Crime Records

Monday, June 16, 2014

Arch Enemy - War Eternal Review

Band: Arch Enemy
Album: War Eternal
Label: Century Media
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Country: Sweden
Release Date: June 4, 2014

The word " awesome" is often thrown about in our little world of metal and rock. So much so that I feel it has lost much of its impact. The word is defined, in the Oxford Dictionary (online) as " Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe". So we have a double meaning, off the bat. Arch Enemy have, in their previous works, been as daunting as they have been awesome. Many of their albums are brilliant while others seem to fall well below the bar. With Arch Enemy's newest release, Eternal War, there is a great deal of trepidation. Not just because of some of their previous below par works but because they have undergone a big change with Gossow relinquishing the microphone to White-Gruz. As always a change in a front woman (or man) can have devastating impact. In this case it also means that Gossow is taking the role as band manager. Will this double change have an awe inspiring impact or will it leave us feeling daunted?

Normally my reviews are a track-by-track rundown but I feel this particular release lends itself to a different format. The reason being that so much hype has surrounded this album both pre and post release that I feel we need to get a feel for the album. After all, we pretty much know how Arch Enemy perform, we know that musically they perform well, at least when they want to. So what's different here, apart from the line-up changes?

The first thing you'll notice about this album, which is somewhat different, is its reliance on symphonic elements. It is book ended by two such tracks and they're great if sombre. The next thing you will notice is the raw, visceral vocals of Alissa White-Gluz. Seriously, I think she may have the edge on Gossow and she can actually sing when she is not growling like some lower dimensional being. Also, her vocals seem to fit nicely with Arch Enemy's new catchier melodies without actually becoming too fluffy. Indeed tracks such as "Never Forgive, Never Forget" have some great galloping riffs, almost as if the band have become some uber raw and heavy Maiden.
 Another new comer to the fold is guitarist Nick Cordle, formerly of Arsis. Cordle provides a stellar performance throughout with utterly catchy riffage and some scorching solos.
 The production through the album is incredibly polished. Too polished in places, especially for a band in this genre but it definitely doesn't detract from the death metal elements. Given that, as mentioned before, the album is classically tinged with a lot of catchy moments. This may rankle with death metal purists, even those who prefer the melodic side of things but it works nicely. One area I feel does detract from this are the moments of, dare I say, electronica, which set to confuse the whole mish-mash.
 That being said there are still plenty of moments of aggression, "Never Forget" being a case in point and what would any album be without a blast beat inducing master like Daniel Erlandsson on the tubs?
 Arch Enemy also enter a somewhat cinematic landscape with "Time Is Black", which feels unlike any other Arch Enemy track I can think of but certainly works well here. Perhaps a sign of pastures new, so to speak.
 As mentioned there are some weak moments on the album, the aforementioned electronica feel but standout moments are certainly present in tracks such as "War eternal", " As The Pages Burn" and "Stolen Life". The latter providing some classic riffage.

But, when it comes down to brass-tacks is this really an Arch Enemy album? Personally I feel that 'hell yeah!'. It's as familiar in parts as any of their best work but there are some new elements such as the more catchier riffs and melodies which only help to reinforce the sense of a new beginning. New guitarist and new vocalist both provide stellar moments, especially vocalist White-Gruz is. She can certainly stand up to Gossow's legacy and bring her own feel to the band and it's the latter which I feel will ensure Arch Enemies progress in the future and defend against stagnation, which, let's face it, has been a problem for them of late. This album is certainly not their best but it is a step in the right direction and maybe Gossow will breathe as much new life into the band as their manager as she did when she took over the microphone in the early 2000's.

My rating of this album reflects both the material and the promise I feel is present in their new direction

A cracking 9 out of 10


1.Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F Minor)
2. Never Forgive, Never Forget
3.War Eternal
4. As The Pages Burn
5. No More Regrets
6. You Will Know My Name
7. Graveyard Of Dreams (Instrumental)
8. Stolen Life
9. Time Is Black
10. On And On
11. Avalanche
12. Down To Nothing
13. Not Long For This World (Instrumental)

Total Playing Time: 50:32