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Arch Enemy - "Rise of the Tyrant" (CD)

Arch Enemy - "Rise of the Tyrant" CD cover image

"Rise of the Tyrant" track listing:

1. "Blood on Your Hands" - 04:41
2. "The Last Enemy" - 04:15
3. "I Will Live Again" - 03:32
4. "In This Shallow Grave" - 04:54
5. "Revolution Begins" - 04:11
6. "Rise of the Tyrant" - 04:33
7. "The Day You Died" - 04:52
8. "Intermezzo Libertè" - 02:51
9. "Night Falls Fast" - 03:18
10. "The Great Darkness" - 04:46
11. "Vultures" - 06:35

Reviewed by on May 14, 2008

"[Angela Gossow] truly seems to now have secured a comfortable niche in the world of male metal vocals, largely abandoning the growls of albums past to thrill listeners with high-pitched singing that borders on a black metal type of evil."

I was seriously unenthused about "Rise of the Tyrant" until I listened to it and realized that Arch Enemy was back to exuding some intensity as it did when Angela Gossow was first brought on board with the well-crafted “Wages Of Sin.” Fredrik Nordström is back in the saddle producing this album, which probably also helps to account for the “Wages Of Sin” zest, and the keyboards popping in and out. The metalcore-styled tracks from “The Doomsday Machine” got the boot, and so did the uninspired lyrics. Consequentially, there’s no need to worry about grimacing through another “Skeletons Dance.”

A pleasant shockwave hit me as the album fired up, “Is this seriously Angela’s voice?” I thought. Yes, and she sounds ten times fiercer than ever before. The vigorous opening of “Blood On Your Hands” evokes the “Wages” opening, which is a great way to set up the album, as brothers Michael and Christopher Amott really fire up the guitar-dueling in earnest. Christopher Amott is generally being given credit for returning and bringing the guitars back to life, and certainly “more solos!” appears to be the name of the game on this release. Although the refrain reminds me a bit of shouting “Taking Back My Soul,” “Blood On Your Hands” is still a solid opening track with an almost meditative riff carried through it.

“I Will Live Again” opts to proceed in a more brooding vein, guitars chugging along behind her voice before shifting into high-pitched wails. Sharlee D’Angelo has his turn to thunder out “The Last Enemy” and Gossow really picks up the speed of her singing to complement the instrumentation. Angela has long since proven she can belt out the metal as well as her contemporaries, so it would be nice to see her maintaining this faster pace with more regularity.

“In This Shallow Grave” showcases Gossow screeching with all her might. She truly seems to now have secured a comfortable niche in the world of male metal vocals, largely abandoning the growls of albums past to thrill listeners with high-pitched singing that borders on a black metal type of evil. Gossow is clearly busting her ass to put this voice forward, and her efforts bring about some top-notch snarling.

Arch Enemy is still clearly into their pattern of fast songs that trail off into slower choruses, when they should be harnessing all of that built-up energy. The pensive guitar interludes add some personality to the music and make new sounds surface throughout the course of each piece, but the tendency to constantly drop into a slower tempo becomes a bit irksome to the metal fan. Another strike against this album references a “Doomsday Machine” technique, as the energy tapers off and the music becomes a great deal less interesting.

“Revolution Begins” drags a bit and fails to stir up the masses with the effectiveness of their call-to-arms numbers, like “We Will Rise.” “The Day You Died” proffers a more imaginative song which changes up the typical arrangement a bit, but drops into “Intermezzo Liberte,” a very classic Arch Enemy instrumental. “The Great Darkness” features an eerie, chanting choir in the background, that follows up Gossow’s primal screeching and the Amotts’ super-fast guitar work with a nice effect.

“Rise Of The Tyrant” began teetering on the fence with that medium pace, and an unfortunate Arch Enemy tendency to bore listeners after the mid-mark. Thankfully, the last two songs serve as the release’s saving grace -- to be fair, “Vultures” is an excellent closing track and perhaps one of their best tracks to date.

There’s a lyrical maturity evidenced here, strengthened as it goes hand-in-hand with better playing than the group has put forth for some time. I can assure fans who were fearing an even more user-friendly release that as the name implies, Arch Enemy appears to be concerned with issues of injustice and revolution, actually quite similar to Kalmah’s “For The Revolution.”

The increased rapidity of the playing throughout “Rise Of The Tyrant” is commendable - it’s very driven, although the end product is really too melodic to be considered terribly dark or heavily inspired by standard death and thrash elements. This isn’t exactly a departure for Arch Enemy, however, and remains generally consistent with the previous output.

Assessing this release solely from the Gossow era, it is a step in the right direction, or at least a better direction, for the band.

Highs: Better singing, better playing, and a better sense of brutality and melody ground Arch Enemy in a more successful "Wages of Sin" type of sound.

Lows: While drawing upon a more successful style from the past, Arch Enemy must put forth a more creative and inspired sound in the future lest they begin to merely regurgitate their former releases.

Bottom line: Fredrik Nordström and Chris Amott throw their talent into the line-up with Angela Gossow's new and improved vocals to reveal an Arch Enemy that the world has not seen for years.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)