Arch Enemy – Ballsy And Adventurous!
The new and ballsy album from Arch Enemy has hit the racks and, fortunately, I cane across one of the limited Box Set versions of the album. This thing was a bargain at $64 Australian dollars, approximately $50 U.S. What do you get for your 50 bucks, well let me tell you, if all albums were packaged as well as this, the record industry would experience a rise in sales. This thing is amazing. It all comes in a hard cover box that, when once opened, features the 12 inch vinyl gatefold version of the new album, along with the digipack deluxe edition CD. It also has a 7 inch e.p. filled with tracks that make it worth the while just for this alone. On top of that, there’s a nice little book with the handwritten lyrics printed beautifully and a really nice huge poster of the album artwork, which itself is stunning. There’s also a turntable mat with a cool printing of the serpent from the artwork, a pack of postcards and finally a pack of stickers.
All hail, Arch Enemy, a band that has the balls to give the fans what they want. So, onto the album and is it any good? From the second the first chords ring out on album opener “Set Flame To The Night”, you know you are listening to Arch Enemy. That sound is so distinctive that the only other band you can mistake it for is Carcass and the reason for that is the familiar tones of Enemy guitarist Michael Amott, a former member of Carcass. The sound of the guitar is crisp and over the top comes the sounds of police cars with wailing sirens, choppers and police radio on the hunt for a fugitive. There’s that familiar melodic guitar opener before it all goes silent and the crunching speed riff comes in as vocalist Alissa white-Gluz conjures a voice straight from the pits of Hell.
I have to be honest, when I heard a few years back that vocalist Angela Gossow had left the band, I thought well that’s the end of Arch enemy for me, but then I heard the new music and, boy, was I blown away. This is one in a short line of bands that have survived more than one vocalist change.
Back to the track in question. The song speeds along with some pummelling double kick and guttural growls stamping their mark all over the surface of the ripping guitar riff. As usual with Arch Enemy, I love all the time changes throughout the song. Sometimes they remind me of Iron Maiden in that way.
The soloing throughout is as impeccable as you would think from Amott and former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis. Towards the end of the track, the tappathon guitar solo is just shredding the skin off your face as it throbs from the speakers and then we’re done.
“The Race” kicks in with more of a staccato type riff and sounds quite tame compared to what we usually get from the band. The spoken word comes in over the top and we almost get a clean vocal from Gluz. This one sounds a bit more Euro metal with that Carcass-sounding riff, similar to the track “Keep On Rotting In The Free World“. I love the melodies in this track, something which this spectacularly heavy band are famous for and shows how great these guys are as musicians. There’s some amazing guitar soloing throughout the song in parts which sound like one of Mozart’s symphonies. These guys aren’t setting the bar for others to follow, they are the bar.
“Blood In The Water” fires off with its storming thrash beats and punchy guitar tones ringing out over the top. The vocals are extremely aggressive throughout and there’s that distinctive European metal sound in parts. Jesus, this song is heavy as we have blast beats, Slayer-style screaming solos and some of the heaviest power chord riffing on the album so far. I love how the track fades in and out towards the end, with a slow headbanging beat before we get a taste of piano and whispered vocals slowing the whole track down before it destroys once again. Definitely one to annoy the neighbours with!
“The Eagle Flies Alone” fades in with haunting keyboard before a nice clean riff comes to give it more atmosphere and then the fist pumping riff breaks out and we’re racing off again. This track keeps a nice pace and really catches the ear. I like the backing vocals Gluz multi tracks over herself in parts, as it just gives the whole thing a different tone. This is definitely the Arch Enemy of the past, but with a new twist. I like how the track changes pace three minutes in, with some blistering solos full of harmonics before sliding into an almost Hair Metal type solo and then we come full circle to the piano finale.
“Reason To Believe” is another track that begins with a cool slow clean riff and a touching guitar solo. This is a first for Arch Enemy, as Gluz is actually singing rather than growling and you know what she has an amazing voice. I don’t know how she flicks back and forth from the clean to the growl. This track is definitely a departure for the band, as it’s pretty much a ballad from my point of view. I’m liking this new direction they are following and I personally think this track is epic.
“Murder Scene” enters with a barrelling drumbeat and, from there on in, absolutely destroys. Is an appropriate title, as it’s like being pounded over the head with a blunt instrument, leaving blood spattered walls and your lifeless body behind, with the iPod on repeat. There’s some kick ass solos on here the drum beat is pummelling throughout, only letting up for a quick gulp of air and then dragging you back into the depths again. Love the vocals at the end and the change of riff before it comes back to where it started.
“First Day In Hell” commences with a sinister riff, almost sounding like one of those haunting Slayer compositions, such as “Dead Skin Mask”. I like the double picked galloping riff that plays throughout the start of the song, gaining pace as it goes along. The building pentatonic style soloing that sits over the top of the main riff just fits in great and then it all comes to a slow plodding head nodder before launching into those double kick blasts once again. The slow grinding riff has a ring to it that’s just catching me where I like it.
“Saturnine” is a one minute musical piece that intro’s with what sounds like one of those saloon pianos from the old Western movies. It kind of plays as an prelude to the next track “Dreams Of Retribution”, which again continues with some slow organ sounding music, a languid building solo over the top and a choir singing in the background. All of a sudden, it bursts into life with a ferocious tapped out guitar riff and screaming vocals. What sounds like a harpsichord plays out over the top of a slower paced riff midway, before it crunches away again.
“My Shadow And I” is extremely heavy and doesn’t let up from the off. The breakdown before the chorus kicks off is well done. I love the slightly out of tune sounding guitar winding away over a played out organ sounding key pattern before it cranks up again. The soloing around the two minute mark that winds around the vocals is literally as stunning as Gluz.
The opening to “A Fight I Must Win” sounds like a scene from Saving Private Ryan. It’s very orchestral; even when the guitars come in, they just flow along with the orchestral music. This riff is awesome that’s just joined the party, so much so that I can’t even explain how good it is! It’s so crushingly heavy that the few small objects I’ve placed on my sub woofer have finally come crashing onto the floor for the first time since this album has been playing. It’s grinding and pumping like a guitar-driven engine piston. This whole track has some great hooks on it, even sounding at times like a good 80’s cock rocking anthem.
All this goodness is topped off with an extra bonus track of a cover of G.B.H.’s “City Baby Attacked By Rats”.
So, as always, I’ll give you my final thoughts on the album – wow, wow and wow – need I say more. I honestly thought, after quite a few albums from Arch Enemy that there would never be any sign of progression. At first, I was thinking how can they replace Angela Gossow and this must be the end of the band. Then they hire Alissa white Gluz and, even though it starts off sounding like business as usual for the band, it takes a hard right turn and shocks even me when Gluz actually sings clean on one full track and in places throughout. This is definitely a step in the right direction for the band and I like them all the more for it.