CD Review: “Maximalism” by AMARANTHE

Electronica meets death metal on AMARANTHE’s fourth record, Maximalism. The first half of Maximalism is accessible metal with poppy hooks and choruses. The initial track “Maximize” opens with a driving techno beat followed by choppy riffs. The party continues on “Boomerang” which is an interesting mix or hip-hop, metal and techno. The guttural vocals complement frontwoman Elize Ryd’s clean singing on the chorus. Things get heavier on the second half of the album on songs like “Fury.” The thrashing riffs take precedent of over the electronic beat and causes severe headbanging. AMARANTHE shows its metalcore influence on “Faster” which melds breakdowns with house music. It works well and definitely gets one’s head bobbing. Album closer “Endlessly” is an epic metal ballad with strings and soaring, heartfelt vocals.

Bands have combined metal with dance elements for roughly 15 years now, so it is not a novel idea. However, AMARANTHE is one of the few bands that can pull it off while retaining a degree of heaviness. This stands in sharp contrast to more commercial bands that throw a few nu-metal riffs together and then overly rely on electronic samples. The Swedish sextet strikes a balance on Maximalism, allowing the band to play fast and technical but also expanding on its sound. This production on this record is clean and special attention is given to the percussion.

Maximalism is a solid record and will satisfy fans of electronica influenced death metal. There is no doubt fans of traditional death metal will deride this record for its accessibility and techno samples. However, they would probably avoid this record in the first place. Fans of Within Temptation, Epica and Evanescence should check this record out. It is definitely metal with a groove.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://amaranthe.se/

CD Review: ‘Children Of The Program’ by We Love The Underground

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It’s been two and a half months since I finished reading “Children Of The Program” by Brad W. Cox. I was transfixed by the web of intrigue that he painted for the reader, but was also curious as to how he’d perform the next piece of the puzzle. Not only had Cox authored a page-turner of supernatural proportions, but a companion soundtrack to boot. My mind was reeling, trying to figure out how someone could possibly construct a soundtrack for words on a page. These last few weeks that question has been answered, and I’ve had the pleasure of digging into that musical collection.

I’ve debated with myself over how much of the story I should disclose to you wonderful readers, as some of you may not have had the pleasure of reading this novel. Worry not! Even if you haven’t had time to read book, you can absolutely listen to this album and enjoy it for what it is: some damn good music! I also wouldn’t be concerned with this release spoiling the narrative for those who intend to listen first and read later. But for those of you who have read the novel and are curious how true to the story Cox and his cohorts stick with the lyrics, I’d say you can certainly notice the broader strokes that are required considering how much material he had to condense to just 48 minutes of music. Of the 12 characters that take turns having their story told in the book, only the main characters are really focused on here, with most tracks appearing to skip back and forth between different perspectives to progress the narrative. Looking closer at certain lines, we find wonderfully colorful details that add hints of the over-arching theme like a cleverly constructed mosaic.

Children Of The Program is incredibly diverse, containing elements of hard rock, nylon string guitar, heavy metal, and even electronic music. “Hallway Of Souls” pairs perfectly with Chapter 1 of the novel, serving as a haunting symphonic overture, leading into the appropriately titled follow-up track, “Is This Hell?,” an energetic exclamation sure to pull you in. So much of this music is anthemic, like a call to arms, that it’s difficult not to get swept away in tracks like “Back From A Suicide” and “Kids In The Park,” the former touching on the mystical gathering of the twelve, while the latter serving as the antagonist’s rise. Cox and crew show a softer side on “Paint The Desert With My Heart,” which features some beautiful guitar playing by Eric McCullough, along with a poetic spoken word bridge. On the other hand, “Cadence Of The Sun,” features almost robotic verses, with a chorus that just POPS!  “Antibody” ventures into the realm of heavy metal with a back-and-forth dual guitar solo that would make the Iron Maiden boys proud. And boy…the closer! “The Creationist” is a 12 minute epic that appears to be a divine dialogue with the antagonist as the final pages of the book play out. The framework of ascending and descending waves of synthesized notes combined with the supple bass, the exquisite percussion, and the guitar notes that fly by like shooting stars, create a truly grand display.

In my review of We Love The Underground’s last release, Mouthful Of Graffiti, I stated that Cox “continues to impress me with his songwriting abilities and the intensity he instills in each moment that’s been captured.”  This remains true here, but now I have to add Eric McCullough, Patrick Sise [guitars], Joe Ruggiero [bass], Gary Holmes [drums], and Tony Correlli [synths] to that list.  They have poured the totality of their beings into this album to provide it with a synergetic aura, and it shows from start to finish.  I haven’t felt this invigorated and connected to a release in longer than I’d like to remember. Children Of The Program is not only a great album, not only a great adaptation of a fantastic novel, but is a truly brilliant, emotional work of art.

Purchase Children Of The Program at: iTunes | Amazon


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