Arch Enemy's War Eternal
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
Label: Century Media
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
I honestly did not think this album would make my list, which is strange, because I unashamedly adore singer Alissa White-Gluz. For those not-in-the-know, Alissa is the fiery blue-haired vocalist who formerly sang for The Agonist, one of the best Melodeath bands in the business, and their success was not only because of their great melodies (particularly from drummer Simon McKay) but because of Alissa's immense versatility as a singer. In Melodeath, which is short for Melodic Death Metal, you need to mix the aggressive tones of Death Metal with the Melodic nature of one of several genres, many opting for the Symphonic Route or the Hard Rock route. Thus, the best singers in this genre, at least in my opinion, are the ones that can mix incredibly harsh vocals, something hard to pull of in its own right, with very appealing clean vocals, making Christian Alvestam (Scar Symmetry), Speed Strid (Soilwork), and Anders Friden (In Flames) some of the most talented in the business, as well as our subject Alissa, for being able to do both vocal styles incredibly well and not have it sound forced. So, when it was announced that Alissa would be taking over for the legendary Angela Gossow, known for being one of the best female metal singers and part of the reason harsh female vocals became much more respected in Metal, in Arch Enemy, I was happy and pleased at the same time. I was happy because Alissa would know get much more exposure considering Arch Enemy's fame and influence, but I was sad because Arch Enemy's style basically prevents Alissa from doing any of her clean vocals, which I will dearly miss, and I feared The Agonist would fall away since they had to then search for a new singer to replace Alissa. Long story short (too late), Alissa did an astounding job on this album, despite us not getting to hear her clean vocals, and The Agonist also found a great new singer as well, so almost everything is right in the Metal World.
Okay, I had to get that off my chest, because Alissa is one of the few vocalists I follow intensely and so I have a lot of opinions on the matter, now onto the subject: Arch Enemy! As previously stated, Arch Enemy is an incredibly prolific band and without them and others like Otep, we probably would not have many of the female-fronted metal bands today, including the aforementioned The Agonist and others like Light This City and Deadlock. When it was announced that Angela was leaving, there was a heated debate on if this meant the end of Arch Enemy, whether Alissa White-Gluz would be able to front the band as well as Angela. These concerns were largely made by those who had never listened to The Agonist before, because people like me knew that whatever Alissa worked on, she would put her all into it. Also, the fact that Angela Gossow actually hand-picked Alissa to be her successor and that Angela was going to retain an administrative role locked away doubts that Arch Enemy was dying. But I, as well as many, need to remember that a band is not defined by the vocalist, for others like Nightwish was able to come back twice now after switching vocalists and are still going strong. However, on that note, another concern was that long-time guitarist Chris Amott, brother of other Arch Enemy guitarist Michael, left the band following the release of the not-so-well received album Khaos Legions. Earlier this year though, following the release of War Eternal, it was announced that temporary guitarist Nick Cordle, who performed on War Eternal, would be replaced by new official member and legend Jeff Loomis, whom I can attest to first-hand is simply astounding.
With all of this going on behind the scenes, what does the album sound like?
"As The Pages Burn"
It's brutal. And I mean Nathan Explosion-levels of brutal. These are songs you attach a machine-gun to a monster truck and drive it off a cliff to dive-bomb it into a field of your enemies. That's good, in case you were wondering. Alissa's harsh vocals are spot on and she fits in perfectly, the drumming is superb (possibly the best aspect of the entire album in my humble opinion), and the guitars quickly switch between thrashing death metal chords to melodic interludes that sometimes take over a couple minutes of an entire song just for themselves, not to mention the completely instrumental bookends of the album as well as "Graveyard of Dreams," a somewhat soothing, yet mysterious guitar interlude that gives you a moment to break between the brutality in the surrounding tracks. If I have to be completely honest though, I think the wrong songs were chosen as the singles, as some of the best songs on the album do not get as much attention as they should, particularly "Avalanche" and "Time is Black." These are two of the best songs on the album due to their well-written lyrics and memorable melodies, including a fantastic keyboard section in "Avalanche." If you check out any song on this album, I suggest it be Avalanche.
War Eternal is an incredibly solid album, and easily one of the best Melodeath albums put out this year, though not the best. There aren't many problems with the album that hold it back, though the fact that they hire Alissa and refuse to use her clean vocals is a huge loss of potential, though I guess it is to be expected but I don't have to be happy about it. Overall lyrically, its your standard fare for Arch Enemy, not too much that stands out or any incredibly profound turns of phrases, though there are a couple like "Avalanche" that will have you singing/growling along with it, and "You Will Know My Name" has a sort of tongue-in-cheek appropriateness to it that almost too good, similar to Soundgarden releasing "Been Away Too Long" a couple years back. Very good guitar melodies to be found here that put a lot in the Melodeath business to shame and as I said previously, the drumming may be the best part of the album, though it is competing against a lot of standout elements. Very good album and it deserves all of the praise it has been receiving from review sites and critics all over the globe; hell, even sites that strive to include all of the best albums from every genre for 2014 in their lists include War Eternal, right alongside Behemoth's The Satanist. Good stuff, you won't find much better in terms of raw talent outside of this album, give it a listen if any of this intrigues you.
"Time Is Black"
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