Arch Enemy, ‘Will to Power’ – Album Review
Bands change members all the time, but a vocalist change can be tricky. Sometimes it works well, other times not so much. Arch Enemy have managed to pull off the feat twice, first switching from Johan Liiva to Angela Gossow in 2000, and then from Gossow to Alissa White-Gluz in 2014. They were an underground band when the switch to Gossow was made, but a lot had changed by the time of the next switch. Arch Enemy had become one of extreme metal's best-known and most successful bands, and in the age of social media the scrutiny was high.
Of course there will always be detractors, but the transition from Gossow to White-Gluz was pretty seamless. Three years after War Eternal, Arch Enemy return with Will to Power. It's their first studio album with guitarist Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), who has already appeared on the live album As the Stages Burn, released earlier this year.
Following a brief instrumental intro, the album fires out of the gate with “The Race,” which gallops along at a brisk pace and has Arch Enemy's trademark blend of heaviness and memorable melodies. White-Gluz delivers a varied blend of growls in both low guttural and higher pitched styles.
The groove amps up on “Blood in the Water,” featuring some first class guitar work. Loomis apparently didn't participate in the songwriting on the album, but his presence is certainly felt. He's one of the best axemen in the business, and along with Michael Amott, displays an expert command of riffs and solos.
That brings us to “Reason to Believe,” which includes clean singing and will be the most talked about track on the album. Those familiar with White-Gluz's past work know she has an excellent singing voice, and if you have a weapon like that in your arsenal it makes sense to use it. The way it's deployed is interesting, using singing for the verse and harsh vocals for the chorus. While some may consider this the band's “jump the shark” moment, the use of melodic singing works for this particular track. We'll have to wait and see if future albums go further down that path.
“Murder Scene” gets the second half of the album off to a rousing start with twin leads and blazing solos. “First Day in Hell” is a slow build that has a satisfying conclusion. The final third of the disc is the most epic, with the instrumental “Saturnine” flowing into the album's longest track, “Dreams of Retribution.” Closer “A Fight I Must Win” is also more than six and a half minutes long, with a symphonic beginning that eases into a mid-tempo melodic monster before a cinematic finish.
Amott and drummer Daniel Erlandsson, the longest tenured members of the group, handled the production duties, and handled them well. This far into their career and with such a skilled lineup, they know the sound they want, and were able to get it. It's clean, but not too polished with a balance of extremity and accessibility.
Arch Enemy Talk Will to Power Album + More