Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 9 June 2014
There is a certain inevitability about the sad fact that some fans have been quick to dismiss the credentials of Arch Enemy’s new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz. It’s not her fault that Angela Gossow decided the time was right in her life to seek pastures new. And of course Arch Enemy isn’t the first melodic metal group to undergo a change of singer – Killswitch Engage? And of course Angela Gossow herself took over the front role within Arch Enemy from the original male vocalist Johan Livva in 2000.
So while wishing Angela the very best with her new plans, it’s only fair to give Alissa a fair crack of the whip. Many people will already be aware of her through her time with Canadian crew The Agonist, a band she apparently was keen to retain links with after joining Arch Enemy. Probably wisely the remaining members of The Agonist shunned that suggestion and have subsequently appointed their own new vocalist in Vicky Psarakis.
So back to Arch Enemy… War Eternal is the tenth album from the Swedes who have been one of the most popular melodic death core bands of the past decade. The format will be familiar enough to longstanding admirers with some breakneck riffage smashing through most of the songs like a runaway locomotive. The rampant rhythm section get through more shredding than an HR manager, attacking their guitars with maniacal enthusiasm.
Michael Amott is still the creative force behind the band he formed in 1995, and his influence has been every bit as significant as Gossow’s down the years. He does have a new partner now with former Arsis guitarist Nick Cordle taking over from his younger brother Christopher. “The changes that have been made in the Arch Enemy camp were necessary in order for the band to survive and keep going,” said Arnott recently.
Vocally, Alissa’s delivery is similar to Angela, with aggressive guttural roars prominent throughout. When performing with The Agonist, with whom she recorded three albums, Alissa mixed up some clean harmonic singing alongside the sidewalk-scraping death metal delivery. It will be interesting to see if Alissa tries to introduce elements of her softer side once she has negotiated the initial settling in period with her new bandmates.
While Angela always acted as though she wanted to be treated as one of the guys, Alissa’s image certainly plays on her femininity much more than her predecessor. The electric shock of blue hair has secured her front cover exposure on most metal mags across Europe of late while the slashed t-shirt is also likely to draw more mainstream exposure. Generally when receiving new releases through from the record labels they throw in a cursory pic or two of the artist. The package for War Eternal included enough images of the new line-up, with Alissa very much the focal point, to wallpaper your bedroom with.
Bookended by a couple of instrumental pieces, first track ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget’ can possibly be viewed as a reflection of the end of a chapter and the dawning of a new one. Having picked up the torch from Angela, Alissa immediately charges into the melee with some blistering barks as if seeking to blow away a few cobwebs. The solos seem to ignite some real lightning strikes and as opening numbers go, it’s an impressive start full of fire and brimstone.
The album’s title track is dominated by a great ear piercing riff and the song is superbly marshaled by Arnott against a panoramic landscape mown down by Daniel Erlandsson’s machinegun drumming. Arch Enemy’s distinctive brand of melodic metal has always been accessible and the Euro metalheads in particular will respond to the likes of ‘Time is Black’ which carries a strong symphonic element to it.
Having laid down a marker of some magnitude it’s now a case of seeing how Alissa measures up performing to an Arch Enemy crowd. Currently getting some experience of just that across Europe, we’ll get the chance to judge for ourselves when Arch Enemy – along with Teutonic titans Kreator – arrive at the Institute in Birmingham just before Christmas – the opening night of their UK tour.
8 out of 10
- Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor)
- Never Forgive, Never Forget
- War Eternal
- As The Pages Burn
- No More Regrets
- You Will Know My Name
- Graveyard Of Dreams (instr.)
- Stolen Life
- Time Is Black
- On And On
- Down To Nothing
- Not Long For This World (instr.)