REVIEW: AMARANTHE AT H.O.M.E. BAR CHICAGO IN ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL

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As part of their Fall headline tour, Swedish/Danish band Amaranthe returned to North America for the second time and brought along Butcher Babies and Lullwater as openers. Amaranthe are known for having three singers and their set at H.O.M.E Bar Chicago in Arlington Heights, IL felt like part heavy metal dance party and part vocal spectacle.

The first band of the night were Lullwater from Athens, GA. Their 20-minute set was quick but impactful. They played songs from their brand new album Revival, including opener Liars and Thieves and Burning Both Ends along with a couple songs from their previous self-titled release. Singer and rhythm guitarist John Strickland’s raspy vocals were a perfect match musically with each and every song they played. Bassist Ray Beatty, who played a 5-string, seemed to have won the lottery that night as I don’t think anyone could have wiped the smile from his face, which was present during their entire set. While Lullwater were not as heavy as the other bands that night, they definitely held their own on stage and the crowd seemed to really enjoy their set.

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After a 30-minute break, the lights went down and one by one, members of the Butcher Babies took the stage. Instantly Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey were spewing harsh vocals, jumping around, head banging and working the crowd. I should mention, they set the bar pretty high with the amount of energy in the first song, Monster’s Ball. Not once all night did they let the bar dip down. Their 45-minute set consisted mostly of songs from their most recent album, Take It Like A Man. They continued with Never Go Back and The Cleansing. While bassist Jason Klein mostly kept to the back of the stage, it put him in the dark along with drummer Chris Warner. However, their contributions to the aggressive nature of each song was apparent.

Guitarist Henry Flury roamed the stage from side to side, even moving to center stage a time or two as Heidi and Carla continued to work the crowd. Their set initially started out with two risers on each side of the stage, but with the amount of action going on, crew members moved one off stage pretty early on. The one remaining riser also gave Heidi plenty of opportunities to get some height as she often jumped and spun around mid-air before safely landing back on stage. When Carla wasn’t growling lyrics to the crowd, she was often jumping up and down and constantly smiling. You can always tell when a band loves their job, and the Butcher Babies clearly do. They played a couple songs from their 2011 EP along with their take on They’re Coming to Take Me Away. While I don’t recall hearing of another band ever covering this song, their version is psychotic and all sorts of awesome. At the end of the night, Heidi jumped into the crowd and sang while standing in the middle of the most pit going on at the back of the room. They ended their set with Magnolia Blvd.

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After another 30-minute set change, the stage was pretty bare save for the drums on a riser at the back of the stage. Before the band took the stage, a mash up version of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and Ludacris’ Move Bitch started blaring through the speakers. I had never heard this before, but it was fun. As the stage was dark, slowly, red lighting appeared while a pre-recorded spoken word track played talking about a Digital World. One by one the band took the stage and the need for a bare stage became quite clear. Three vocalists, a guitar player and a bass player lined up pretty much across the entire length of the stage. The spoken word intro lead into Digital World with Henrik Englund and his deep growl vocals center stage before Elize Ryd’s angelic like vocals chimed in. When Henrik wasn’t singing, he was eyeing the crowd and head banging. As Henrik sang the line, “Start a revolution now,” the lights darkened and the strobes were in full affect.

They continued with Trinity before playing Hunger. The pummeling drums combined with electronic beats and guitar layered underneath Elize’s vocals gave the song a beauty all to itself. Watching her all night, I began to notice she was using her body to describe the words she was singing. Whether she was mimicking tears falling across her cheeks or showing strength with her arms or love in her heart, it was cool to watch her. Her demeanor was very positive and she always had a smile on her face. All night there was a lot of interaction between Henrik, guitarist Olof Mörck and bassist Johan Andreassen. They all roamed the stage and played to different parts of the crowd. Johan often was crouched over, playing low towards the floor. Olof on the other hand, played center stage quite a few times. At one point he even held up a small stuffed Olaf snowman (from the movie Frozen) he had sitting off to the side. I’m not sure if someone gave it to him, or if he brought it along as a mascot.

At one point, almost everyone left the stage, except for Elize and Chris Adam. She introduced him as the singer from Smash Into Pieces. Apparently he has been filling in for Jake Lundberg on this run. I had never heard Chris sing before, but during each and every song I was absolutely entranced with his voice. He was also a perfect fit singing along with Elize. The two of them sang about a minute of Over and Done alone on stage before the rest of the band eventually joined them. It was shortly after that Olof broke a string, but that didn’t stop him. During his solo, Chris held it up and out of the way as he played and Elize pretended like she was playing the violin.

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Off and on during the night I noticed more people singing along than I had originally expected. Clearly this band had made a pretty big impact on fans in the U.S. It’s always nice to see the connection with bands from another country. They continued with three more songs from Massive Addictive. The title track, True and Unreal. It was still a bit out of the norm for me to watch three vocalists on stage. However, as they each proved their strength to the crowd song after song, their voices really gave each song a depth you just don’t have with one singer. There were a few times the three of them would jump in unison in the middle of the stage while Olof and Johan stood still flanking either side of them. It was as if they were keeping them in place.

After about an hour, everyone left the stage and the spot light was on drummer, Morten Løwe Sørensen. After playing in the dark all night, plus mostly out of a consistent line of sight, it was nice to see the focus on his playing. While the majority of Amaranthe’s songs are upbeat and often made you feel like you should be at a heavy metal dance party, Electroheart, or getting aggression out in a mosh pit, Leave Everything Behind, there were a couple songs a bit tamer, which came with Amaranthine. However, there was a brief part in the song where Henrik’s distinct vocals seemed to put an official stamp on the song. They ended their set with Call Out My Name. At the end of the song, Elize put her hands up in the shape of a heart. A cool fan moment came when the guy in front of me did the same and I was able to see her heart-shaped hands through the middle of his.

They were only gone for a couple minutes with Johan came back on stage. He spoke to the crowd and mentioned it was normally at this time he would use profanity and such but this time, he had something important to say. It was their bus driver’s 60th birthday. The band along with the driver all came on stage and he was presented with a birthday cake and the crowd sang Happy Birthday to him.

Once everyone was set with their microphones and instruments, they started a four song encore to cap off their hour and a half set. First was The Nexus followed by Razorblade which lead into Dynamite, the last of two songs from their Massive Addictive album. Of course, the song that most would have heard on the radio was saved for last. Henrik yelled out, “Drop Dead,” and the crowd yelled back, “Cynical!” The band had one last impression to leave on the audience and they played at the very front of the stage to allow everyone to soak up every last bit. Once the song was over, they walked across the front of the stage shaking hands with fans before eventually leaving the stage.

If you have yet to see this tour, their dates only run through the end of November. Hopefully Amaranthe will be back in the U.S. before we know it. In the meantime, be sure and support the band by purchasing their music and spreading the word!

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