Since 2000 the ferocious and unyielding war cry of Angela Gossow could be heard fronting the anthems of animosity for Swedish melodic metal harbingers Arch Enemy. Her voice was fierce, her roar was resounding and many came to know her by these, among other, characteristics. Now, the woman that once marked her territory with gasoline and hellfire has given the keys to the kingdom to another, Alissa White-Gluz. Coming from extreme metal band The Agonist to take the helm at AE, White-Gluz courageously made the leap and the initial results are in.
War Eternal is the first Arch Enemy album featuring White-Gluz and the ravenous masses were all clamoring to know what the product of this unexpected union would be. To call it incredible would be an injustice. The album is still Arch Enemy, but with an unexpected twist. Given the difference between Gossow and White-Gluz’s vocals it stands to reason that fans will need to make a bit of an adjustment, but the transition is ultimately flawless. The first half of the album is highlighted with tracks that reek of raw aggression and a no-holds barred command for power in which White- Gluz shows that she’s not f**king around this time. The former The Agonist vocalist’s undaunted, gut-wrenching vocal presentation play out perfectly against the electrical string mastery of Nick Cordle and Michael Amott. Title track “War Eternal” and “As The Pages Burn” are great examples of this with their balance between the brutal and the melodic. This almost hypnotic combination will have you banging your head and eating out of the palm of her hand before the second chorus. The composition of War Eternal is masterfully developed with the emphasis placed not on White-Gluz, but on making the best music possible. As we progress down the dark winding path of destruction laid out by AE, we stumble upon the more somber “Graveyard Dreams” which rolls effortlessly into “Stolen Life.”
The second half of the album kicks off with the piercing fearlessness of “Stolen Life” and its up tempo chorus with foreboding lyrics and shrieks. This is a song you can get easily get lost in. Like a swirling labyrinth of sonic fury and angst-ridden cacophony, War Eternal spins and twirls in the listener’s ears. As stated earlier the sound is so tight on this album it seems less likely that it was catered to White-Gluz and more like she was entrusted to rise to the occasion, and risen she has. Tracks like “On and On” and “Avalanche” demonstrate the great relationship between AE’s melodies and their capability for higher energy. They feel good. Though not typically a sentiment reserved for metal, in this case “feel good” translates to relatable.
Arch Enemy have created dynamics that bring a little something for everyone and throughout it all White-Gluz manages to remain a person, not a monster. While a considerable vocal beast, she doesn’t concede to incomprehensible vocal utterances that lose the listener or derail the groove that’s been established. Closing on the symphonic and resounding “Not Long For This World,” AE round out this new chapter of their evolution and officially mark the reign of Alissa White-Gluz. The world may not be ready for the inconceivable destruction that’s about to be wrought upon them, but “through the battlefield of life it’s kill or be killed.”