The album starts off with the obligatory “foreboding” intro piece in the form of “Tempores Nihil Sanat” (“Time Heals Nothing”), before getting down to business with “Never Forgive, Never Forget”. This track’s barrage of blast beats, dual guitar work, guitar solos, and harsh vocals is also complimented by some light keyboard lines in the bridge section, which subtly sets the tone for what’s to come later on. And then of course, we have the already popular pile-driving title track.
Now here is where Arch Enemy shows the full scope of this album’s sound. While 2011’s ‘Khaos Legions’ had predominantly complicated and frantic riffs and solos, ‘War Eternal’ takes time to space things out and give some breathing room to its individual instruments. Witness the meaty and addictive riffs of songs like “Stolen Life” and “On And On”, for example. There are also a lot of keyboard and symphonic elements at play here, whether it is in the intros, choruses or bridges of tracks like “You Will Know My Name”, “Time Is Black”, and “Avalanche”. If you’re still a speed freak though, “As The Pages Burn”, “No More Regrets” and “Down To Nothing” should keep you satisfied; with some stratospheric solos and lead guitar lines to boot.
But of course, the main point of contention for fans is the vocals. While Angela had the more traditional and recognizable death metal growl, Alissa’s harsh vocals have a more hardcore punk-like snarl to them; possibly gained from her metalcore days in The Agonist. This doesn’t exactly make her vocals inferior to those of her mentor; we just have to get used to this change. And let’s face it: we heavy metal fans are notorious for reacting negatively to change. On a tangential note, perhaps Arch Enemy can take the opportunity to use Alissa’s clean vocals as well in the future.
To sum up, Arch Enemy have delivered a varied and nuanced, yet solid and gut-busting album to add to their repertoire. Both Alissa White-Gluz and new guitarist Nick Cordle have proven themselves as worthy additions to the line-up, and no amount of whining and cribbing for Angela’s return will change that. Fans should surely await more anthems of rebellion from this new incarnation of the band.
Recommended Tracks: “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, “War Eternal”, “Time Is Black”