Arch Enemy, ‘War Eternal’ – Album Review
In their nearly two decades of existence, Arch Enemy have steadily climbed the ladder of success, selling increasing numbers of albums and attracting more fans to their headlining tours and festival appearances.
The whole band obviously had a lot to do with that, but charismatic frontwoman Angela Gossow had been an integral reason for the band’s upward trajectory since she joined Arch Enemy in 2000.
Thus, it came as a big surprise to many when Gossow stepped down from the band earlier this year. They already had their latest album ‘War Eternal’ in the can when her exit was announced, with vocals recorded by new frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist). Gossow will remain as the band’s manager.
Arch Enemy epitomize the melodic death metal genre, and that remains the case with ‘War Eternal.’ The melodies are catchier than ever, with the vocals providing the extremity. The formula worked with Gossow, and it works with White-Gluz.
She makes her presence felt immediately on ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget.’ It’s one of most aggressive songs on the album, featuring both galloping riffs and somber mid-tempo parts along with blast beats from drummer Daniel Erlandsson. It’s a very effective opener.
White-Gluz is not the only newcomer. Guitarist Nick Cordle (Arsis) joined the band following Christopher Amott’s exit in 2012, and this is his first album with the band. Cordle and fellow axeman Michael Amott deliver a stellar performance throughout, drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of catchy and memorable riffs and performing several blistering solos.
Arch Enemy up the atmospherics on this album. There’s a classical-tinged intro and the subdued instrumental ‘Graveyard of Dreams.’ They get downright cinematic on some parts of ‘Time is Black’ and ‘Avalanche.’ The album ends with another instrumental, the doomy ‘Not Long for This World.’
While there are some really memorable tracks on ‘War Eternal’ such as ‘You Will Know My Name’ and ‘On and On,’ there are some that don’t quite measure up to the standout cuts. The production gives the album a huge sound, but also polishes off some extremity and is overly slick in spots.
If you’ve heard White-Gluz before, you know she has a powerful set of pipes, and in addition to death metal growls also has an excellent singing voice. On ‘War Eternal’ she sticks to growls, but every once in a while inserts a hint of melody into them. They have that bullet in their gun if they ever need it in the future, but Arch Enemy’s music is already so melodic that singing on top of it might be overkill.
Replacing a vocalist can be a make or break move for a band, and although Gossow’s presence is missed, White-Gluz is a worthy replacement. ‘War Eternal’ is both a continuation of the legacy and style Arch Enemy have built over the years and a new beginning that reassures fans that the band’s run of success shows no signs of abating any time soon.