Arch Enemy_War Eternal2Arch Enemy keeps soldiering along, ever honing their super polished, shiny and pretty version of melodic death metal. This despite the departure of such key parts as guitarist Christopher Amott and vocalist Angela Gossow. Easy peasy, in comes Nick Cordle (Arsis) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist) and we get another typical Arch Enemy platter, full of power metal ideas smashed into melo-death templates and layered with snazzy guitar-work from Michael Amott. Though I admit to not having much cared for their style except on the early albums, a few of the catchier tracks on 2011s Khaos Legions  did impress and stick with me. War Eternal doesn’t deviate much from what Khaos Legions did and you still get the power metal meets Gothenburg melo-death sound and there are some catchy, well-executed numbers here. However, there aren’t as many of those big standouts this time and on balance it’s a bit underwhelming, despite the ripping guitar-work contained within (of which there is a lot).

First things first, the new members acquit themselves well. While Alissa does what Angela did more or less, she isn’t going to wow any death metal afficiando and I’d prefer a much more brootal vocalist to offset the sugary music. However, I’m used to these guys having a screamy vocalist and Alissa does that about as well as Angela (who I was never blown away by either). The bigger success story is Nick Cordle. He brings a lot of chops to the table and as good as the guitar-work was on past albums, he seems to have upped the ante here as both he and Michael Amott let it all go with wild solos and richly melodic tomfoolery.

As for the songs themselves, they run the gamut from catchy and anthemic, to a bit flat and generic, with most of the tunes falling in the former bin and having some merit, though they tend to feel rather disposable (more on that later). “Never Forgive, Never Forget” offers a fairly aggressive, speedy dose of melo-death and the guitars get to shine in the riffing and especially the solos, which are tasteful and slick as all hell. The title track is the standout example of the power-death hybrid Arch Enemy is reaching for these days, sounding like a Brainstorm or Gamma Ray track with death croaks tacked on. It’s catchy and I enjoy the riffing, but it doesn’t hit as hard or as deep as the better songs on Khaos Legions.

Arch Enemy_2014The same can be said for songs like “As the Pages Burn,” “No More Regrets” and ” You Will Know My Name.” They manage to be catchy and are indisputably laden with impressive guitars, but they feel extremely lightweight and like cotton candy; you enjoy it while it’s on, but it leaves no trace and doesn’t fill you up. I give them full points for dabbling in gothic metal on “Stolen Life” and “Avalanche” and attempting more core-ish death akin to Scar Symmetry on “Time is Black,” and all are good, but fall into that same in category of “in one ear, out the other.”

Less impressive are tunes like “On and On” which is dull despite the almost neo-classical noodling and doodling, and “Down to Nothing,” which has nicely rough vocals from Alissa, but isn’t particularly interesting or memorable otherwise.

Basically, War Eternal is a album full of shiny, candy-like melo-death that goes down like sweet cream, but doesn’t stick or necessitate repeat listens. I surely didn’t mind spinning it, but I have no real desire to ever hear it again. At least Khaos Legions forced a few songs onto playlists and drew me back over the years. Except for the title track, that won’t happen here.

Add a point if you are a slavish guitar whore and live for wild solos, regardless of the quality of the songs they appear in. For the rest of you, War Eternal is another slick, highly melodic and somewhat soulless Arch Enemy outing without any danger or intensity. At least the cover doesn’t look like a third rate video game this time.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6  |  Format Reviewed: 192 kbps MP3
Label: Century Media
Websites: archenemy.net  |  facebook.com/archenemyofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2014.06.09  |   06.10.2014

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  • NeverBlack

    I’ve listened to this album around three times, and sadly, I say I have to agree. For some reason, I thought they would step up their game and prove something, because of this new vocalist, but I was wrong. It’s basically the same Arch Enemy since, I don’t know, 2003? However, this review was spot on about the guitarwork on this album. Very impressive, I’d say.

    PS: English is not my native language, so excuse any error(s).

    • You write better than half our staff!

      • Where’s HMG by the way? (I kid, I love his writing)

        • He’s on a world tour and unable to contribute at this time.

  • MPC

    It’s one of those albums which you will enjoy your first time listening it, then some songs (2-3 of them) will stick to you and that’s mostly it. Good album, but not good enough to spend money on it (or at least my money). I think that 2.5 grade is pretty reasonable.

  • replica

    I love the Zelda/TMNT inspired cover art.

  • Jeremiah J. Preisser

    The vocals are so bad I can barely listen to this.

  • AndySynn

    Interesting… as you know I am much more positive about the album (and certain specific tracks) than you have been, but by contrast I was also much more negative about Khaos Legions… which I still think has about 1 good song on it. So maybe it’s just a bipolar division… like one, dislike the other.

  • Listening to the few tracks that are on spotify and I’m just not feeling it. Arch Enemy was one of the bands that brought me back to listening metal music but they just feel flat and uninspired. And, perhaps more damnably, completely non-menacing.

    • This is about as menacing as a senior citizen in a shopping scooter after a few too many prune and vodka smoothies.

      • And that is really sad. I mean it’s not like they were so kvlt before the lineup changes but they seem to have hit a really long soft and muddy plateau.

        • Excellent description. You have a future in this biz, kid!

          • hubcapiv

            I think what he meant to say was that it’s kind of same-y.

          • Use of forbidden term = 1 week site ban. Send appeals to noappealswillbeheard.com.

          • hubcapiv

            DAMMIT! Do me a favor and make next week all reviews of unsigned ambient black metal one-man band projects. That way I won’t miss anything worthwhile…

          • I think it’s a week of cock rock and post-metal dinner party music. You’ll be so jealous!

          • hubcapiv

            “a week of cock rock and post-metal dinner party music”
            ===
            You make it sound as though those are two separate genres.

          • They are separate, they just sound same-y

          • hubcapiv

            Full circle. NICE.

          • It’s like an insurrection tonight!

          • sathriel

            Ah, the youths these days *sighs*

  • Robert Turnbull

    For me the quality has dropped off since Doomsday Machine and never recovered. Enjoying the solos, but the rest is rather bland.

  • Zadion

    Haven’t heard the album myself as I’ve always been a firm believer that Arch Enemy sucks, but the one thing that stood out to me from the tracks I sampled on YouTube was that Alyssa actually sounds good. The main thing that made The Agonist unlistenable to me was Alyssa’s utterly abysmal vocals, but somehow she’s not only listenable but somehow compliments the music here. WTF?

    I like the title track a lot, though.

    • The last agonist record I heard wasn’t that bad actually. Not really memorable since I can’t even remember the name, though.

    • Finn

      I disagree entirely, loved her vocals in The Agonist, but I don’t think she really fits in Arch Enemy.

  • Ralph Plug

    Vocal-wise they’ve definitely taken a huge step back from Gossow. And it’s probably just me, but I really feel the urge to kick Alyssa White-Gluz in the teeth because of those annoyingly stupid blue stripes on her face. If I was a woman, I would, too.

    • C’mon. No violence against vocalists whose style you don’t like, please.

      • Ralph Plug

        Fair point. I’d like to give her a big bouquet of flowers because of those annoyingly stupid blue stripes on her face, then. :)

      • Upay

        What about Tim Owens?

        • AFAICR, he has never wanted to kick him in the teeth, he, nevertheless, has told in very emphatic terms he wishes for him to stop singing.

        • I have never wished violence against Tim Owens! I just refuse to pretend he has talent.

    • Zadion

      I don’t mind the stripes and in fact I rather like her style, but that “scene” look is such a sharp contrast to the music that it almost makes her look like a joke. I try not to judge bands based on the band members’ aesthetics, but…

      • Scene and not heard, eh?

        • Darren

          Get out.

        • JWG

          That was awful.

          I mean. I laughed, but I did so in a public place and now everyone is staring at me enough that I feel massively self-conscious. Therefore: that was awful.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    So it’s the same as the last 5 albums? I think I’ll pass…

  • Andres Pintos Nocerino

    i enjoy it, but it’s too comercial

  • Ernesto Aimar

    I stop caring for Arch Enemy since Rise of the Tyrant, but this album, comercial as it is and catchy as hell, sound to me better than their previous two. Still, Anthems of Rebellion still stands as my fav from them.

    The change of vocalist is purely business. A hot chick stands to replace another hot chick….any vocalist in the scene can scream as harsh and rough as Alyssa, but hell, she sells more.

  • Piet

    Arch Enemy and Epica are the two bands that get the most undeserved shit imo. Seriously their so called fans give them sooo much shit it’s disgusting.
    Good review though. While I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, the songs I’ve heard so far sound much more interesting than their last few albums.

  • Pacal

    I think Doomsday Machine and especially Rise of the Tyrant are great records.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    Excellent review. I gotta admit that I think Khaos Legions was actually quite a bit worse than War Eternal; I actually hated Khaos Legions with the exception of one or two tracks, while War Eternal flows nicely overall even though very few tracks really seem to stick. So in my book 2014 Arch Enemy have managed to improve their really uninspired 2011 form, even though just by a bit.

    What I think AE’s problem is that prevents them reaching former ‘brilliance’ (as in super-catchy and decent to well-written melodeath) is that they seem to have got it into their heads that the whole ‘war-anthem’ thing is what makes Arch Enemy sell. They seem to want to repeat ‘We Will Rise’ and ‘Nemesis’ over and over again, and fill albums with songs that primarily work well in a live setting and/or for the younger audience. This leaves their recent efforts – especially the most recent two – feel rather bland and too polished.

    It’s a shame though that with doing this they leave a great amount of potential for inspiration untapped; what made their early post-Liiva albums stand out – and what makes Wages of Sin pretty much the pinnacle of their music – is also focusing on more personal, brutal and gloomy aspects of their sound. ‘Enemy Within’, ‘Behind the Smile’ and ‘Shadows and Dust’ are examples of those kind of tracks that are completely lacking on War Eternal, which leaves us (like stated before) with ‘We Will Rise’ copy 1-11. But then a little to a lot worse.

    But hey, that’s just how I think!

    • David Rosales

      I agree completely.

  • flashgordon

    Can’t understand this Arch Enemy thing with female singers… Clearly, there was a huge amount of creativity going for this album, a lot of great riffs and solos. For me, it was the easiest AE album to get through in the last decade and I really liked the power metal feeling, but the vocals…

  • RyanM1985

    Arch Enemy are the definition of a band lacking any passion other than money. Same shit, different album.

  • Finn

    I agree with most of this review, I definitely preferred Khaos Legions. They’ve gone more for the anthemic catchy stuff again, with a slightly different spin admittedly, but I prefer their heavier and faster tracks, which Khaos Legions had in greater amount and did it better. I think Alissa is wasted in this band, not getting to make use of her clean vocals, and her harsh vocals don’t have the power that Angela’s did. Wish she’d just stayed with The Agonist, their new singer is rather generic in comparison, and Arch Enemy could definitely do with someone more “brootal”.

  • Grymm

    Stigmata and Burning Bridges were okay.

    The rest? Meh.

    • Ken Hagdal

      Wages of Sin was pretty good too.

  • Eric Freely

    Is it just me, or does everything they put out sound like repeats of previous songs? These guys aren’t taking any risks anymore, just becoming boring, bland, rebellious teen music.

    Only so much a hawt vocalist and some good solo’s can do for you.

  • I actually prefer this over their last few releases. I wasn’t an Angela fan at all and actually prefer Alicia’s vocals. Their first three releases are legendary and they should have asked Johan back into the band, that would have been the main way to get me excited again. Burning Bridges is far and away their best.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Only gave it a couple listens so far but I thought the second half of the album was much more interesting and contained something a bit different for AE. I don’t think they make a lot of money from this type of music(some people are suggesting below). AE has never had much depth, its just kick ass enjoyable metal. Sometimes that’s enough.

  • real talk

    Gossow was great on her first album everything else was average but khaos war was unbearable. This album is just nasty.

  • Tristan gummow

    Im loosing all respect for this site. First you prop an album that isnt even metal as best metal album of 2014 (BARF) now you slam War Eternal/ArchEnemy with a 2.5. Since day one ArchEnemy whole modus operandi has been the guitars and drums. Its Carcass with a new voice. War Eternal has some seriously evil black death riffs and the instrumentals and intros to songs like Time Is Black shows a serious lack of understanding of music on the reviewers end. Ive been playing guitar for 27 almost 28 years, and the quality of the guitar work in ArchEnemy is far beyond what you see in most bands, very few could even nip at the heels let alone compete. But sure whatever promote flaky 70s jazz, groove what ever the hell you call it crap and slam real metal bands like ArchEnemy, Insomnium and In Morning

    • Good guitar playing doesn’t mean good songs or a good album (see most Yngwie albums). And comparing these guys to Carcass is just plain silly.

      • Tristan gummow

        Its only silly if you havent listened to Carcass lol. Its similarity to Heartwork and previous in the guitar work is beyond obvious. And some bands shine on a few facets, look at Exodus for example the vocals are crap but amazing guitar work. You gotta give cred where its due. And for the record listening to albums doesnt equate musical understanding. Its like talking to my 50 year old room mate whos stuck in the 70s and cant accept the talent because of the vocals oh nos growls and death screams. Yeah the vocals kinda ruin/bring down the album but a few beers and a 1000w surround and a gweeder guy like me its heaven. Kinda reminiscent of Burn The Priest, ignore the vocals and key in on the instruments. Great if you gotta go all gung-ho

        • I’ve listened to a lot of Carcass and they’re considered an iconic band for a reason. Arch Enemy never will be. And if you need to ignore vocals to enjoy an album, it isn’t a very good album.
          And I did give credit where it was due by saying the guitar-work was very good.

  • Jan Kafka

    Angela Gossow is one of the best death metal vocalists I have ever heard. Great stage presence too…