getting easier to do these days.
Well, it opened up doors when we worked with Angela [Gossow, manager] because she was the first guest that we ever had on an Amaranthe track [Do or Die (Video Version)]. Of course, she was amazing and really strong so that led to or opened up more doors, so to speak. We also found that most of the guests were available because of Coronavirus. So, with everybody being at home it was one of the reasons that we wanted to include more people. We knew that they were actually at home, possibly doing almost nothing, so that all came together. Whilst we were in the studio, we contacted these people.
Angela contributed to that track before the Coronavirus hit. Aside from being a great track and video, it is also interesting in that the vocals were re-recorded on the album version of the song.
Yeah, exactly, yes, we kept the song and we made a version with Henrik and Nils.
The song Viral is somewhat ironic as a title given the global events. I believe that the album release was postponed?
Nuclear Blast wanted to release the album in October but then we were having a tour in Europe so we thought that it would be nicer to put out the album earlier so that we would already have the album out once we started that tour. But, since the tour was cancelled, Nuclear Blast went back to the original plan to release the album in October. So it was actually not supposed to be sooner or it wasn’t delayed in that sense.
Did the song Viral have a direct meaning regarding the pandemic?
Oh well, I mean, we went into the studio one day before they closed the borders between Denmark and Sweden. So, it was lucky that we were even able to start the recording on time. Then later on when the other band members tried to get over it was between governments that made the decisions that if you had a special case or had important work then you were actually allowed to enter the country. So, we managed to get that. Johan [Andreassen – bassist] on the other hand, he was recording his bass parts in Finland, together with Joonas Parkkonen [engineer]. But yes, we knew what was going on. We followed the news and were also seeing how bands had to cancel their tours. The title and the riff of Viral was already done before the crisis but then when we were in the studio we started writing the lyrics and that of course is when the tune turned to about what is not right about the current situation. So then it turned into a song about the Coronavirus.
If you’re working through a lot of pre-production but you’re in a band with three vocalists, how do you keep the peace in the studio?
Ah, ha ha, that is a very good question. It is always the hardest part, I think actually, to be honest. That is because the songs are written and of course both Henrik and Nils are always there because it is an organic process where we feel like, ‘Yeah, this part should be a verse with growls,’ or things like, ‘How do we start the last song?’ and ‘This time we should made more of an impact.’ So, then we discuss a lot about the sounds of guitar and bass, basically and also the meaning of the song. That is, for example, why we don’t have Henrik on Crystalline, but on the other hand that is why I am not so present on a song like BOOM!1, because it creates that kind of dynamic. But, when it comes to the choruses and the pre-choruses, that is something that I was never a part of deciding that this time around because I said, ‘I don’t want to take responsibility if anything goes wrong!’ I gave them the freedom to decide to put my verses in the second or first parts. It doesn’t really matter and I think that I have a softer voice than Nils so it always kind of nice to start off with my vocals and then it grows out through the song or in the intensity. But, yeah, it is different because the song basically makes you decide that and also, it could be like if there is a story through the lyrics, then we will record the vocals in a certain way. It is then kind of obvious how the divisions of parts should look but it is getting trickier for each album, I think.
You’ve been working with Jacob [Hansen – producer and engineer] regularly over the years. Does he also have a say in these sorts of arrangements?
I mean, both yes and no, but it is kind of nice that he wants to develop his skills himself for each album. I think that the mixing on this album is amazing. It is all so heavy and you can hear all of the instruments really clearly. So, that is the drums, bass, guitars and vocals – I think they are awesome. Also, he knows our style very well. Yeah, I mean, it is also very easy to work with him and he knows our song writing style. So, he allows us to be creative in the studio. Sometimes we do not record for a day or something because Olof Mörck and I want to work on a song or something. He is always very supportive and we already created the songs together on the first album and that was where we told him, ‘No, don’t think like this is a normal metal album!’ It was like, ‘No, the harmonies should be loud and the keyboards should be loud,’ and he was asking, ‘What?’ We would say, ‘No, yeah, yeah, you don’t even see it yet,’ and so we kind of got him into the Amaranthe world right from the beginning and then we kept that balance kind of similar throughout.
The song Archangel has a combination of Rammstein, even industrial music leanings going on mixed in with pop metal melodies. Is that the kind of thing that Olof dictates or does that mix come from a democratic process?
It has always been a democratic process between me and Olof as we are the creative force in this band. We always combine our styles and I, for example, love Rammstein so yes, Olof can play that and I can inspire him to do so. He also loves pop so he inspires me to write my most poppy melodies, if you know what I mean. We kind of combine things because he is an expert in metal whereas I am an expert in musicals, and other genres. We love both styles so we try to create this sort of balance. Also, one element that has been very important is kind of like this Euro disco; Basic Element and E-Type, that kind of vibe. So there is that, Abba, In Flames, and Rammstein – we have a lot of different influences in creating this kind of music. From the start we decided to put in everything that we really like. I’ve heard that other bands like Soilwork and In Flames have a lot of these Swedish melodies. I call them Swedish melodies instead of pop melodies because it is a Swedish melody language which is very specific. Max Martin [pop producer] uses it when he writes the pop chart hits and since then, it became really big. That is why people call it pop but it is more like the catchiness of it. Abba has that same natural sense of melody.
Abba is certainly a clear influence on Amaranthe.
Oh cool, they are so inspiring. We grew up listening to Abba. Being from Sweden it is like you are listening to Abba since birth. It is hard to not get inspired and then combine that with a lot of awesome metal from our world. That was actually, ah, like a natural thing. There was no specific decision to do that, it just happened that way.
When you work with Kamelot, I gather you’re coming into it purely as a guest vocalist.
Oh yeah, I come into that as a guest. They do everything, I haven’t written anything for them.
The video for Dream [from Helix] with live footage is well made.
Yeah, last year right? Everything is a blur but yes, it was the same guy [Jens De Vos – producer] that filmed the Kamelot DVD . He filmed that video for us.
The artwork for Manifest by Emmanuel Shiu is visually bold. Is that final imagery a band decision or made by yourself and Olof?
It is mostly Olof for that. He comes up with all of these ideas and then, of course, we talk about it in between other things. Now, with album work Angela is involved, making contact with a new art director. It is the first time we used this guy for the art. She was inspiring us to find new artwork people. But yes, the vision of Amaranthe, the logo and that futuristic image, that was Olof’s idea.
One of the interesting aspects of Amaranthe is your approach to say a topic like climate change. Most metal bands would be nihilistic but with Amaranthe there is some element of hope involved. Is that the kind of theme throughout the album?
Oh absolutely, that is how we want to turn the metal. We cannot make up for the lack of faith and hope in most music expressions. I mean, I really appreciate the way that other people write their songs like that where it is hard core, super heavy and dark, being full force from that perspective. That is why I feel that I make sense and why I can make something else. So we are maybe compensating because we need hope as well in music and especially in metal. So that is why we want to put out our side on things, which is from a more hopeful and positive perspective.
What would be your favourite tracks from both Manifest and from the Amaranthe back catalogue?
Oh my god, today I feel like I love the track Adrenaline because the sun is shining here in Sweden. But on another day, I might have another favourite. I also love The Game, actually, and Wake Up and Die. These are like the tracks that are not the obvious songs but that I really like them for now. I used to say that I really like Viral, Archangel and Crystalline but it changes. Of all time, I love Drop Dead Cynical [from Massive Addictive]. I’m very proud about writing that song.