Review by Carl “ThunderGod” Pickles
In the interests of full disclosure, I will state that I had got somewhat bored of Arch Enemy. I loved Wages Of Sin. I enjoyed Anthems Of Rebellion as well as much of the stuff they’d put out pre-Angela. I’d even been to see them play The Cockpit in Leeds, and really rather enjoyed that. They were actually that good, I can’t remember who the support band were… but Doomsday Machine and the stuff I heard coming from the following albums… well… meh! pretty much summed up my feelings on what I was hearing.
So the next couple of albums passed me by. OK, I still read press releases and magazines about them, since I was still a fan of Spiritual Beggars and the articles were always interesting reading, but the music was… as I said above… meh!
Then, earlier on this year, the news broke that Angela was taking a move sideways into managing the band and they’d chosen a replacement in Alissa White-Gluz of Canadian Melodic Deathcore band, The Agonist. I can’t say I’d paid much attention to them, since I’m only a fairly recent convert to the whole -core scene, but I checked out The Agonist’s last album and was definitely interested. The videos Arch Enemy released over the next few weeks piqued my interest even more.
Anyway. This very morning, the awaited album arrived in my Inbox…
After an ominous orchestral introduction, Never Forgive, Never Forget kicks in and we’re away. Arch Enemy haven’t sounded this hungry or angry in years. It certainly looks like other newbie, Nick Cordle (formerly of Arsis) has energized Michael Amott. The snarling riff of the title track, War Eternal as well as some blistering soloing right the way across the album confirms this impression. From the early evidence of a first listen, it would seem that the addition of the two new members has given the band exactly the creative kick in the pants they needed to get out of the rut they’d ended up in as Angela and Chris lost interest in performing and writing. One of the most obvious points to note is that Alissa White-Gluz has a wider range, even when it comes to Death Metal growls, than Angela had. There’s more musicality to the vocals, which is something Arch Enemy lacked more recently.
One of the most pleasant surprises with this album is that there is real variety. Probably due to the sepulchral keyboards, Stolen Life reminds me of Midian-era Cradle Of Filth… not a bad thing to my mind. Time Is Black strides confidently into Arch Enemy’s traditional territory, but with stabs of orchestration and a closing almost mournful riff, it moves things on. The new confidence is evidenced, right at the end of the album by Not Long For This World. It’s a BIG instrumental. Mournful and… with the final fadeout being the beeps of a heart monitor, somewhat sad. The track that follows that showstopper is Shadow On The Wall. The Arch Enemy “purists” will HATE it. It’s far too different for them, which is why I love it. It’s definitely Arch Enemy, but pushes in a completely different direction – PROPER Heavy Metal, with a riff that Tipton and Downing in their heyday would have been proud of.
This is a band that, thanks to the infusion of new blood, have become more adventurous, when many bands, faced with the same situation, would have gone out to produce a “classic-style” album to show that nothing had really changed.
Arch Enemy have most assuredly not done that. They’ve taken their sound forward, incorporating some of the melody that could be found in Alissa’s work with The Agonist, and with a re-energized guitar partnership and the rock-solid rhythm section of quiet man Daniel Erlandsson on drums and man-mountain Sharlee D’Angelo on bass, the stage is confidently set for the future.
Rating: ***** (Awesome! Welcome back!)