Arch Enemy will be releasing their new live DVD/Blu-ray, As The Stages Burn!, on March 31st, and they’ve just shared the first preview clip online. Continue reading
Here are the “Top 25″ albums I heard this year that didn’t quite make my Top 25. Maybe there’s something in this for you to check out?
As is always the way I’m discovering more great albums from this year now from everyone else’s lists, so, looking forward to checking out Code Orange, Indian, Krokodil, Hark all amongst others!
ANAAL NATHRAKH – Desideratum
Relentless anarchic vitriolic mix of black metal and intense industrial. Reviewed this one – you can read the review here: https://ghostcultmag.com/anaal-nathrakh-desideratum/
ANTROPOMORPHIA – Rites ov Perversion
Old school influenced Death Metal. Good vibe. Nowt new, but bloody well done. Reviewed this one n’all: https://ghostcultmag.com/antropomorphia-rites-ov-perversion/
ARCH ENEMY – War Eternal
Best one they’ve done since Burning Bridges. New vocalist is better than Gossow too. Ha, another I reviewed if you’re interested. https://ghostcultmag.com/arch-enemy-war-eternal/
ARTIFICIAL BRAIN – Labyrinth Constellation
Mental Death Metal.
AUTOPSY – Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves
More great Autopsy, innit
COFFINWORM – IV.I.VIII
Hateful, with big, skull crushing riffs. Heavy, weighty. Bit of sludge, bit of doom.
CONAN – Blood Eagle
Epic, heavy doom, innit. Reviewed n’all: https://ghostcultmag.com/conan-blood-eagle/
DARKEST ERA – Severance
Bit of trad, bit Celtic, good riffs, strong vocals. Promising. Good band, good album. Another I wrote about. https://ghostcultmag.com/darkest-era-severance/ (Not necessarily the song I’d have chosen for a vid, but decent enough)
DELAIN – The Human Contradiction
Poppy, bit more symphonic than I was expecting. Went down a storm at Wembley with Within Temptation too.
DEVIN – Dark Matters
Aka Ziltoid 2. The heavier, more symphonic, more metally of the two parts of the double album. I like it, just a bit too much monkeying around at the expense of the songs, for me.
DRAGONFORCE – Maximum Overload
Not quite as good as ‘The Power Within’ but still proving they write better songs since changing vocalists. Some belters on here, tbf.
ENGEL – Raven Kings
Like In Flames, but heavier guitars and catchier choruses. I like this one (well, I like them all on here, or they wouldn’t be on here, but this surprised me). Wrote about it, too. https://ghostcultmag.com/engel-raven-kings/
EPICA – The Quantum Enigma
Took a few listens, but once it clicked, there’s a lot going on but it’s bloody massive. Symphonic to the max. Another I wrote about. https://ghostcultmag.com/epica-the-quantum-enigma/
GRAND MAGUS – Triumph & Power
Ronseal Metal. Doesn’t quite compare to Hammer of the North or Iron Will to me, but big Valhalla filling songs. Very enjoyable, if no surprises. Another of mine. https://ghostcultmag.com/grand-magus-triumph-and-power/
I AM HERESY – Thy Will
Haven’t listened to it for a while, but appealed a lot at the start of the year, and a good combo of metal and hardcore that mixes it up a bit. https://ghostcultmag.com/i-am-heresy-thy-will/
JOB FOR A COWBOY – Sun Eater
Took me by surprise this one. Adding a large dose of Ulcerate to their sound, but all the better for it. Rather than rattle clattering through a load of sterile overly tight DM/core, they wrote some (very) heavy songs, too.
KING 810 – Memoirs Of A Murderer
The marmite album of 2014! Ha, I liked it. Big angsty anthems. Not perfect, but some quality tunes. Korn meets Slipknot fo’ sho’, but some different stuff going on too. Another one off the review list! https://ghostcultmag.com/king-810-memoirs-of-a-murderer/
LORDI – Scare Force One
I like Alice Cooper. I love King Diamond. This mixes the two with aplomb, delivering a monster munch bunch of good fun tracks. https://ghostcultmag.com/lordi-scare-force-one/
MORBUS CHRON – Sweven
Interesting album, this one. Don’t think I’ve quite given it all the time it deserves, but another I’ve liked this year that doesn’t just sit in a box. It starts from Death Metal but doesn’t stay there.
OBITUARY – Inked In Blood
Really good comeback album. Big grooves. Big riffs. Great tunes. Well done. Best Obi’s album since ‘Cause of Death’ , for me.
ORIGIN – Omnipresent
This is a relentless fucker, this one. Love the aggression, love the riffing, love the technicality, love how much it just wants to punch you in the ear drums.
SLEEP OF MONSTERS – Produces Reason
Babylon Whores are one of my “hidden treasures”, probably the most underrated band of all time, always loved Ike’s vocals, too. He doesn’t quite hit it with his new outfit, but some cool gothy, dark/death rock going on. Grabbed this one for review as soon as it appeared in the inbox. https://ghostcultmag.com/sleep-of-monsters-produces-reason/
SLUGDGE – Gastronomicon
Only heard this once so far, but really impressed me on first go, will be getting a fair few listens going forward. Interesting modern melodic death metal.
TOMBS – Savage Gold
Black metal meets post-metal. Really good shit.
WITHIN TEMPTATION – Hydra
Started the year with this one. Massive pop-metal. Preferred the last one and Silent Force, but it’s got some big old songs, mofos. https://ghostcultmag.com/within-temptation-hydra/
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.
Michael Amott is a busy guy who loves to play guitar and tour the world. He is in the midst of releasing the latest Arch Enemy record, War Eternal (Century Media), which he will be supporting at least for the next two years.
But aside from this, he keeps busy doing music with his other band Spiritual Beggars, which he had been doing for a while and did some touring with as well over the past year.
“We put out a new record last year. I toured in Europe with that band. We went to Japan a couple of times.”
“I’m always doing stuff. I like to stay busy. I do have a lot of music. I don’t have anything else going on in my life. It’s all about music. I don’t have any career or job. I don’t have any hobbies. I play music. It’s just me and my guitar.”
His playing style has become influential upon countless musicians within the modern heavy metal genre, with his melodic overtones within an aggressive sound that he played in Carcass, Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars.
Over the past 15 years, he has encountered countless fans that pay homage to him and his music that has inspired their own respective music, as well as a legion of fans who simply love his music alone.
“It’s a huge compliment. I really appreciate that and I hope that every time somebody comes up and tells me that, I have time to talk to them. I love talking to other musicians, of course, and to inspire some of them out there. It’s a huge honor.”
“I have my favorites that have inspired me and I’ve met a few of them. I’ve hung out with Dave Mustaine, Kerry King…these guys inspired me and also some of the older style players like Michael Schenker, Leslie West, Uli Jon Roth and Frank Marino. I’ve met all of these guys and told them how much they’ve inspired me and asked them a bunch of questions about how they do stuff, like why did you do this, what did you use there, what pedal was that, what kind of bridge was that. They were really friendly and cool to me, so I try to give back as much as I can. I just see it as a mutual respect. The guitar is a really difficult instrument to play and I respect everyone and treat everyone as an equal.”
As told to REI NISHIMOTO
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