Review by Paul Castles
Replacing a popular, well respected vocalist is a daunting prospect and one that doesn’t happen every day. It occurs occasionally of course; Killswitch Engage, Nightwish and more recently Bloodbath have all found themselves in this quandary. So there was always going to be plenty of interest on how Alissa White-Gluz would take over the Arch Enemy reins from Angela Gossow. Angela herself of course was the band’s second vocalist, although having fronted the melodic metal thrashers for around 15 years the blond bomber was Arch Enemy in most people’s eyes.
The other interesting element of this particular metal equation is that Gossow continues to be a part of the wider Arch Enemy team, although now involved in more of a behind the scenes capacity. Almost like a football manager retiring and taking a seat on the board to look down on his replacement. (Think SAF at MUFC looking down on LVG – with apologies to non-football readers)
But back to Arch Enemy, and in particular new singer Alissa. The former Agonist vocalist is no stranger to commanding a stage and did so with aplomb from the moment she skipped onto the Institute stage. Kicking off their vibrant high octane set with ‘War Eternal’, the title track of the new album, the blue-haired vocalist immediately sought to endear herself to old school Arch Enemy fans by then blasting out the pounding perennial crowd-pleaser ‘Ravenous’.
‘You Will Know My Name’ almost feels like a personal plea from the heart of Alissa, almost trying to say I’m running the show now! On ‘Under Black Flags We March’ Alissa picked up one of the stage prop flagpoles and started waving it around like an enthusiastic boy scout having his first semaphore lesson, as all the cameras in the pit clicked into overdrive.
Arch Enemy have always had a commanding stage presence with a triumvirate of axe wielders led by Michael Amott. At their peak the Swedes always felt like a tight unit. The new line-up now gives the slight impression of being Alissa plus the four supporting band members. The new vocalist does not lack spirit but her voice lacks some of the power and depth of Gossow’s. The other new face is guitarist Nick Cordle (formerly of Arsis), replacing Amott’s own brother Christopher, who recently parted ways for the second time.
You sense though that the new Arch Enemy will be pushing towards the more mainstream metal market, rather than tread the heavier path which saw them headline Bloodstock a few years ago. The pre-Christmas show carried some seasonal joshing when Alissa requested the crowd to jump up and down for the start of ‘No Gods, No Masters’ the first punter to start pogoing away was a fella in a top-to-toe reindeer outfit. Suits you, Sir!
At times the extended poses from Alissa makes you wonder if she’s performing with a view to getting good pictures in the magazines. Musically Arch Enemy still deliver plenty of searing melodies and there are some solid moments such as on ‘As The Pages Burn’ but the line-up change has clearly brought a new sleek feel to the band that won’t satisfy everyone.
While Arch Enemy may be moving in a new direction, the German headliners Kreator have never really veered away from their roots of full on thrash metal packed with more power than a pneumatic drill. Teutonic titans such as Accept, Sodom and Kreator have shown down the years that not all legendary thrash kings hail from the Bay Area of San Francisco.
Just as the perfect intro of the classic 60s’ prog anthem ‘In The Year 2525’ had finished echoing around the Institute, Kreator exploded into action and immediately set about building a wall of noise, and having achieved that goal, then set their sights on smashing it down again.
With the stage lights blood red, the interplay of riffs between Mille and Sami on opener ‘Violent Revolution’ was almost like being caught in the crossfire of a five-set Wimbledon semi-final, mind-blowingly intense, with scarcely time to pause for breath. The burning flame continued to blaze on neck crunching classics such as ‘From Flood Into Fire’ after which Mille took time out to hail Birmingham as the home of heavy metal and by way of thanks ploughing straight into ‘Extreme Aggression’.
The old school Kreator classics were tumbling faster than the Stock Market on Black Wednesday and with the always popular derogatory comments about both politics and religion, Kreator were often once more thrashing their way through the epic ‘Enemy Of God’. ‘Voices of the Dead’ gave Mille a rare moment to show he can sing as well as he can yell with its softly spoken intro. By this point the pit was obeying his every command as obediently as a well trained pup and his calls for a wall of death and circle pit to sit alongside inflammable highlights such as ‘Endless Pain’ and ‘Suicide Terrorist’ were met with elbow bashing approval.
A festive ticker tape explosion greeted ‘Hordes of Chaos’ before Kreator exited with one from the bygone days in ‘Pleasure to Kill’. They returned with a riotous rendition of Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’. Anyone thinking Special K was a breakfast cereal was clearly not among the faithful who gave the German veterans a deservedly prolonged ovation.
1. Violent Revolution
2. Civilization Collapse
3. From Flood Into Fire
4. Extreme Aggression
6. Enemy Of God
7. Voices Of The Dead
8. Awakening Of The Gods (intro only)
9. Endless Pain
10. Suicide Terrorist
11. Mars Mantra
12. Phantom Antichrist
13. Impossible Brutality
14. Hordes Of Chaos (A Necrologue For The Elite)
15. Pleasure To Kill
16. The Number Of The Beast
18. People Of The Lie
19. Flag Of Hate / Tormentor