Location: Halmstad, Sweden
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Released: June 9, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases
By: Kris Kotlarik
The news that longtime Arch Enemy lead singer Angela Gossow would no longer be singing for the band took me by surprise, but the band’s studio efforts have become increasingly stale over time. This culminated in their previous release, Khaos Legions, which had some things going for it but not enough to draw me back for multiple listens. Replacing Gossow is The Agonist‘s Alissa White-Gluz, which resulted in a reaction of complete indifference from me. I’m not well-versed in their work and most of my reliable sources said this would have little effect on Arch Enemy’s future sound. They were wrong; War Eternal further declines from where Khaos Legions left off.
The sad thing is, it actually starts on a fantastic note; following an uninteresting orchestral intro, “Never Forgive, Never Forget” comes in and kicks your ass with a blend of different guitar hooks, several noteworthy solos, and a deathrashing feel that reminds me of fellow Swedes The Crown. That’s the highest praise I have given Arch Enemy in recent memory, as Crowned In Terror would almost certainly make my top 50 all-time albums list.
Unfortunately, War Eternal begins spinning off the tracks almost immediately with the title track, which has good solos but a completely generic chorus, complete with the change in key signature on the final go-around. “You Will Know My Name” and “Stolen Life” are both awful; “On And On” has a cringe-worthy breakdown, and “Not Long For This World” closes the album off with a slow instrumental that doesn’t really go anywhere. Out of the others, “Time Is Black” would be a solid song if not for a weird intro that comes back later on. The rest are entirely forgettable, as are the lyrics. Granted, Arch Enemy has never been known for putting amazing lyrics in their writing, sticking to their general formula of rising up and fighting back against oppression, so it would be rather unreasonable to expect much of a change at this point.
But wait, there is one last bright side! Arch Enemy decided to cover Judas Priest‘s Breaking The Law as a bonus track, and it’s actually pretty damn good. Otherwise, I can’t say many positive things about this one.
Overall: The only reason this doesn’t score a 1 or lower is because “Never Forgive, Never Forget” is that good.
Bonus Thoughts: The studio albums may not be as great as they once were, but Arch Enemy is still an excellent live draw. I was lucky enough to catch them in Finland with Gossow still at the helm. For those concerned about White-Gluz’s impact on the band’s live shows, she appears to be singing live with broken ribs, gutturals and all. That’s dedication.