War Eternal - Arch Enemy
by Tara Alexander (@REDTALYN)
When lead singer Angela Gossow made the announcement that after 14 years she would no longer be fronting Arch Enemy and would instead step aside to become the Swedish groups' manager, the metal community was unsure of the fate of the band who had pressed on for over a decade. In a surprising turn of events, the band recruited their third front person, another active female singer, Alissa White – Gluz from the Canadian outfit The Agonist. Originally meant to front both bands, she finally parted ways with The Agonist shortly before recording this album and took on Arch Enemy full time. After listening to the album, I can safely say that White – Gluz is more than capable of picking up where her predecessor left off.
The Agonist have been active since 2004, but they never really sparked, never really took off in the community, mostly playing festivals and trying to build upon their smaller fan base. White – Gluz's potential is now being fully realized as her skills as a singer are being backed by the unrelenting and talented guitar work of brothers Michael and Christopher Amott. The album, like many before it, starts off with an ominous instrumental track, 'Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F Minor), that creates the feel of being led into a horror movie from which you can never turn back. 'Never Forgive, Never Forget' starts up quickly as the first track ends, with a strong opening and classic Arch Enemy stop-and-change rhythmic tempos. Michael Amott has no trouble utilizing his band to showcase his talents as all of the songs have some sort of solo worked into them. The single, 'War Eternal' is up next, a solid single that proved to the world White – Gluz's capabilities as a growler, screamer, and lyricist. 'As the Pages Burn' and 'No More Regrets' are heavy, solo laden tunes that are proof of how much influence Michael Amott has when it comes to the band's sound, as he is the primary songwriter and lead guitarist. White – Gluz was given a lot of the already written tracks to write lyrics for, as she was still touring with the Agonist, but hopefully she will be a little more involved in the overall sound on the next album.
The next track, 'You Will Know My Name,' has a soft opening and reminds the listener that although Arch Enemy are classified as death metal their sound can be quite melodic as well. The instrumental 'Graveyard Dreams' is a slow, building tune that takes you out of the darkness for just a moment before tossing you back in with the next song, 'Stolen Life.' At just under three minutes, this is the shortest and only song the on the album to experiment briefly with digital voice modification. Next up is my favorite track, 'Time is Black,' a sweeping, keyboard driven song that is orchestral and with a solid, headbanging beat and classic Amott brother solos. The catchy 'On and On' has a cool chorus that you can't help but sing along with; a perfect song to perform live. 'Avalanche' is an anthem of sorts with a creepy opening and the album's cleanest lyrical performance by White – Gluz. The next to last track, 'Down to Nothing,' is the least memorable, and the album ends with another instrumental track, 'Not Long for This World,' whose composition is excellent, as it gives the distinct feeling that you have witnessed a hero prevail over his enemies, but at a terrible cost. On the digital and enhanced versions of the album there is a bonus cover track of Mike Oldfield's (composer of Tubular Bells aka The Exorcist theme) 'Shadow on the Wall,' and although it is a little different from the usual guitar work of Arch Enemy, White – Gluz's haunting vocals round out a decent performance and I actually wish I could hear the Amott brothers experiment a little more with their sound as they do with this cover.
In time I am sure that White – Gluz's influence will work it's way into the sound of the band, but this first effort is not a terrible one, although I must say it definitely does not extend past the range of the cultivated Amott guitar work. There are brief instances when you hear the album that you may be inclined to say White – Gluz's voice is too close to Gossow's, bringing to mind a cookie cutter feel that is not wholly justified. I am and have been a big fan of Arch Enemy, and as I follow them through the ups and downs I know that I will be well rewarded for my patience. After all, this is only the first album with White – Gluz, and I am eager to see what they come up with in the future. This album is definitely worth owning, and I believe that as the years pass and White – Gluz's talents grow and evolve we will see some incredible things come from this band.