01. Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F Minor) 02. Never Forgive, Never Forget 03. War Eternal 04. As the Pages Burn 05. No More Regrets 06. You Will Know My Name 07. Graveyard of Dreams 08. Stolen Life 09. Time is Black 10. On and On 11. Avalanche 12. Down to Nothing 13. Not Long for This World2014 Century Media Records
War Eternal has many firsts for Arch Enemy. Their tenth studio album is their first with former Arsis guitarist Nick Cordle. It's their first without founding member Christopher Amott. Of course, the big one is that Angela Gossow has been replaced in the vocals department by Alissa White-Gluz, known for her stint with The Agonist. The initial backlash was expected; for music fans, the phrase "people fear change" twists into a horrifying truth for die hards who can't grasp significant line up changes. Though Gossow was not the first singer the band had, she was the most recognizable, an institution in the melodic death metal band for almost 15 years. So here comes a whole new vocalist, and with it, irrational fear that Arch Enemy is no more -- that everything they've done since the mid '90s is all for naught. The usual end-of-existence type scenarios pop up. Well, settle down with those worst-case thoughts. Arch Enemy have not gone metalcore on us or embraced dubstep; there aren't any danceable electronic breakdowns or autotuned vocal harmonies. The essence of the band - a sleek death metal onslaught with a melodic bite - has not gone through some unsightly provisions. In actuality, this is Arch Enemy being Arch Enemy. The addition of Gluz is neither a catastrophic misstep nor a spectacular success: she fits the band's style and makes sure the vocals don't stray from their approach on the last few albums. The same could be described for every aspect of War Eternal. It's not that the band plays it conservatively, but the music doesn't exactly reach for lofty heights. After a typical symphonic instrumental opener, "Never Forgive, Never Forget" bum rushes the listener and stomps on their face for a few minutes. Just as the pain subsides, the title track comes around and keeps the stomping going. Other than a short interlude in the middle of the album and a throwaway instrumental at the end, this is the constant tempo the album adheres to. To make sure it isn't an exhausting ride the whole way through, little flourishes of keyboards and classical-leaning guitar work add familiar dynamics to the songs. "Time Is Black" is heavy on both of these, giving the song the grandiose feel required to justify it as the longest song on the album. The track also puts a certain principle into action that defines much of the material here: Cordle and Michael Amott make a hell of a pair on guitar. No, it isn't the same as the Amott brothers harmonizing together, but it's a more than suitable replacement. Their work together is as strong as anything the band have done to date. So how does Alissa White-Gluz do in the Gossow spot? Pretty solid, though some may scoff at her inclusion. There really is no reason to feel that way, as her harsh screams have the same charging presence as Gossow's, though perhaps not as biting. The only real question when she joined was if Arch Enemy would use her strong vocal range to their benefit, but other than some melodic vocals dueling with screams on "Avalanche," only her aggressive voice is utilized. That was expected, as the band members have said as much before, but it's still a bit disappointing that she doesn't get more freedom to break off like she did on her last album with The Agonist, Prisoners. At least Gluz is able to interject some energy into the songs. Personally, Khaos Legions felt like an output from a band tired and lost in a dark creative hole. War Eternal is the turnaround from that, bustling with momentum and songs that are not only hard hitting, but stay with you after they are finished. "As The Pages Burn" and "You Will Know My Name" are some of the catchiest songs the band have written in a while, and much of that does have to do with Gluz's participation. War Eternal isn't a crippling failure, far from it. This album could have gone in several directions, both good and bad, and instead wound up a bit as an in-between record, right at the cusp of something radical, but falling back to comfortable territory. The consistency of this album far exceeds Khaos Legions, and there's enough to placate fans who were uncertain of Gluz's involvement. The real test will come whenever the band starts writing again with a few years of touring and more chemistry built up between them all. Bottom Line: A new singer injects some energy into the songs, though the band sticks firmly to the style of what they've been playing for the last decade or so.
3 commentsPost Comment
anonymous 6/11/2014 10:03:29 AM
It's their 2nd album without Chris (Doomsday Machine)