Arch Enemy – ‘Will To Power’

By Jay Hampshire

‘Will To Power’ sees a much changed Arch Enemy enter the fray. A decade on from their inception, much has been made of the 2013 addition of vocalist Alissa White-Gluz and (most recently) lead guitarist Jeff Loomis. Most acts would suffer, and possibly cease to be, after such line up ructions. But the Swedish based melodeath unit aren’t so easy to shake, and their fluidity and focused drive might see their tenth album held up as one of their best.

Slightly chintzy intro ‘Set Flame To The Night’ hints that the band still stick true to their Eurometal roots, and as strident guitar tapping and drums build with a military pomp, there’s a sense of apprehensive, building excitement. ‘The Race’ more than lives up to its name, bristling with tumbling riffs, headlong gallops and blazing guitar pyrotechnics that descend into dizzying, inhumanly fast noodling. ‘Blood In the Water’ skips along on the back of a kick drum groove, strutting with an old-school cock surety buoyed by some interesting clean vocal whispers.

‘The World Is Yours’ is frantic, warp speed tremolo and showers of solos powering into a stomping prog section before cutting to delicate piano. ‘The Eagle Flies’ alone takes this and runs with it, soft keys and swelling synths adding a somewhat mournful tone before triplet-centric guitar chugs take hold. ‘Reason To Believe’ lilts with gentle, clean vocals and a slowly ascending riff but the slower, plodding pace doesn’t do it many favours.

‘Murder Scene’ is liberally fuzzed with dirty bass, exhausting itself to a groaning close after a fist-pumping drive and blistering riffing. ‘First Day In Hell’ kicks in with a tinny guitar loop before snaking away with stuttering tremolo which is countered by a slightly overbearing amount of vocals. ‘Saturnine’ is a saccharine caesura of choral synths and wailing dual guitar layers, but it’s so brief that there’s arguments for its necessity.

‘Dreams Of Retribution’ layers up with breathy synths and pacey palm muting, shuddering under the weight of kick drums and big chords. The lyrics are a little cheesy, but a dexterous rhythm section turn and a truly breathtaking dueling guitar dogfight wins out. ‘My Shadow And I’ is scrappy, guttural growls and striding riffs battling through fuzzy tones. Closer ‘A Fight I Must Win’ is cinematic, dour strings rising to be mirrored by waves of guitars before breaking down mechanically into a swaggering chug. A tasty instrumental break turns the corner into straight chords, the heavier instrumentation fading out slightly awkwardly under the wavering strings.

‘Will To Power’ serves as a reminder of just how remorselessly technical and restlessly creative Arch Enemy can be. Many of these tracks carry the familiar fist-pumping, ‘headlong into battle’ inspiration and empowerment the band have carried with them since day one. While some of the songs teeter near the brink of ‘filler’, and the lyrics induce the odd cringe with their near Sabaton levels of cheese, all of this is forgivable in the sheer heady rush of the riff. In a scene brimming with serious, lengthy doom and experimental post, this is a refreshing slab of old school metal fun.

JAY HAMPSHIRE

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