Arch Enemy – War Eternal Review
Much has been made of longtime Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow’s decision to step down and pass the torch to Alissa White-Gluz (ex-The Agonist). That isn’t the only lineup change since 2011’s Khaos Legions either – founding member Christopher Amott was also recently replaced by former Arsis guitarist Nick Cordle. Fans needn’t worry, however – the band’s latest effort War Eternal (Century Media, 6/10/2014) is one of the finest albums that Arch Enemy has ever crafted, with a tight, focused sound that’s as brutal as it is catchy and memorable.
After the symphonic intro “Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F Minor)”, War Eternal launches into the fast-paced, relentlessly aggressive “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, an all-out audio assault featuring blast beats, face-melting guitar leads, and roaring, energetic vocals from Alissa White-Gluz. This track is a perfect fit to kick-start the album, as it perfectly encapsulates the revitalized spirit of the band; it’s one of my favorite songs on War Eternal.
“You Will Know My Name” is a more mid-tempo track, and another highlight of the album. Featuring some epic dueling, harmonized guitar solos, well-placed orchestral elements, as well as an incredibly catchy chorus, this track is a showcase for the talent of the revitalized new lineup. “Time Is Black” melds symphonic elements with melodic and crushing riffs, with a catchy Guns N’ Roses-esque solo near the end. “Avalanche” has an almost In Flames sound to it, with lots of keyboards and melodic elements, including some clean vocals from White-Gluz in the chorus; they’re subtle and buried in the background, but I noticed them. “Not Long For This World” is a slow-paced, ultra-melodic outro with some great twin harmonies and inspired drumming from Daniel Erlandsson, before some soft piano closes out the track.
Come to think of it, the only thing that’s really been gnawing at me throughout my repeated listens of this album is that there are plenty of spots where Alissa’s clean singing talents would fit nicely, but they’re almost completely absent from War Eternal. I guess they were worried about fan backlash since Arch Enemy has never had clean vocals, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a waste of talent. Perhaps on the next album they’ll feel more comfortable introducing some vocal diversity.
Overall, War Eternal is a great return to form for Arch Enemy, and it’s obvious that the lineup changes have rejuvenated the band’s creative spirit. While not every track is memorable, they’re all quite solid, and there are a surprisingly large amount of standout songs on this album. Arch Enemy has delivered another stellar melodic death metal album here, and I look forward to hearing what this reinvigorated lineup creates in the future.