Halm­stad’s melodeath mavens con­tinue to evolve

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Albums -

three years Swedish melodeath be­he­moths Arch En­emy have pulled off a feat that would be in­sur­mount­able for most bands. Switch­ing vo­cal­ists is a no­to­ri­ously tricky busi­ness at the best of times. Yet when The Ago­nist chanteuse Alissa White-Gluz re­placed Arch En­emy’s for­mi­da­ble, long-term front­woman An­gela Gos­sow three years ago, the tran­si­tion couldn’t have been smoother, with fans ac­cept­ing Alissa into the fold un­equiv­o­cally. So go­ing into their 10th al­bum with the heavy lift­ing out of the way, Arch En­emy can get back to fo­cus­ing on what they do best. Mostly, Will To Power fol­lows their well-honed tem­plate of pol­ished, su­per-catchy and ex­pertly crafted melodeath, chock-full of florid, rip­pling leads and colos­sal, re­as­sur­ingly crush­ing riffs.

Af­ter in­tro Set Flame To The Night, gui­tarist Michael Amott’s trade­mark smooth, sup­ple fret­work leads the way into a salvo of war­mon­ger­ing cra­nium-in­vaders. From the fu­ri­ous, stomp­ing rif­fery of The Race, to the chrome­plated swag­ger of Blood In The Wa­ter and slickas-hell crush-fest of The World Is Yours, each is an im­me­di­ate and me­morable call to arms.

This al­bum is Arch En­emy’s first to fea­ture ex-Nev­er­more leg­end Jeff Loomis, who re­placed gui­tarist Nick Cor­dle in late 2014. De­spite be­ing Nev­er­more’s main song­smith, Jeff hasn’t con­trib­uted to the song­writ­ing on Will To Power. While it’s bizarre that Arch En­emy haven’t utilised Jeff’s writ­ing chops, un­doubt­edly his pres­ence has raised the sonic bar. You can clearly hear his im­pact in the wild, face-melt­ing so­los splashed across the al­bum, es­pe­cially the flurry of fren­zied notes on the ram­pag­ing Dreams Of Retri­bu­tion and in the dev­as­tat­ing two-part gui­tar as­sault of chug­ging high­light First Day In Hell.

Vo­cally too, if any­thing, Alissa’s raspy growls are even stronger this time round, es­pe­cially dur­ing the sec­ond, grander and heav­ier half of the al­bum where the band ex­plore darker themes of per­sonal strug­gle and re­venge. On the dense ar­range­ments of A Fight I Must Win and My Shadow And I, amid strate­gi­cally placed strings, Alissa’s pow­er­ful vo­cals add an­other shot of adren­a­line to an epic mix.

Of course, her pro­fi­ciency as a clean vo­cal­ist for The Ago­nist has had fans ex­chang­ing wor­ried mur­mur­ings since her ar­rival, and if you’re one of them, you might want to look away now.

Not only does Will To Power con­tain the band’s first dab­blings with clean vo­cals which ap­pear on sev­eral tracks as back­ing vox, it also boasts Rea­son To Be­lieve, their first ever, largely clean-sung power bal­lad. Sure, it’s go­ing to be a hard sell for some Arch En­emy fans and it cer­tainly wouldn’t have worked in the

An­gela era, but here it does, based on a sim­ple, gleam­ing re­frain with a huge cho­rus and scratchy, big-lunged, clean vo­cals from

Alissa that will de­mand mass, arms-aloft, sin­ga­longs. It’s a brave move for a band who haven’t re­ally de­vi­ated son­i­cally from their tem­plate for two decades. The ma­jor­ity of

Will To Power is son­i­cally very much busi­ness as usual, but this is a solid al­bum from a band who, 20 years into their ca­reer, are em­brac­ing evo­lu­tion.

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