Amaranthe are Swedish and play metal! So are they like In Flames? No. Arch Enemy? No. Meshuggah? Wrong again. Amaranthe are… different.

Their self-titled début was released in 2011. The Nexus is their second album, but it’s the first time I’ve listened to the band, and I’m not quite sure how to respond to their music.

There’s a part of me which screams that this isn’t even metal, and a part of me that wants to build a ‘guilty pleasures’ playlist to include some of these tracks. I remember spending gratifying evenings sinking slowly into a drunken stupor and listening to Terry Wogan mock various acts on the Eurovision song contest, which he claimed was “supposed to be bad.” England received ‘nil points’ year after year for our, frankly, embarrassing acts. Don’t click that link unless you’re sure you want to. I cannot be held responsible for mental deterioration resulting from exposure to material I didn’t write. ‘Nil points’ was everything we had coming, of course, and now that Wogan’s retired, it’s no fun any more, so I gave up on the whole thing. But when The Nexus came along, I immediately thought of the competition, with all its pop clichés and cheesiness. Don’t worry, if you did take the risk of following that link, it’s nothing as bad as Scooch.

Catering to a mainstream pop audience as much as it does to any metal fans, Amaranthe come complete with multiple vocalists, sing-along choruses and catchy melodies. Imagine the most upbeat power metal group that you can, and then add a ladle-full of ground-up candy stolen from all the neighbourhood children just after Halloween, then another, and you’re coming close to their saccharin sound. If Scar Symmetry took another step towards pop, and added in a female singer to complete a trio of vocalists Amaranthe have, that would also be close. One is responsible for clean male vocals (Jake E), one for clean female vocals (Elize Ryd), and one for screaming (Andreas Solveström).

Apparently it’s par for the course to keep bands in cryogenic storage, by the way. Or at least, that’s what the music video for the single The Nexus suggests:

Er, so, this is not too bad, but I find it hard to deal with the pop vocals. I quite like the keyboards in general, and from about two minutes onwards, there’s some really good riffs. But any song on The Nexus which departs from pop to foray into something heavier eventually comes back to the cloying, syrup-coated sound which is the band’s trademark. Sometimes the sweetness is just appealing enough to work (Stardust) and at other times is so alienating I can barely stand it (Electroheart).

The Nexus is such a blatant attempt to appeal to listeners beyond the ‘normal’ metal scene that I’d feel fairly comfortable labelling it as a cynical marketing ploy of a band who intend on luring small children into their van full of sugary musical sweets – an accessible step en route to ‘real’ metal.

On the other hand, it is genuinely catchy, and there are a few good songs, even if they’re pretty much removed from metal as a whole. In the end, I think I’m confused by this album more than anything else.