Triumphs, tragedies, rebirths and upheavals… Life is often defined by its moments of revelation. 15 years into a career that has seen them become one of metal’s most ruthlessly individual and uplifting bands, AMARANTHE are about to make their most definitive and revealing move. Three years on from the widely acclaimed Manifest, Sweden’s masters of thunderous, melodic futurism are about to unveil The Catalyst.
Formed in 2008, AMARANTHE walked their own unique path from the start. With a sound that combined the sharpest, cutting edges of melodic metal, electronic rock and razor-sharp pop, their impact was immediate and undeniable. Kicking off with their self-titled debut in 2011, the Swedes blazed a trail through the European metal scene and beyond, swiftly establishing themselves as a dazzling one-off, not least due to the unprecedented triple vocal attack that paired clean tones with exquisite melodic sensibilities and feral growls. Over the next few years, the sextet steadily grew in stature, releasing a series of praised studio records that jabbed persistently at the boundaries of modern metal.
From 2013’s fiery The Nexus and its immaculate follow-up Massive Addictive, through to the experimental bravery of 2016’s Maximalism and 2018’s Helix (which saw the arrival of Dynazty vocalist Nils Molin, replacing the departing Jake E), AMARANTHE have been an unwavering breath of invigorating fresh air, renowned for absurdly catchy and crushing pop-metal anthems and for euphoric, eye-popping live performances all over the globe.
Fast forward to 2023, and change is in the air. Pieced together over the last three years, The Catalyst is a self-evident breakthrough moment, and the most exhilarating and idiosyncratic record AMARANTHE have ever made.
“It’s been three years since we released Manifest. The whole pandemic happened before that, but it was happening while we recorded it,” explains Olof Mörck. “Since then, we have obviously had a lot more time, and that really changes things. For a musician and a composer, it’s great to actually have the time to do some soul-searching. I did a lot of that! We also had a lot of time to compose the music. I did a lot of keyboard programming, lots of guitar practice, and had lots of great conversations with my wife and other people – everything that you need to get properly inspired!”
The results of this fresh period of inspiration are destined to be hailed as AMARANTHE’s finest 40 minutes to date. The Catalyst is unmistakably the work of the same band that gave us certified classics like ‘Drop Dead Cynical’, ‘Maximize’ and ‘Viral’, but this time Mörck and his comrades have thrown caution to the wind and embraced a newly liberated creative mindset. A dizzying barrage of gleaming melodies, lithe ‘n’ lean riffs and richly detailed arrangements, AMARANTHE’s sixth full-length album represents a grand, forward leap toward bigger, better and more sonically expansive things.
“We’ve done these things before, but we’ve never been as theatrical as we’ve gone this time,” Mörck grins. “In fact, we all questioned whether we went too far this time, but I also figured that this band was always this way. Literally the first seconds of our first video was a big explosion! [Laughs] But yes, The Catalyst is more theatrical than ever. We’ve never really been symphonic or orchestral before, but this time we just thought why not? Because we can! Fuck yeah, let’s do it. The key to this album is that we let go of the boundaries and decided to do something even more adventurous.”
New album, new perspective: The Catalyst is also the most conceptually coherent piece of work in AMARANTHE’s storied history. Dedicated to notions of transformation and revelation, it goes deeper than any previous album, as Olof Mörck explains.
“Sometimes there are watershed moments in your life, and they can change everything,” he says. “It’s about a realisation. It could be a relationship, a vacation, or a near-death experience, but it’s a catalyst that really wakes you up and makes you think, ‘Shit, what have I been doing?’ All the songs are about this, but in totally different ways. It’s all about change. So I can say that Insatiable is all about overconsumption and climate change. Then you have Damnation Flame, which is about the literal change from human to vampire. Obviously it’s a metaphor for things too. So every song talks about change from a different perspective.”
12 songs deep and almost overburdened with lethal hooks and genre-blending ingenuity, The Catalyst is a snapshot of a band hitting a new level of collective power. From the electronic pulse and irresistible forward momentum of Re-Vision onwards, AMARANTHE have given their sound a fearless upgrade. As showcased on first single ‘Damnation Flame’, they have incorporated yet more enthralling elements into their trademark sound; most notably, AMARANTHE have embraced the evocative might of orchestral grandeur for the first time, and it suits them perfectly.
“I think you get bolder when you get older!” laughs Mörck. “I think the last album was maybe the most metal album we’ve done so far, but we raised the guitar volume again on this album, and it’s much more guitar-orientated. But at the same time there’s also the orchestral elements. Since its inception, this band has always been about contrast.”
One major contributory factor to this impressive forward stride is the arrival of AMARANTHE’s latest new member. Slotting in neatly alongside Elize Ryd and Nils Molin is the band’s new master of growls, Mikael Sehlin. As the remorselessly inventive likes of new tunes ‘Outer Dimensions’ and ‘Ecstasy’ confirm, AMARANTHE’s newly rejigged vocal force has never sounded better. Once again, The Catalyst is very much a product of irresistible change.
“Our previous growler Henrik was at home for the first time in nine years and he realised that family was where it’s really at. We said, ‘Sure, dude, that’s what you should do!’” says Mörck. “It was super amicable. Early last year we started to look for other people, but Henrik is just one of the best in the world, so how do you replace God on growls, you know? We toured with Mikael back in 2015, and we didn’t really think about him because he hasn’t been active in the scene for a few years, but when his name cropped up, I thought, ‘Okay, yeah, he’s the guy!’ I called him, he said ‘Fuck yeah, absolutely!’ We knew he was the guy, 100 per cent.”
Now fully installed as the sixth piece of the AMARANTHE jigsaw – alongside Olof Mörck, Elize Ryd, Nils Molin, bassist Johan Andreasson and drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen – Mikael Sehlin can be heard revelling in his new creative partnerships on The Catalyst. Meanwhile, both Elize Ryd and Nils Molin casually scale new heights of inspiration, invigorated by the arrival of their new cohort.
“Nils and Elize have become a lot closer after being in the same band for six years. They worked great as colleagues, but now that they’re really close friends, the way that they interact on this album is fantastic,” notes Mörck. “We’ve all known Mikael for maybe eight years, so I think that one of the strongest parts of the new album is the three singers’ collaboration, and the way they’ve gotten along and the way they cooperate. It doesn’t always happen that way! [Laughs]”
“This is a much, more diverse album than before,” the guitarist concludes. “There is some Irish folk music and at least three or four songs that have orchestral elements. That’s really going to shock people. There are plenty of influences on there that people won’t be expecting. But it’s all about the creative process and the songs that we wrote. We have the confidence to say that if people don’t like it or they don’t listen to it, that’s their problem, because we’re completely happy with it!”
Due for release early in 2024, The Catalyst fully delivers on the promise of its title. AMARANTHE have always been original thinkers and maverick songwriters, but never with as much power and panache as they demonstrate this time around. Both their finest album to date and a collection of songs that deftly redefine every aspect of the Swedes’ sound, The Catalyst is destined to propel its creators ever higher up the modern metal ladder. For Olof Mörck, it represents the culmination of 15 years of hard work and the breathless pursuit of a wholly original musical vision. Change is inevitable. Victory is assured.
Elize Ryd (vocals)
Henrik "GG6" Englund Wilhelmsson (vocals)
Nils Molin (vocals)
Olof Mörck (guitars & keys)
Morten Løwe Sørensen (drums)
Johan Andreassen (bass)