Arch Enemy: War Eternal review

Purveyors of melodic death metal Arch Enemy were forged in fire and born out of necessity in Sweden in 1996. They came into being out of then-Carcass guitarist Michael Amott’s desire to merge melody with technicality and aggression. After nearly 20 years in the business, the band have released their 10th studio album entitled War Eternal on Century Media. War Eternal will be the first album to feature new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz as well as new guitarist Nick Cordle. White-Gluz stepped in earlier this year when she was handed the torch from longtime frontwoman Angela Gossow, who will stay on as the band’s manager and Cordle came on board in 2012 when founding guitarist Christopher Amott left the band. The new album was produced by the band, mixed & mastered by Jens Bogren and engineered by Linn Fijal, Johan Ornborg and Staffan Karlsson. The album also features stunning artwork by Costin Chioreanu. War Eternal is the record this band was born to make and is the album rabid fans have been waiting for. It was hinted to on 2011’s Khaos Legions and has come full circle to take center stage. The album begins with instrumental intro “Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude In F Minor),” but the real excitement doesn’t start until the first drum crack of “Never Forgive, Never Forget,” a song conceived in the deepest and darkest bowels of hell and brought to life by the band’s unique brand of precision death metal. Lead single and video for title track “War Eternal” is an all out aural assault that unleashes the band’s full fury through a blitzkrieg of insane fills, complex musical compositions and White-Gluz’s guttural vocal attack while songs like “As The Pages Burn” and “Down To Nothing” are darkened pieces of metallic rage that create an enormous wall of sound and dissonant aggression that could have been on any of the band’s previous albums. From there “No More Regrets” dishes out a dizzying mix of melodic power metal, earthquake inducing riffs and mindbending technical dexterity delivered with lightning speed. Meanwhile, the pulse pounding pace, layers of thick operatic strings and lush vocals in “You Will Know My Name” are more akin to Nightwish than they are Arch Enemy which makes it an interesting choice to be the second single and video from the album. At the same time, “Graveyard Of Dreams” is a brooding instrumental passage that serves as a much needed musical plot twist while the huge churning riffs, bludgeoning blastbeats and immense vocals of “Stolen Life” take the album to a whole new plateau of melodic heaviness. Conversely, the creepy keys in the intro of “Time Is Black” show the layers of depth in this band’s musical arsenal and would be perfect background music for just about any horror movie ever made. They cleverly conceal the sledgehammer riffs, lumbering double kick and powerhouse vocals lurking just around the next darkened corner. To further challenge themselves musically, “On And On” kicks out monolithic slabs of syncopated grooves at a mechanized pace and contains what may very well be the heaviest and most melodic breakdown in metal history while “Avalanche” is hands down the best symphonic metal song ever written. It’s odd that it should come from one of the premiere melodic death metal bands. “Not Long For This World” closes the album as quietly and unassumingly as it began. It is a sprawling doom masterpiece similar to Opeth or Paradise Lost. It is a final statement and testament to the fact that there is nothing this amazing band can’t do and often times do better than the bands that are known for it. Here’s the bottom line- Arch Enemy have taken what for some bands is a career ending situation and turned it into a positive, stepping outside their usual comfort zone to deliver the best album of their illustrious career so far. Rating: 9 out of 10. -Eric Hunker