Overall Score: 9/10 Guitarwork: 10/10 Vocals: 9/10 Consistency: 8/10 Pros: Riff central | Alissa's vocals | Stand Out Songs Cons: Second half drops off a little bit (but that's nitpicking)
The news that Angela Gossow was stepping down from frontwoman duties with Swedish metal favourites Arch Enemy was quite the bombshell a few months ago; Her replacement, Alissa White-Gluz, formerly of The Agonist, seemed a fairly popular choice for taking on vocal duties but one can never be sure how these things will turn out. Title track from their (then forthcoming) new album and lead single War Eternal offered large amounts of encouragement, not only with Alissa’s vocals fitting right into the Arch Enemy set up but the song contained riffs aplenty and a cracking solo. Now the full War Eternal album is available for assessment, how does it stand up to what has come before it?
From the off there is something about War Eternal to not only hold the listeners attention but make them excited for each track in turn. The dark and brooding intro of Tempore Nihil Sanat quickly gives way to an opening riff and an almighty growl from Alissa White-Gluz, signifying the beginning of the new era of Arch Enemy with “Never Forgive Never Forget”. Daniel Erlandsson is a tornado behind the drumkit as the ferocity of his playing underpins a truly heavy first “proper” track on the album, which also contains the first of many very enjoyable, string-bending solos from main axeman Michael Amott and Nick Cordle. The aforementioned title track from War Eternal then follows and as mentioned above it is a great showcase for the album as a whole. Things do not let up at all with Alissa putting the full power of her considerably talented vocals into “As The Pages Burn” which ends with another face-melting solo which then mutates and continues into the opening of No More Regrets. This is a track where the guitarwork particularly stands out even with the high standard of playing across the whole record.
Continuing into the album, Second single “You Will Know My Name’s” opening riff is one of the best bits of guitar work anywhere so far in 2014, and contains a monstrous chorus that will have fists pumping at festivals and shows across the world. Tracks like “Stolen Life” (full of hooks), “On and On” (more top notch vocals from Alissa) and “Avalanche” (almost classical guitar tones) lack a little bit of the impact of the first half dozen songs but are still hugely enjoyable. The album concludes on a somewhat unusual note as the distinctive main riff to Not Long For This World bears more than a passing resemblance to the main vocal harmony from the chorus to the N’Sync song It’s Gonna Be Me – though it must be said Michael Amott does not look like he’d look to Justin Timberlake’s old band for his musical inspiration.
War Eternal from start to finish is the sound of a band re-energized by their change in circumstances and personnel. As a band they have arguably never sounded tighter on record with all participants stepping up to new heights. Credit as well must go to the band themselves for the production, the mix is fantastic (as one might expect with Jens Bogren behind the mixing desk) and and provides a clean sound without sounding overproduced. Despite the deserved love for Angela Gossow and everything she did in her time in Arch Enemy (and she’s still guiding them behind the scenes), the addition of Alissa White-Gluz may lead to the band reaching previously unseen heights. One of the best metal albums of 2014 so far.
War Eternal is released today (9th June 2014) on Century Media Records.