Review: Arch Enemy – War Eternal

Posted: June 4, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

A popular band with a new singer. A new singer who replaces one of metal’s most iconic frontwomen. Arch Enemy didn’t make it easy for their newest record. Following on from 2011’s brilliant ‘Khaos Legions’ would have been hard enough, if it wasn’t for the additional baggage of replacing Angela Gossow who stepped down after 13 years as the voice of one of metal’s most popular bands. Enter Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist to take the microphone, and a debut on the new record’s title track that filled me with hope.

‘War Eternal’ opens with the traditional Arch Enemy intro, before exploding into life with ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget’. Any fears that were instilled before this album came out are instantly blown away as White-Gluz’s vocals are every part as brutal as Gossow’s, if slightly higher pitched. She has a fearsome growl, and it suits the band’s stunningly technical melodic death metal perfectly. That’s the great thing about Arch Enemy; their music has not only been anthemic but dazzlingly technical.

The title track, as I described earlier, is an instant highlight. It takes all classic Arch Enemy tropes and melds them into a sure live favourite. ‘As the Pages Burn’ is another fist pumping dose of savagery, punctuated with yet more expert soloing. Michael Arnott is probably one of metal’s best guitarists when it comes to fluid, melodic soloing and killer riffs. You never hear his name mentioned amongst some true greats, yet Arch Enemy songs are full of amazing, cinematic riffing. The killer opening to ‘Nemesis’ off ‘Doomsday Machine’ is proof enough. ‘On and On’ alone proves his worth on ‘War Eternal’, and the whole record is peppered with some astounding guitar play.

Themes of empowerment have alwasy been a mainstay of Arch Enemy, and with tracks like ‘No More Regrets’ and ‘You Will Know My Name’, it remains here. I once read Arnott describe Arch Enemy as a band that may not get the critics approval all the time, but they’re a band that sell tickets. And he’s right, Arch Enemy are a band that metal needs. Metal needs its pioneers, its inspirational geniuses and those bands who continue to push the envelope. It also needs bands like Arch Enemy. Bands who write songs for the people, who sell out big gigs and have huge crowds at festivals sing along with all their songs.

‘Time is Black’ is a thunderous slice of modern metal that is up there with some of the best I’ve heard all year. It adds a new element to the band’s sound with its orchestral flourishes, without losing any of the metal. ‘Avalanche’ shows glimpses of Alissa’s clean vocals, which could potentially open up a whole new avenue for Arch Enemy to explore. I’m not saying that they are the way forward, but addng them every so often where they fit can help albums greatly.

‘War Eternal’ is by no means perfect. It falls into the trap that all Arch Enemy albums do by being maybe two or three tracks too long, even without filler tracks, and there isn’t a massive amount of variations between songs. But it ticks all the right boxes with epics solos, headbanging riffs and horn raising anthems. Alissa has filled Angela’s shoes admirably, and proves her range with dashes of clean singing. Fresh blood has reinvigorated the machine.

 

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