Amaran

Pristine in Bondage

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AllMusic Review by

Sweden's Amaran once again throw their lot into Europe's bustling operatic metal cauldron with their second effort, 2004's Pristine in Bondage. Unlike the power metal-leaning Nightwish or the increasingly trip-hopping the Gathering, however, Amaran usually imparts a darker, more sinister edge to their thrash-based compositions -- not to mention their visual and lyrical imagery. At least some of the time, given this clearly conflicted album. Featuring presumed singles candidates like "Revolution Without Arms," "Coming Home," and "Inflict," the first half of Pristine in Bondage does tip the scales into commercially accessible territory as, under close scrutiny, their excessive harmonies and melodic choruses rely on rather straightforward song structures. More so than simplifying Amaran's sound for the benefit of their less sophisticated consumers, this winds up diluting its potential impact instead -- an impact largely reliant on the contrasting elements of the band's viciously metallic assault and singer Johanna DePierre's crystal clear tones. Thankfully, risk-taking, second-half tracks like "Without Stains" and "Katharsis" start redressing this balance with, among other things, male death-grunt vocals to offset DePierre's sweet delivery. At times reminiscent of a heavier Lacuna Coil, it's this very collision of opposites that ignites subsequent offerings like "24 Pills" and "Crow Me," and maintains the highly inventive standards through to the inspired finish that is "Primal Nature." By then, it's abundantly clear that this harsher style better suits both Amaran's basic instincts and natural talents, and they'd do well to embrace it fully.

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