Arch Enemy is planning for a busy fall, 2018 and beyond. On the heels of announcing their new album, Will To Power, due out on 8th September via Century Media Records, and a co-headline tour of the USA with Trivium, the band has announced additional headline tour dates in Europe for early next year. Details can be found below: Continue reading
Time to sojourn out to the Palladium once again for another show on a brisk Autumn Saturday night! While I am hitting seemingly less shows than in past years (still about one every 1-2 weeks) there are certain tours you have to make sure you see. Kreator is one of the most legendary thrash bands ever and always puts on a satisfying live show. Arch Enemy, with the new blood injected by Alissa White-Gluz definitely had the curiosity factor going for it, but AE too has always been nothing if not very consistently excellent as a live proposition. Surely lots of fans wanted to know if the band still had the goods without Angela Gossow, but if you listened to War Eternal (Century Media), you had plenty of evidence to go on. Getting to the venue early, I saw a ton of people in early for the VIP/soundcheck and you could here for a block around the venue, the co-headliners had brought their A-game on this day. Also, I need to send a special shout out to my bro Dan for getting out to the show early and having a blast all day with me. Good times broseph!
Due to some Ghost Cult business, I missed the second stage opening bands, many of whom I was looking forward to seeing. It’s tough parsing up my time, but think in 2015 I am going to give more time to underground acts and locals when possible. Anycase the first band I caught on this night was Starkill and I was pleasantly surprised by how well put together they were live. The early light crowd in the venue early was definitely feeling these guys and their intense performance. They were heavy and tight and seemed very comfortable in what could have been an intimidating situation. I may have to give their just release Virus of the Mind Album (Century Media) another listen as perhaps I shelved that one away a little too quickly a few months back.
I’m not entirely sure what is going on with Huntress these days. They had me in the fold early on in their career with their blend of proto-metal, occasional thrash and occult rock influences. I knew Jill Janus was occasionally cheesy on the mic, certainly her lyrics you can skip, but she could deliver vocally and the band has been very solid at times. Perhaps I caught the band on a bad night, but they had a dismal performance. Jill voice was definitely suffering from some malady, sounding hoarse, and the band overall was lackluster. The set list didn’t help their cause either since other than a few songs off of their debut, they played a chunk of their latest album, which I also didn’t enjoy much. I think ahead of their next album, this is a band that really needs to evaluate themselves hardcore, and go back to playing to their strengths. There are a lot of bands that do what they do with making it such a poor mish-mosh.
By comparison Kreator was amazeballs, but you just knew they would be. Whatever fountain of youth these guys have access to, please point me in the right direction. There tireless Teutonic Thrash warriors just deliver every single time I have ever seen them, dating back to club shows in the 90s. They played a badass set of old jams and new classics for an unrelenting set that clocked in at about one hour. Mille Petrozza continues to be one of the best front men in metal, never sacrificing his immense playing ability for his vocals. Playing a set comprised of tracks from across their history, the highlights were opener ‘Violent Revolution’, Extreme Aggression’, ‘Enemy of God, and ‘Hordes of Chaos’ among others. The pit action was non-stop basically the entire set and I wondered how Arch Enemy would do to match this. The band performed like the seasoned, veteran act that they are had the crowd eating out of their hand. I am ready for 2015 to bring a new Kreator album, how about you?
As the roadcrew took a while to change over Kreator’s set for Arch Enemy’s staging (although they used the same lighting rig, I surveyed the crowd. It was a little on the light side for these top two bands and in this venue, but in fairness there had a plethora of shows this week and the annual Rock And Shock festival was the week before. Still, there was a full crowd in front of the stage and they were ready to get their Arch Enemy on, as it has been a while since the band was in front of their American fans to put on a show.
And put on a show they did! Following the into music the crowd welcomed back this long running institution of modern melodic death metal. From the very first notes and guttural roar of White-Gluz announcing the band to the stage with opening song, ‘Enemy Within’, it was on! The pit was active early on in the set as they chopped their way through tracks like ‘War Eternal’, ‘Ravenous’, and ‘Revolution Begins’ before even addressing the audience. The band just seemed to have a fierceness I had not seen from them in a long time, and dare I say they were up there having fun.
At this point, much has been made of Alissa’s rise to front the band, the departure of Gossow, and War Eternal. Hey, change is hard when it comes to your favorite bands. However, chances are, if you were not into the Angela years, you aren’t going to run back screaming for them. On the other hand, Alissa has already proven to be a more than worthy successor, even putting her own stamp on a few classics, but always doing the music justice and sounding brutal as fuck. Let’s not analyze her to death for no reason, just listen and enjoy.
As fun as she was fronting The Agonist, Alissa excelled at pumping up the crowd and getting the audience to participate. Although the moshers were looking tired from my vantage point, she kept extolling them to wake up, scream along and generally have a good time.
As far as the rest of the band, it is always the Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson show. Sure the entire band is talents, but Michael and Daniel are worth the price of admission, always. Amott’s soloing and tone sound a crisp and round as ever and he had his usual army of fan-boys in the crowd.
The band impressed me with their energy the entire set long, that went for almost 20 tracks and an hour and a half. It’s great to see a veteran band really act like one, and put on a long set night after night. If you want to just be a hater, then fine. But if you have ever cared about this band and are on the fence about their new front woman or new album, I’m here to tell you to get over yourself and give them a fair chance. You might just get blown away.
WORDS: KEITH CHACHKES
It has been a while since Arch Enemy last issued a record or toured, and many changed were happening within the band since the last time we had heard from them.
Since the release of their 2011 album Khaos Legions (Century Media), the band had gone through some lineup changes. Longtime guitarist Christopher Amott departed in 2012 and was replaced by former Arsis guitarist Nick Cordle.
Entering the release of their latest recording, War Eternal, a bombshell was dropped over the news of longtime vocalist Angela Gossow leaving the band. A statement was issued online prior to the debuting of their first single of the title track.
So when did the band learn of her intentions of departing? Guitarist Michael Amott explained how the conversation started: “It was a long time coming. The writing was on the wall. We kind of knew what was up. When she finally broke it to us, we sat down and talked about it last year. It wasn’t such a huge surprise or came out of nowhere. It was the position that was quite difficult. I was writing the new album together [with her] but at the same time I didn’t have a singer. We’ve had the same team for a very long time, but you also fear the worst. The shit would be very difficult – all kinds of stuff pops into your head at that point.”
Strangely the conversation took an odd turn when Gossow suggested their newest member as her replacement – former Agonist vocalist Alissa White-Gluz.
“The transition wasn’t as bad as I expected,” he said. “At the same time, she’ s stepping down and moving on. She urged us to continue with Arch Enemy, and she also suggested Alissa. She said she obviously couldn’t pick a singer for you but she thought Alissa would do a fantastic job with Arch Enemy. [Alissa’s] name came into the mix almost immediately a lot of things going on. We established contact [with Alissa] and flew her to Sweden. We worked on new music with her, and collaborated with her on the new stuff. We did demoed with her on the new stuff and rehearsed with the whole band, playing plenty of the old stuff from our catalog. We did a lot of work for a month. By the time she left Sweden and went back home, we felt like there is a future for this band and can move forward and Alissa’s the most likely the one to do it with.”
Amott admitted that White-Gluz was their only candidate for the position and a formal audition process never happened.
“To be honest with you, we didn’t really consider anybody else. It all happened very quickly. We had time to figure it out and Alissa was the one. We weren’t rushed into it so we had plenty of time. We thought ‘ let’s see what it’ s like to work with her here’ and that was very promising. It felt great so we didn’t consider anybody else.”
He said he was familiar with White-Gluz from her prior band, but he wanted to make sure that her abilities would work well within Arch Enemy. After putting her through multiple testing sessions, she passed with flying colors and won the band over.
“I knew of her from her former band. We also didn’t know what she would sound like in Arch Enemy with our style of songwriting and production…our approach is different than her former band. We could always imagine what it would sound like but you never know for sure. It was one of those situations where we had to meet up and try it. We jammed the old stuff and recorded it. At the end, it was a perfect match.”
Both Cordle and White-Gluz were involved with the writing of War Eternal, where she wrote lyrics for five songs and Cordle co-wrote and co-produced the record with longtime drummer Daniel Erlandsson. Then they brought in Jens Bogren (Opeth, Paradise Lost) to mix the record.
Bringing in the two newest members injected a new energy into Arch Enemy, helping them expanding their horizons. Plus the two members being in their 20s, it also helped sparking a youth movement within the band. “Probably yeah,” he said, laughing. “I find that very inspiring as well. I mean if you’ re playing with the same kind of people that have the same ideas all the time, then you’ re not gonna come up with something new. There are a lot of examples of that on the album where I’m co-writing with Alissa or Nick and I welcome their new ideas. I think some of it didn’t fit but some of it was like “wow.” If I put my songwriting style together with their new fresh ideas, we’ re reaching a whole new level of writing and it’s something different. I love that. I think that’s what music should be about.”
Like past releases, War Eternal definitely captures Arch Enemy’ s trademark melodic metal sound. Without missing a beat, the first two singles (‘War Eternal’ & ‘You Will Know My Name’) demonstrated what the new record sounded like with White-Gluz on vocals.
“There are two singles out there now and those are fairly traditional Arch Enemy songs. I think our record label (Century Media) picked those because they sound like Arch Enemy! They lean towards the safe songs in a way. I love the first single (‘War Eternal’ ). I think it’s fantastic. It’s a really strong Arch Enemy song, but it features a lot of my personal trademarks in songwriting. You can definitely tell it’s Arch Enemy. I think it was perfect for the first single. It’s already over two and a half million views on YouTube.”
“If you go deeper into the album, there’s a lot of really interesting things going on. This album features the fastest song we’ve ever recorded. It’ s also features the slowest song we’ve ever recorded. It’ s an interesting dynamic. It’ s all over the place. There’ s a song called ‘ Time Is Black’ which is easily the most progressive song we’ve ever worked on. It was the first song we started putting together and the last song we finished. It was a pain in the ass to put together. It was driving us crazy. I couldn’t get it right. At the end when it came together it was rewarding. That song ‘ Time Is Black’ alongside another one called ‘ Avalanche’ and another one called ‘You Will Know My Name’ and also the intro of the album, those four songs feature a real orchestra. We worked with a conductor and an arranger who helped us put it all together. That’ s also another new element for the band. We’ve always had a lot of keyboards on our albums. There are keyboards on the new album as well, but those four songs are with a real orchestra. That’ s something new for the band as well. It sounds really heavy. It’s not like symphonic metal, but it adds so much atmospheric to the songs.
Amott praises his two newest members, but considering being North American based, their musical influences have leaned more European flavored which suited the band well.
“With Nick and Alissa, I think they like a lot of the European stuff. Especially Nick, who I’ve been co-writing a lot of the music with, is a big European metal fan, being Emperor or the classic Judas Priest. I think it’s a lot of the European sound. We definitely have a European sound. It’s not very American sounding. That’s just who we are. I like a lot of American music as well. It’ s just when we write music, it comes out very melodic and very European sounding.”
Some wondered with the addition of White-Gluz if she would incorporate her clean vocal stylings into Arch Enemy. While past vocalists never attempted this, a bit of curiosity opened up about the possibility for future material.
“I don’t know. It’s too early to say. I think Alissa has said herself that Arch Enemy has a style that’s established, needs to be respected, and carried on. But that’s for the future. There’s a little bit of her clean vocals on the new album here and there, but you have to really listen for them. It’s not like it’s in your face. Sometimes people might think it’s keyboards but it’s actually Alissa’s clean voice. She really is an amazing talent. I called her a songwriter’s dream. There’s not a lot she couldn’t do with her voice. She’s a very talented singer.”
“This is our ninth studio album. There’ s a lot of changes going on within the band now. We did a fair amount of experimentation on this album as it is. As far as future albums, I don’t know. I don’t really want to put a limit on myself and say “no I’ll never do that.” Never say never. The way we write these parts, the guitars are doing a lot of the singing.”
“It’ s also what the song and music calls for. I don’ t think these songs call for it. When you look at the band as musicians, there’ s a lot of styles we could do on guitars, drums and bass that we could do, but we don’t just throw everything we can into the music. We have a certain style and whatever keeps the flow going. Then it’s Arch Enemy. When we start writing, it automatically starts going into this unique sound that we have. I think everybody’s in tune. Alissa’s very in tune too. Her first metal CD that she bought was Wages of Sin. It’s kind of a full circle for her.”
As for the band touring, the band is covering the Euro Festival circuit at press time, and a forthcoming North American tour with Kreator, Huntress and Starkill for this autumn.
Ninth album, eighteenth year of existence, and on to Arch Enemy Mk III. For those who don’t know, not only has vocalist and focal point Angela Gossow moved “upstairs” (to a management role, not, um, the spiritual upstairs) and been replaced by The Agonist’s Alissa White-Gluz, but Christopher Amott, younger brother and long-standing guitaring foil of mainman Michael Amott has also flown the nest, replaced by Arsis axeman Nick Cordle.
So, War Eternal (Century Media) finds itself subject to intense focus, with the pressure on the band ramped up. Get it wrong, particularly on the back of the disappointing Khaos Legions last time around, and Arch Enemy fall onto the pile of also-rans, with a legacy that would say released two great albums early on (Black Earth and Burning Bridges), before a period of commercial success then gradual decline into obscurity.
No one need worry. War Eternal is Arch Enemy’s best album. That’s not “best since Burning Bridges”, that’s just best. The blueprint that has been in existence since the Carcass meets In Flames excellence of ‘Bury Me An Angel’, that has been refined and tweaked ever since, has been delivered on, Amott finally pulling it all together. Every strand of the past 18 years is woven together to create that defining moment, to create the Arch Enemy album.
One of the reoccurring criticisms of Gossow was that her delivery was monotonous and a touch sterile. Within the 3 minutes 45 seconds of opener ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget’ Gluz-White has shown she is evolution made flesh, a more than worthy successor who outshines her predecessor. She pitches a blackened throat roar from the off, before spitting out a venomous verse with a lash of hardcore, then flowing into a guttural, more metal chorus. She has range in her vari-growled delivery, and a point to prove; a point she makes continuously throughout the album: “I belong”.
If there is criticism of the newcomer, it is that her lyrics and song titles are a bit obvious and a bit, well, naff, but not to the point of distraction, and are more than compensated by the great work of duellists Amott and Cordle. Each song has riffs, chugs, motifs, refrains, leads, solos, but all working for the good of the song. When the guitar needs to push, like on the thrashy ‘Stolen Life’, they push, when they need to hold back, like on the anthemic ‘On and On’, they let the voice and the rest of the band take centre stage.
Every song is memorable in its’ own right. Every track has notable riffs, great motifs and at least one strong hook per tune, all excellently produced and played. If people still do that rock club thing of standing in a circle air-guitaring and shouting the vocals to each other, throwing heads back when the leads kick in, well, the title track is made for that. ‘As The Pages Burn’ rips from the start, before giving way to slower but extra meaty juddery chorus, while ‘No More Regrets’ and ‘You Will Know My Name’ are archetypical Arch Enemy anthems, taking the approach of a ‘No Gods No Masters’ or ‘Dead Eyes See No Future’, raging, catchy guitars and strong snarl on the vox.
Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Sometimes even if it ain’t broke, fixing it can make it even better.
8.5 / 10