I confess. Sometimes I do look into the opinions other reviewers express. Not so much to gain specific word-by-word insight, but more to get a general drift of a record.
Usually, the sum of all parts gives you a pretty good idea of where an album resides. It is a bit like Trip Advisor, where you get the gist of things from the overall rating. But not from the detailed wording of endless badly written and subjective comments.
For any record you will always find the fanboys and girls schmoozing the audience in glowing, sugary colors on the beauty of whatever is being discussed. And – in contrast – you will get the masters of grouch warming up, spewing their usual greenish bile. Yet, almost always the bitter truth sits somewhere in the middle.
Now in Arch Enemy‘s latest Will to Power an abyss just opened up.
Black or white. The forces of evil pitched against the mighty powers of good. Where good is hardcore Melodic Death Metal and bad is the cheesy realms of the pop kings and queens. The divide between opinions is tremendous. So, it is with some trepidation that the RMR floor started on this new album from the master croakers from the North.
Will to Power is the second album with Alissa White-Gluz at the helm of this mighty ship called Arch Enemy. If you remember, she replaced Angela Gossow and kicked off her tenure in this band with the pretty sturdy 2014 album War Eternal. Their last record’s dramatic riffing and soloing, the meaty tune, and of course Alissa’s bobcat approach to aggressiveness really got on my good side. Even if the record suffered mildly from the similarity game, but this really remained bearable.
Now, Will To Power gets you this first impression of Speed Metal on steroids.
After the endless intro Set Flame to the Night peters out, that is. And this starts with The Race – well, yeah, obviously. The second one? Arch Enemy are up experimental lane. You will find some acoustics in Will to Power as well as Alissa in full clear voice splendor. Which is cool and a pretty good reincarnation of Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale in her weaker moments. But more to that later.
Then again you’ll find some more commercially minded pieces like The Eagle Flies Alone and a few Amaranthe-esque keyboard antics in The World is Yours.
Yet, Arch Enemy are straight on. The demon of endless repetition seriously started to raise its ugly head. And already parts of the fan base and some of the reviewers’ community start to cry foul, even if War Eternal generally got a pretty good reception. The remedy? New scents and flavors, some of them heretically outside of the ever unmoving realm of holy Melodic Death Metal.
And – finally – the band realized that White-Gluz sports a pretty decent clear voice too. So, by making better use of her many talents and starting to experiment with their tune, Arch Enemy indeed rendered their tune a trifle more interesting.
Or did their experimentation go the way mad Frankenstein went? That is of course in the ears of the beholder. As an example, the band started to use a few Epica-esque antics on some of the tracks. And the latter band is nowhere near anything called Death Metal. It will all depend on how far the purists will be able to let things get out of hand.
Yet again, the results are – well – provocative in a sense. You’ll find a ballad of sorts called Reason To Believe. Clear voice, half-screams, and some kind of unfinished growls. And, hey, why not? Other bands like Insomnium already play the clear-voice game quite often.
You’ll also find some forays into Dulcimer’s realm as well in an intermezzo called Saturnine. Not sure what it does there, though. Because the only thing it does is kind of weirdly sit there in the middle of the tracklist.
Or then we get treated to some harpsichord in Dreams of Retribution. And lastly, they pull some symphonics – the Epica effect again – in the intro and at the end of A Fight I Must Win. Once the growling starts though, you will know what band plays. Interestingly on this track, one would think Angela Gossow is back for a moment.
Now for those fearing that nothing but experimentation exists on this record, take a deep breath. Enough typical Arch Enemy material sprawls in between all the goofy stuff to rock you around some. The band did by no means go down silly lane, but kept to their Melodic Death Metal roots. Some symphonic passages notwithstanding.
Will to Power is for sure no bad record. Yet it represents – in a sense – a change of direction from older records like War Eternal or Khaos Legions. Arch Enemy however fails to communicate this sense of high octane power and unhinged rawness that was so prevalent on the previous album.
And this despite the experimental change of style and the bloody great guitar work of both Jeff Loomis (ex Nevermore) and Michael Armott. Perhaps they should have let Loomis loose a bit more to get a better bang for the buck. Who knows what would have happened.
So, here we got a record that does not fail to deliver. But it just does not deliver enough to get me REALLY excited. And this after a felt gazillion of listens. Damn.
Ed’s note: Fancy a younger incarnation of Arch Enemy’s lead singer? If so, do try Aversed.