Some of the melodic death metal bands that gained some fame in Europe and make a more easy to listen version of it is, of course, Arch Enemy, and in this review I’m gonna talk about their last album, War Eternal, released in 2014, after the legendary Angela Gossow left the band vocals and was replaced by Alissa White-Gluz. This album was the first one I heard of them and, in my opinion, it’s the easiest one to listen to, which doesn’t necessary affect the quality of the music. In general, lyrics, although they’re good ones, seem to me secondary, like they’re just a complement for the music and are at all times at its service. The topics which are covered fit the standards of the genre, about combat, hate, bad feelings, the inevitable and sad fate of human being and the meaninglessness of existence. Another thing I’d like to comment is that all the songs in the album seem to follow the same structure, which contrasts with the more experimental nature of metal in general, but the songs are powerful and complex enough to still catch your attention and stand on their own without relying much on each other.
So, the album starts with Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor) which means Time heals nothing, a classical prelude featuring choirs in Latin, more characteristic of symphonic metal, that I wasn’t expecting to listen in an album like this, but actually it makes a good and surprising beginning. ‘To hate is human‘, recite the choirs, preparing us for what is coming ahead. And after the calm, the storm begins with Never forgive, never forget, a powerful and brutal track of fast rhythms and heavy guitars with not much room for melodic leads, because ‘hate spreads eternal in this black heart of mine‘. Despites, this song gets a little overshadowed by the next and so remains as a transition from the introduction to the first jewel of the album: War Eternal. The speed doesn’t decay, but more melodic guitars and riffs are introduced, and it also includes a solo that lasts almost a minute, which makes it one of the most enjoyable tracks of the album.
With As the pages burn starts a game of slow-downs and speed-ups in rhythms that I particularly love, so this is one of my personal favorites. The verse seem to follow the same scheme that in previous songs, but once the chorus is reached, the rhythm slows down to become sort of decadent, to get faster again. I highlight the bridge of the song, the moment when all the other instruments stop playing and only the guitars remain in the silence is epic, and also the vocals are great. No more regrets keeps on with the rhythm changes of its predecessor, but a bit more melodic, and also has a great bridge of solos and vocals. The intro of You will know my name make us think that calm has returned for a while, but nothing so far. Immediately, lead guitars break in with a powerful question-answer structure that keeps along the song, really melody-lead. I think the solo reminds me a bit of the one in War Eternal, but shorter and more condensed. One thing that doesn’t convince me much about this one song in particular are the teenager-like lyrics, about incomprehension and rejection, but anyway, music is superb.
And after this burst of energy, comes Graveyard of dreams, to give us a rest. This instrumental track is so melancholic and beautiful that it could have lasted much more than just one minute. Also it makes a good prelude to Stolen life, a rough song that goes to the point without excessive complexity in contrast with the previous ones. Time is black begins with the sound of a lullaby and a baby crying, to burst into an obscure tune of classical influence and orchestral arrangement with a curious ‘oneiric’ effect that I appreciated. Also vocals are great, those screams of ‘Time is black, nothing will remain. Nothing‘ sounded so true and convincing. From this point on while I was listening to the album the first times, it was more difficult to me to pay the same attention, as the songs started to sound a bit repetitive one after the other but, when listen separately, their still interesting. On and On is still on the line of the songs of the first half of the album, while Avalanche brings more classical sounds and choirs, the only part of the album where Alissa uses her clean voice. Down to nothing presents brutal vocals, variations of rhythm, solos, etc., that we’ve seen in previous tracks, putting an end to the ‘hard’ part of the album (Like the wind, the stormy seas, I held the poison, I had the power, I will return…), to finish quietly with Not long for this world, the final instrumental track that puts a perfect final to this album, which ends with the sound of a heart that stops beating.
In conclusion, although War Eternal has some downsides like the maybe a bit repetitive structure of songs and sounds, the songs are still catchy and interesting and it seems that the change of vocalist and guitarist has brought new ideas to the band. Honestly, I was going by a period of musical boredom until I listened to this album, which brought to me some fresh air and a new subgenre to explore. A must listen.