May 232014

(Below, Andy Synn reviews the new album by the revamped — and revitalized — Arch Enemy.)

Ok, I’m sure a fair few of you have already skipped past this review, simply because of the words “Arch Enemy” there at the top. After all, AE are a pretty big band, and an easy target, so it’s not at all “cool” to like them. That’s fine.

But for those of you still reading, I’m sure you’re more than a little interested in just what this new incarnation of the band is all about. After all, the band’s line-up has undergone some pretty big changes recently. Chris Amott has taken what appears to be his final retirement from the group, to be replaced by the superfluously talented Nick Cordle, who comes to the band from the decidedly Arch Enemy-influenced Arsis… it’s not quite Ripper Owens joining Judas Priest, but it’s not entirely dissimilar, is it?

Overshadowing this of course is the departure of Angela Gossow and her replacement by ex-The Agonist frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz, inspiring a firestorm of internet nerd-rage of apoplectic proportions, so-called “fans” of the band clamouring desperately for attention as part of “Team Angela” or “Team Alissa” like angsty pre-pubescent girls.

But let’s make one thing clear right now, before we go any further – having listened to the album in full I can confidently say that Ms White-Gluz is a more than worthy successor to Angela Gossow’s vacated throne. Close enough in terms of power and delivery to maintain a sense of continuity within the band’s discography, but with a style and substance of her own, she brings a welcome breath of fresh air and a renewed, combative edge to the vocals that helps her stand out as more than a simple carbon-copy of her predecessor.



Before I get into the real meat of things, though, perhaps a little more context is in order, to help position this album and this review within the wider scope of things.

When it comes to Arch Enemy my feelings have always been positive, but mixed. There’s some fantastic material on their first three albums (the Johann era), although I don’t fetishise them as much as some do. Slightly uneven, occasionally a little self-indulgent (something which I guess applies across their entire catalogue, if you want to be churlish about such things), Black Earth, Stigmata, and Burning Bridges certainly possess a very unique sound, along with some absolutely killer riffs and solos.

The Gossow era (which, let’s be honest, should really be considered the band’s defining era – sorry trve believers…) is, for all its success, somewhat hit and miss for me… although even the misses usually have some good songs here and there. Wages of Sin was, and still is, a great album. Vibrant, vital, razor-sharp, it demonstrated the Amott brothers and their cohorts switching up their style ever so slightly with a renewed sense of vigour and a precise and impeccable focus.

Anthems of Rebellion was, in my honest opinion, an over-simplification of their sound, with a few good songs but far too many “generic empowerment anthems”tm, while Doomsday Machine tried its best to go darker, but ended up being about a 50/50 split between furious and forgettable.

The rather fantastic Rise of the Tyrant seemed to signal a new stage of the band’s evolution, with an increase in complexity and some progressive inclinations that simultaneously recalled the band’s early days, while also adding some new tricks to their repertoire. Unfortunately they singularly failed to capitalise on this with the somewhat bloated and stock material that peppered Khaos Legions, and despite their still-growing popularity it seemed that the band really were just going through the motions.

In a sense that’s why the recent changes to the band’s line-up really are a blessing in disguise. Throughout War Eternal the new Arch Enemy sound renewed and re-energised, a band firing on all cylinders and with something to prove – to themselves as much as to everyone else.

Intriguingly, while the album doesn’t necessarily do too much new (though there’s some interesting classical/semi-symphonic embellishments used to great effect here and there, as well as a heavy dose of Heartwork-esque sonic skullduggery), it does succeed in taking the by-now familiar formula of the Arch Enemy sound and sharpening it, strengthening it, giving it teeth and claws and a fresh appetite for destruction.

After the expected instrumental intro, “Never Forgive, Never Forget” starts things off with an injection of pure blast-happy adrenaline, melding some positively titanic, and defiantly death-tinged, riffage with some ludicrously ostentatious guitar heroics, which should immediately renew your faith in the band. Indeed the mix of Alissa’s savage snarls and the proggy/melodic/scything fretwork of the Amott-Cordle partnership immediately pays major dividends, with one of the finest Arch Enemy songs I’ve heard in a long time. Short, sharp, and immediately to the point, it definitely makes a real statement of intent.

“War Eternal” itself takes the template of the standard Arch Enemy anthem and gives it a much needed shake-up, with a much heavier guitar tone and a phenomenally passionate delivery from Ms. White-Gluz making the whole thing seem so much more vital and alive then previous efforts, while “As The Pages Burn” is a more savage, dare I say Carcass-esque, collection of murderous riffage and throat-rending vocals that’s as punishing as it is irresistible.

The shameless, Prog-Power melodies and hard-driving riffs of “No More Regrets” are married to a frankly thunderous backbone of earth-shaking drums and rumbling bass work. The song sets a frantic pace right from the start, albeit with some frequent diversions into more proggy instrumentation, leading into the more Rise of the Tyrant-esque “You Will Know My Name”, which utilises some subtle (and welcome) keyboard/string embellishments to great effect, enhancing an already pretty stellar song with a sense of brooding atmosphere amidst the band’s signature mix of soaring leads and mighty riffs.

Hopefully by now you’ll have become as taken with this newly reconfigured version of Arch Enemy as I have. Every member, Amott, Erlandson, D’Angelo, Cordle, White-Gluz, really have brought their A-game to this record, both in terms of writing and playing. White-Gluz in particular will hopefully have put all fears to rest with her thrilling, visceral performance, easily melding savage highs with some brutal low growls, matching her predecessor in many ways, yet simultaneously working to set herself apart with those small changes in style and delivery which gain greater impact and importance over the course of a whole album.



“Graveyard of Dreams” is a pleasant, but relatively forgettable, instrumental interlude, preceding the precision assault of “Stolen Life”, a sub-three-minute attack of juddering drums and scalpel-sharp guitar riffs, capped off perfectly by Alissa’s throat-rending snarl.

“Time Is Black”, though, is a real standout track, akin to a James Bond theme as written by Heartwork-era Carcass. And if that doesn’t get your attention I’m not sure what will! It’s both bruisingly heavy and thrillingly epic, mixing majestic strings, heroic guitar leads, and positively crushing riffs in a way that’s both instantly recognisable as Arch Enemy, yet somehow totally unexpected, brimming with piercing hooks and dark, malevolent power.

“On and On” is another major stand-out as well, a war-song of titanic proportions, locked and loaded with an array of ballistic death metal riffs and laser-guided lead parts. It’s the sound of a band playing right on the edge, bristling with barely suppressed energy yet in perfect control of their abilities – furious, devastating, and subtly melodic all at the same time.

“Avalanche” is perhaps the most contentious song on the list, though right at the start you might not know it. Some massively heavy riffs, and a frankly gigantic guitar tone, give the whole thing a heavyweight feel, laced with some beautifully poisonous melodies (courtesy of those keyboard and string embellishments I mentioned earlier). It’s the inclusion of some, shock-horror, clean backing vocals that will probably get most people’s underwear twisted up in knots. Of course that should only be an issue if you ignore the fact that it actually works really, really well… and that the band have done it a few times before… and that the song itself is so fan-fucking-tastically heavy in places that it really shouldn’t matter at all.

If there is one minor complaint I have about the album, it’s that, for me at least, “Avalanche” seems like a natural peak for the album. The dark string melodies and subtle clean vocals are definitely suggestive of an album closer, yet War Eternal continues on for another two songs. Not that these are bad songs by any means, although I could do without the instrumental finale of “Not Long For This World”, which doesn’t seem to add much to the album as a whole, but they just seem to extend the album a little beyond its sweet spot.

That being said, “Down To Nothing” is a thoroughly nasty little piece of down-home Carcass-style death metal riffage and evil melody that, in a welcome twist, errs much more strongly towards the Death Metal side of things than you might expect.


In fact, that just about sums up the album as a whole. It just really is a welcome surprise, through and through. It feels heavier, more aggressive, much more Death Metal in tone and delivery, without sacrificing that knack for soaring, ecstatic melody and proggy guitar showmanship that has defined the band for much of its career.

Indeed, there’s more than a few throwback moments to the band’s early days scattered here and there, albeit filtered and reimagined through the prism of the band’s new form.

If you weren’t a fan before… maybe it’s time to swallow your preconceptions and give the band another chance? Because this really is a redefining moment for them, and quite probably one of the best albums of their career.


EDITOR’S NOTE: War Eternal will be released by Century Media in North America on June 10. War Eternal can now be pre-ordered digitally in Europe and North America at iTunes and AmazonMP3 with the tracks “War Eternal” and “As The Pages Burn” available as instant downloads upon purchase (a third track, “You Will Know My Name”, will be instantly available for download on May 27th). The album can also be pre-ordered in a variety of physical formats at CM Distro.

Arch Enemy’s Facebook page is here. Here are the two previously released advance tracks from the album:




  40 Responses to “ARCH ENEMY: “WAR ETERNAL””

  1. I started listening to Arch Enemy with Anthems. I loved that album, but my enthusiasm for them grew less and less with each subsequent album. I don’t think I even listened to Khaos Legions. I wasn’t new to metal by any means, but I was only a year or two deep when it came to more extreme forms of metal. They didn’t do anything wrong to lose me. My tastes just grew past them. That, I believe, is the biggest knock against this band(Losing a singer is always dicey, but I can chalk up negativity over that due to spite and just plain different preferences) : They got so popular that they became a “gateway” band. Arch Enemy is fierce when your metal world is small, but become increasingly less so as you dig deeper into the underground. Some people are content to stand in that gateway forever, but the ones who wander through aren’t likely to spend a lot of time looking back.

    The two songs here are the only ones I’ve heard so far. There’s nothing wrong with either one. I preferred “As the Pages Burn.” In the years that have passed since I began wandering into the very deep pool of extreme metal, I have realized that melodic death metal isn’t really my cup of tea. Still, the band sounds tight. The new singer certainly sounds like she can hold her own. The review has me curious, but I need to hear more before I decide if this is worth a purchase.

    • Definitely give “Time Is Black” and “On and On” a listen when you have chance then, see what they do for you. Oh, and “Never Forgive, Never Forget”. Those might pique your interest much more.

  2. I’ve always been only a casual fan of this band. I have Burning Bridges, which I liked quite a bit and then later I bought Anthems of Rebellion, which was completely forgettable. This new stuff ain’t too shabby. I think I like this girl’s vocals a bit better than Angela’s. The fact that she’s hot doesn’t hurt, either.

    • Well you’ve immediately alienated a lot of people by liking her vocals more…

      Not that it’s your fault, metal fans do so love to whine and choose arbitrary sides!

      • Haha, I’m used to it. Back in high school when Cannibal Corpse kicked Barnes out and added George, I was immediately pleased with the decision (and still overwhelmingly am). The blowback from the now mostly extinct Barnes acolytes to my opinion was far more savage than anything Arch Enemy’s fanbase can whip up over this move.

  3. I’ve been as skeptical as anyone with this merger. You already know I am a huge Arch Enemy fan Andy, and subsequently a big Angela Gossow fan-boy. Though I don’t think Alissa is equally as good (just stylistic preference mostly) I can’t deny when an album does something right, The music is firing on all cylinders and it’s a great listen.

  4. This is just pop music, disguised as metal. This site is losing its credibilty, since it seems to like and rave about everything. When are we going to read a negative review?

    • This is a great comment, thank you. It’s always funny to see someone getting all self-righteous because a review has offended their elitist sensibilities. Particularly when it’s from someone who clearly doesn’t know how this site operates at all.

      You think we care that you doubt our “credibility”? Yeah, we don’t. But it is funny, I’ll give you that.

      • Whats credibility?

        • Speak for yourself, I am a world-renowned taste maker and well-respected critic. I am the kingmaker… Ozymandias of the metal world!

          • You really have a superfluous way of writing though. Try relearning some Syntax and Discourse. Your sentence constructions are sometimes way too compact (worst than Henry James I would say). This is a review not a novel. Plus you’ve repeated some things twice. Remember to edit your stuff and watch out for that Mr. respected writer. Furthermore I just don’t think this particular review is pleasant to read “syntactically” and your tone surely made it dreary. By all means keep the cynical tone, but please don’t overdo it. And don’t kiss too much ass, I really didn’t find it believable. Who am I to say all this, someone to remind you that you should never give yourself too much credit for it will stagnate your growth as a writer. But whatever dude, take it or leave it. This is how I experienced reading your review.

    • One of the best features of this site is the absence of “negative” reviews. I love that about this site. It’s very endearing.

    • Yeah, you’re never gonna see a negative review here. Also, I’d love to see the day when something with growled vocals becomes remotely close to “pop music”. As someone with a sister who listens to A LOT of pop on the radio (which I am forced to subsequently endure), Arch Enemy, and other comparatively big-ish metal acts aren’t even close to that. Closer than, say, Diocletian, but still not close at all.

    • Yeah, I’m assuming you’re new here. We don’t write negative reviews. If we don’t like what we hear, we just ignore it. The point of this place is to recommend music we hope people will like as much as we do, and to support bands who are doing good things. I don’t understand why we would need to write negative reviews in order to have credibility, but I also don’t spend much time thinking about that anyway.

  5. I am glad you’ve reviewed this, Andy. I can say I have thought of Arch Enemy for years as the definition of a band on cruise control. I am intrigued by this album, but not exactly impressed by the only track I have heard. So, this will give me plenty of time to give it enough of a chance to see if I should buy it when it comes out. I appreciate the review and will give it a fair shot.

    • That’s pretty much why I added the paragraphs about context… very uneven band and sometimes I think far too interested in “what the fans want” than in doing what they want, and trusting the fans to follow them.

      This one definitely sounds a lot more confident and assured, and much less about pleasing demographics. Not a drastic change in their sound, just a sense that they’re “owning it” much more.

  6. This stuff sounds good. Most assuredly better than Khaos Legions. My only issue with this is that I feel there isn’t much room for Alyssa’s clean vocals, which I think are quite good.

    • Her clean vox never really did much for me. Good, but never particularly striking. They do work well as backing vox in “Avalanche”, but I’m glad that’s the only place they’re used. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD.

      Of course next album will probably have them all over the place and I’ll probably hate it, but ah well!

      • 100% agree with you here. Her growls fit the band better than I expected, but I’m just not a fan of her clean singing and will be disappointed if they begin to include them in the band’s sound.

  7. My first Arch Enemy album was actually Khaos Legions. When I first heard it, I definitely dug it (i.e. I dug the patented AE sound), but the fact I haven’t cared to pull it out in more than a year (at least) definitely shows to me that it’s a bit filler-heavy. I need to research their back-catalog a bit further, for things like Wages Of Sin and Rise Of The Tyrant (if you’re to be believed), but I’m really digging what I’ve heard so far from War Eternal. Title track’s got a bitchin’ riff verse riff, and I can definitely see how it draws strongly from Heartwork (I mean that in a good way), like Surgical Steel. And yes, I didn’t have the appropriate nostalgia to salivate over SS, so I saw it as merely a great addendum to Heartwork.

  8. i can’t wait to get this, i’ve been a fan of both bands for a while. i was pretty happy when i heard that Alyssa was the new vocalist, and the new stuff sounds awesome.

  9. Just wanted to chime in and say that the chorus during “As the Pages Burn” was very interesting…the new girl’s growl vox have some notes to ’em that match the music in that chorus…well done. You nailed the Angela era in the review, the best albums are Wages of Sin and Rise of the Tyrant, everything else is pretty much filler.

  10. By biggest problem with Arch Enemy right now is the brand. Remember how the hiring of Angela was seen as a gimmick by many people? “Oh they hired a chick that growls like a dude. Crazy” Eventually Angela garnered more respect from people and helped usher in other harsh female vocalists but now she’s gone and it’s hard to argue the hiring of Alissa is not a gimmick. Hot Topic looks with essentially metalcore style harsh vocals. I’ve listened to this album a couple of times and it’s easily my least favorite since Angela joined the band. I didn’t like Alissa’s vocals with the Agonist and I certainly don’t like them here but that’s beside the point. For me as a consumer it’s almost comical the package that is put together here.

    Arch Enemy is not and hasn’t been an extreme band for a very long time. The harsh vocals appear to be an attempt to hang onto the extreme days with Carcass, which frankly at the end wasn’t very extreme either. So when you package neoclassical and neothrash riffs with a model who starts screeching about angsty social and political themes, what is extreme about that? The whole package feels disjointed and disingenuous to me and a bit cartoonish.

    Arch Enemy with Johan did not stand out from their contemporaries so they brought in a woman to make that distinction (yes I’ve heard the official stance from the band and I don’t buy it). After building a significant fan base Angela leaves so how to prevent a drop off and instead continue building the fanbase? Hire Alissa. I’m not trying to start an argument as these are my own feelings and I just felt the need to vent but I do get tired of this feeling like people are obligated to like Arch Enemy without questioning motives and directions by the band.

    Plus Angela pissed me off awhile ago by interrogating me on how much traffic my site got before she would agree to have us interview the band. That’s a corporate move but I digress 😛

    • Well she was (and still is) manager of the band as well (I think).

      Interesting that you think Alyssa’s vocals are “metalcore” when a.) I’m not entirely certain what that’s supposed to mean, and b.) she sounds strongly like Angela most of the time.

      I’d also say there are more legitimately heavy moments on this than not, and that the harsh vocal continue to sit well with the music. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Alyssa’s vocal and lyrical stance has always been somewhat social/political, as has AE’s (I’d argue that it’s actually better realised on this album than on many of Angela’s more overly-literal moments), and the fact that she’s a looker shouldn’t disqualify her from being able to comment, surely?

      And I say this as someone who couldn’t stand The Agonist at all.

  11. I write metal books for a damn living. Arch Enemy is a sick, sick band and always has been. Great review.

    To all the haters — how predictable and non-metal. Please, by all means, go back to your “hardcore metalz” with pig squeals and endless blastbeating. I find that type of music ridiculous personally, but I don’t spend my time writing passive aggressive comments on each Cannibal Corpse video. Some people prefer melodic death metal, and honestly, I understand why. The juxtaposition of brutality and beauty is much more compelling than just sonic noise.

    • Glad you enjoyed it dude, but just to say, I’m sure you’ve encountered it elsewhere and that’s why you’ve written things the way you have, but the general community that comments and interacts with our site really isn’t the “hardcore metalz” type you’re referring to. We all like a pretty big cross-section of stuff, from bands lighter and more melodic than this, to ones much heavier and more extreme (endless blastbeating can be fun in the right context). Generally when people don’t like something on here they usually have pretty well-justified reasons for not doing so, and neither we at the site, nor most of our audience, are particularly interested in trends or living up to some artificial standard of what’s “cool”.

      With that said… I hope you continue to like what we do.

  12. One of the best and most complete reviews I read!

  13. I like it. While to me her vocals don’t seem as powerful as Angela’s, they are still probably the best to have succeeded her. Might have to grab this album.

  14. Great review.

    I think this album will be awesome and Alissa will do a good job of continuing on from Angela; who is in my opinion Arch Enemy’s defining vocalist. Angela’s voice is well ahead of a lot of her peers (including Johan…original doesn’t mean best!). Alissa’s vocals are great and she will do a good job of carrying the band forward.

    Arch Enemy for the win.

  15. Me, as a really really big fan of Angela an AE, i was not sure about the replacement, because The Agonist never was my cup of tea, i really wanted more the vocalist from Mares of thrace or Grace Perry in the band, after listing thr album, i just change my mind, one solid work, well executed, and with this new vibe, just feels like another Wage og sins, best album since Khaos Legion

  16. The ONLY complaint i have on this album is, as you wrote in your review, ‘No more regrets’ track as it sounds like a power metal. Since i’m not a power metal fan, that track seems unfit and inharmonious. Anyway, i guess ‘War Eternal’ is a decent debut album of Arch Enemy with new vocalist. Beside, i love your review.

  17. Easily my favorite album of theirs since Burning Bridges

  18. Thank you Andy for writing this review! My favorite track from the album is “Time Is Black” AE has always been a band that gives out music you want to bump in you’re mainstream pop culture inhabited town ( I live in san luis obispo wheere ebrything is either mainstream or wannabe hipster music is the norm.) TIB def has all the features of AE but I feel also is very failiar with Alissa’s style from The Agonist. Alissa has really stepped up her game I feel. Being a fan of both AE and THe Agonist, this is new and fresh for fans to listen too. War eternal is def an album worth buying.

  19. As a relatively new guy to the band, I’m glad to hear that War Eternal is worth checking out. This review really, really helped. I’ll go see if I can’t hear some songs to sample a bit before deciding to drop my money on it. Thanks.

  20. 1 of the best albums i’ve heard personally and the songwriting is to notch it’s harder to write a melodic, catchy and non cheesy song, time is black is great and the orchestral interlude in the middle adds a nice change of pace and alissa is younger than angela so her voice will mature more over time, mainstream isn’t what this is it’s arch enemy’s brand of melodic death metal with a twist and she knows how to sing clean vocals for those that don’t know and supposedly she got kicked out of the agonist and angela chose her so stop bitching and moaning about this, give arch enemy some space to write good music and stop complaining about the vocals

  21. i meant top notch XD

  22. the less people complain the more arch enemy feels less obligated to please their fans so grow a brain and maybe even compose your own music to see what it’s like cause it’s easy to make a uncohesive random song without enough practice and to creative a loopy unimaginative song wihout inspiration and to even remember the ideas in your head

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