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Arch Enemy - "War Eternal" (CD)

Arch Enemy - "War Eternal" CD cover image

"War Eternal" track listing:

1. Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F Minor)
2. Never Forgive, Never Forget
3. War Eternal
4. As The Pages Burn
5. No More Regrets
6. You Will Know My Name
7. Graveyard of Dreams
8. Stolen Life
9. Time is Black
10. On And On
11. Avalanche
12. Down To Nothing
13. Not Long For This World
Bonus track: Shadow On The Wall (Mike Oldfield cover)

Reviewed by on May 30, 2014

"Arch Enemy is making a run for the crown with 'War Eternal' with improbable speed and perseverance. Long live the war machine! This is WAR ETERNAL!"

Ten albums deep into their career, one would assume that a band wouldn't have much to prove. Ten albums is a statement. Ten albums commands compulsory respect. Ten albums, however, carries a heavier burden for a melodic death metal band -- especially one that has helped create and shape the genre itself since 1996. Moreover, it is no easy task for a band that bills itself as "the most heavy melodic band of all time." Whether or not that description is true of the band, one thing is for sure: Arch Enemy believes that the war for dominance in metal is eternal, and that its members must be vigilant and operate at a peak.

Despite maintaining steady intensity over a string of albums between 2005 and 2011, some listeners and critics considered those years to be a period of stagnation for the band's melodic aspects. Those fair-weather fans will be glad to know that they can now consider the band to be back to the heights of "Wages of Sin" melodic levels. Instantly memorable, the riffs of "No More Regrets," "Never Forgive, Never Forget," "Time Is Black," and "Avalanche" jump out like no prior Arch Enemy riffs. There is even a "Snow Bound"-esque instrumental that truly emotes. Moreover, the band is playing faster and harder than it ever has before, thanks in part to the influence of speed demon guitarist Nick Cordle (of Arsis).

Not content to just show off instrument skills, the band has brought in symphonic string sections for multiple songs on this album. They didn't try anything groundbreaking, choosing only to accentuate the atmosphere of the compositions with unobtrusive arrangements. This was a wise decision, along with the shift to a different style of vocal growl from new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, formerly of The Agonist. Despite her previous blend of clean singing and growled vocals, there is no clean singing to be found on the record at all. In its place is undiluted rage.

Alissa's contributions in no way change the fabric of the band, a war machine rolling forward. Still, different than Angela Gossow's, Alissa's vocals tend to be a little more lower-register in pitch and with less velociraptor ferocity, but more visceral. Thankfully, the band does break the Arch Enemy lyrical mold for this record. Almost any lyrics that venture out of the subjects of apocalypse, rising up, and shaking the world would have been welcome here, given the lack of content on the last few albums. The text of songs like "Never Forgive, Never Forget" and "You Will Know My Name" are substantive and welcome additions to Arch Enemy's lyrical lexicon.

Not content with its place as one of the most prolific and highest-performing melodic death metal acts of all time (Dark Tranquillity and In Flames put out comparably milder tenth albums and Soilwork and Evergrey have yet to reach ten albums), Arch Enemy is making a run for the crown with "War Eternal" with improbable speed and perseverance. May the war machine keep turning! This is WAR ETERNAL!

Highs: "You Will Know My Name" and "No More Regrets."

Lows: New vocalist Alissa White-Gluz will make or break the album for some.

Bottom line: A major statement of a tenth album, confirming Arch Enemy's prowess and skill.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)