Century Media – Out Now.
Fans of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal combo Arch Enemy are probably still feeling the shockwaves from the news of Angela Gossow’s departure as this very review is being put together, but change is one of these qualities that Michael Amott’s outfit has always been quick and willing to embrace.
It was earlier this year that the band announced the addition of Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist) in its ranks – a forceful screamer whose personal contribution has, for better or worse as this review will attempt to show, influenced the sound and style of the band’s latest studio album “War Eternal”.
So, how does “War Eternal” sound and how well does it fair when compared with the band’s Gossow-era material?
Melody and aggression have always enjoyed a healthy symbiosis in a typical Arch Enemy composition and a quick spin through these thirteen new songs on offer will convince you that the band’s compositional integrity has remained intact, with Michael Amott’s guitar work being of the quality expected of a man of his unique abilities.
The main issue with this album is Alissa White-Gluz’s vocal deliveries and the sad realisation that her throaty/screamo timbre does not always complement the material on offer.
While Alissa seems to be right on the money when screaming her way through the high-velocity, octane-fuelled riffs of “Never Forgive Never Forget”, the lack of depth which characterises her deliveries truly shows in both the same-titled composition and the bombastic “As The Pages Burn” which follow.
Amott’s flamboyant melodies and solos, rather than help enhance the quality of songs like “No More Regrets” and “You Will Know My Name”, end up highlighting their weaknesses which is not what one would expect from the band’s ninth studio release.
Thankfully, the second half of the album features better balanced material as in “Stolen Life” Alissa seems to finally find her place in the band while the classical overtones of “Time Is Back” bring the best out of both the Canadian chanteuse and her guitar-wielding boss.
While the remaining four compositions on offer will never again reach the same standards of quality one should not fail to invest in either the futuristic themes of “Avalanche” or the Doom-sounding themes of the three and a half minute instrumental “Not Long For This World” which nicely wraps things up for this album.
Arch Enemy have always been considered as one of the finest examples of a commercial-orientated melodic Death Metal band and “War Eternal” is the type of album that will only help strengthen such associations.
While only time will tell how well Alissa White-Gluz will integrate in the band, and I do wish her all the luck in the world in that respect, her debut album as Arch Enemy’s front woman has left much to be desired.
Let’s see what the band’s loyal fan base, the one that Angela Gossow had to work hard to win over a good fourteen years ago, will make of this one.
Rating: *** (3.0/5.0)
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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