Times are changing for Swedish melodic death Metallers Arch Enemy.
They have built up a formidable worldwide following over the last nineteen years but having already lost long time guitarist Christopher Amott after last album 'Khaos Legions', most of the Metal world was surprised when in March this year their iconic singer Angela Gossow announced that she was leaving the band and her place on the new album would be taken by Canadian Alissa White-Gluz, best known for her work with The Agonist.
The split was obviously amicable as Gossow is staying on as the band's business manager but it is still an important time for the band and 'War Eternal' is a crucial album in terms of keeping their fans on side.
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Opening with a melodic instrumental the first proper track is 'Never Forgive, Never Forget' which after a quick burst of melodic guitar goes straight into full speed thrash metal mode with White-Gluz getting to scream a roar of intent then it's full speed ahead.
The immediate question most fans will ask is about the new singer, is she as good as Gossow? I have to admit that I'm a bit ambivalent about grunters or growlers, whatever you like to call singers who don't sing. For me it's a necessary evil, it suits some bands' music but there is little in the way of musical dynamics to be found. To me the blue haired Canadian sounds a little deeper and less raspy than her predecessor. I can't see any reason why you wouldn't enjoy her style if you liked Angela's.
The title track is up next and for me showcases what Arch Enemy is all about, cracking memorable riffs over a thundering rhythm section spiced up with bursts of melody from a terrific twin lead guitar attack. New guitarist Nick Cordle acquits himself well and is able keep up with founder member Michael Amott just like his brother did. There is even a singalong chorus Arch Enemy style too.
'As The Pages Burn' keeps up the frantic pace of the album so far, the production done by the band itself is excellent, everything punching at just the right weight. The pace carries on with more thrashy goodness in 'No More Regrets' which is particularly notable for the superb lead guitarwork but then just as you're thinking it's all starting to sound a little samey along comes 'I Will Know Your Name' with its' gentle start, melodic guitar hook and symphonic Metal overtones.
After another quiet music interlude 'Stolen Life' is a short song with lots of ideas in it but sounds a bit cluttered and unfocussed however things get back on track with 'Time Is Black' featuring great riffs, more symphonic metal vibes and some very unexpected xylophone.
'On And On' gallops along nicely and has another of those chant with us choruses but sounds a bit too much like what has gone before so it's good that 'Avalanche' is a little different although the symphonic Metal overtones are there again. I wonder if this is a direction the band are considering pursuing in the future? They still sound like Arch Enemy, there are just a few Epica like twists here and there.
'Down To Nothing' takes them back to traditional melodic yet thrashy mode and then the album ends with 'Not Long For This World', an instrumental which starts in almost doom Metal style before going all epic and melodic and ending with mysterious sound effects.
Anyone that was worried Arch Enemy would change in a major way with the departure of Angela Gossow can rest easy, this is clearly Arch Enemy doing what they do best and vocally there is little difference. The riffs and general guitar playing are excellent and give the band and this album the hook that everything else hangs on.
I'm impressed that there are a few new influences showing here and there and they have succeeded in both marking time to retain their fan base while throwing in a few experiments with their sound here and there.
The songwriting could be a bit stronger for me but overall this is a pretty good Arch Enemy album, not much else really needs to be said.
Alissa White-Gluz – Vocals
Michael Amott – Lead Guitars
Nick Cordle – Lead Guitars
Sharlee D'Angelo – Bass
Daniel Erlandsson – Drums