Arch Enemy is back! After a quick switch of vocalist and guitarist, they've released their tenth studio album. There were certainly enough people complaining about Alissa's vocals when the singles were released, so how did the album turn out? Does it still sound like Arch Enemy? Are there any songs with clean vocals? How loud do I have to play it to blow out my eardrums? All these questions and more will be answered below.
When the War Eternal single came out, I listened to it and thought to myself "yep, that's an Arch Enemy song alright". The only thing that's really changed is the vocal style; the guitars and general song structure are all the same as they've been for the last 18 years. So if you're one of the people that were complaining about the singles, I'm sorry to say you're not going to like this album. Guess what? Alissa is the vocalist for the entire album. However, if you're a fan of Arch Enemy I definitely recommend giving the album a chance and to continue reading this review.
Though War Eternal does sound like an Arch Enemy album for the most part, there are quite a few musical differences from previous albums. It's not because of Alissa either. If you look at the writers for each song, Nick Cordle actually had much more of an influence. War Eternal and You Will Know My Name sound like classic Arch Enemy songs and I could totally imagine Angela doing the vocals for them. But songs like On and On and Avalanche (two that Alissa helped write) stray from the formula and really serve to shake up the flow of the album. On and On just seems more layered and tries interesting sounds that you won't find on previous albums. It even has a breakdown! Something very rarely found in this band's songs, if at all. There's one in No More Regrets too. And yes, Avalanche has clean vocals during the chorus. And yes, they work really well even though this is an Arch Enemy song. Now stop complaining about the vocals.
Speaking of the vocals, Alissa White-Gluz does a great job taking over vocal duties. She brings her distinct and instantly recognizable style and it just works. I don't really have much to say about the vocals. They sound different than Angela's and you either like them or you don't. Personally, I like them. There's also a noticeable lack of songs about anarchy and more focus on personal battles and triumphs.
War Eternal does a good job of playing with the Arch Enemy formula that we've grown to know and love. You never know what to expect. One minute you'll be listening to symphonic keyboards playing in the background, the next a sick solo, and after that you'll be singing along to one of the many catchy choruses. The band definitely has more cooks in the kitchen, but they're able to divide resources effectively and come out with a great multi-layered dish where everything is different but still compliments each other. It's definitely a weird first listen, but the album grows on you very quickly.
There is only one particularly irritating blemish that I need to address.The song Time is Black. It starts off with some forced symphonic elements that aren't really developed enough to be atmospheric. Then comes the main riff which is... alright. Then the symphonic elements keep coming up. They're not utilized well and it really distracts from the song. The whole song keeps going back and forth between a stripped-down sound and parts that are supposed to be atmospheric. It doesn't really fit with the guitars during the chorus or the interlude(s). Whatever. The idea could have been cool if more time was spent on it. The symphonic parts are apparently done by a full orchestra but they just sound like someone fiddling around on a keyboard. It makes the whole song come off as out of tune. Maybe it will grow on me over time, we'll have to see. A much smaller complaint of mine is that there is a slightly awkward transition between verse and chorus in some of the songs.
War Eternal manages to have a nice mix of shaking things up and sticking to the tried and true Arch Enemy formula. It's not perfect but it hits much more often than it misses. Alissa and Nick are great additions to the band and really help to make this album stand out. I recommend any Arch Enemy fan give this album at least two listens. It's worth it. I'll definitely be catching Arch Enemy live when they inevitably come play in Canada.
War Eternal gets a score of 8/10
PS. Long or repeated sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss, possibly blowing out your eardrums if you listen to it for long enough.