Review by David Waterfield and photos by Lisa Billingham
If you’re a fan of melodic metal then a hot and sweaty Wednesday evening at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton was the place to be for a rare opportunity to see three of Sweden’s finest.
Opening band Smash Into Pieces have previously supported the likes of Alter Bridge and Halestorm but have rarely had the chance to play beyond their native Sweden. This European tour represents a big opportunity for the young band and they seized it gleefully, producing an excellent and very well received set that had the audience calling for more by the end. There’s more than a hint of Nickelback about them and they’re not that well known in the UK yet, but on this evidence that could soon change.
Deals Death is an altogether more brutal proposition. They’re a melodic death metal band from Gothenburg (where else?!) and they worked damned hard up there, with shirtless vocalist Olle Ekman prowling the stage, rallying the Wolverhampton crowd and teaching them a couple of Swedish words into the bargain. By the time the band ended their relentless set with the thrash paced ‘Fortified’ there were a lot of happy metalheads in the audience.
Headliners Amaranthe are the marmite of metal; people seem to either love them passionately or hate them with a vengeance, with very little ambivalence in between. I have to nail my colours to the mast at this point and say that I’m very much in the former category. I love rock music with a passion but I’m also a card-carrying ABBA fan (and that’s not a phrase you’ll read often on Midlands Rocks!), so the genre-mashing, overtly pop elements and symphonic flourishes of Amaranthe are a plus point for me, rather than a reason to dislike them.
When the lights dim and Amaranthe take to the stage with ‘Future On Hold’, the Slade Rooms goes bonkers. People are singing along with their hands in the air, others are head banging down at the front and still more hold their cameras and phones aloft, trying to get a picture of the band. They follow with ‘1,000,000 Lightyears’ and it soon becomes apparent that Amaranthe are far heavier as a live band. Guitarist Olof Morck is in particularly impressive form, tearing off killer riffs interspersed with some fine solos.
Elize Ryd, Amaranthe’s poised (and strikingly beautiful) female vocalist, has a soaring and melodic voice; powerful enough to rise above the band’s thundering rhythms yet able to bring a tenderness and delicacy to a ballad like ‘Amaranthine’ (which is another crowd sing along moment). Jake E is a vocalist of considerable range, alternating and harmonising well with Elize (notably on ‘Burn With Me’), and is the band’s chief communicator onstage whilst harsh vocalist Henrik Englund gives the vocals bite and aggression and has slotted admirably into the line-up following the departure of Andreas Solveström last year.
The small stage at the Slade Rooms didn’t leave them much room for manoeuvre but Amaranthe’s energetic and highly charged set raced by before an encore of ‘Invincible’ and ‘The Nexus’ brought the evening to an end much too soon.
This was the band’s first ever show in Wolverhampton and I had an absolute blast – as did most of the crowd at the Slade Rooms if their reaction was anything to go by. Amaranthe aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and their music may defy easy categorisation but they were great. See you down at the front next time…