Swedish melodic Death Metal outfit Arch Enemy’s new album, Will to Power, delivers exactly what one hopes for from a much-beloved band with an extensive discography. It draws upon the best elements of what has come before, while expanding the band’s familiar sound into something innovative and stronger than ever.
The intro track ‘Set Flame to the Night’ immediately builds power and anticipation, reflecting the dire atmosphere of the current world situation with the sound of sirens and walkie-talkies. The feeling becomes martial before the track gives way to the fast and heavy ‘The Race.’ Fans of Doomsday Machine will be happy with this song, though it takes the Doomsday sound to an even more extreme place. The slow, heavy bridge with trilling guitars over the top leads into a very powerful solo that closes the song.
‘Blood in the Water’ is again recognisably Arch Enemy, but introduces the element of spoken vocals that open up Alissa White-Gluz’s feminity for a moment – though not for the last time on the album. Her intonations are a little reminiscent of Resident Evil’s Alice, colouring the feel of the song to something zombie apocalyptic. ‘Blood in the Water’ is more melodic than ‘The Race,’ with a Thrashier approach in the vein of Megadeth.
However, it is with ‘The World is Yours’ that the quality of the album really kicks in. The track is exultant, powerful, and uplifting in a dark, heavy way. The guitar work of Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis meshes absolutely beautifully, and bassist Sharlee D’Angelo also has a strong presence. In fact, ‘The World is Yours’ showcases amazing cohesion across the whole band. The martial feeling returns for a time, but leads into gentle keys and whispered vocals that broaden the emotive range of Arch Enemy. With the sheer talent displayed on this track, it deserves to become a flagship Arch Enemy song. Unsurprisingly, it is indeed the first single from the album.
‘The Eagle Flies Alone’ has space to breathe and build with its gentle intro led by the guitar. It draws into riff-laden heaviness with a strong, almost droning bass presence that brings in an ominous feeling. The track introduces some interesting post-production on White-Gluz’s vocals with an almost Industrial feel. The track is a stirring call to stand strong and independent, and fades out into a dark, mournful reflection on keys.
‘Reason to Believe’ breaks a lot of new ground with its almost plaintive guitar lead, but more than that, for the first time in the history of Arch Enemy, clean vocals. The initial silken, soothing lines from White-Gluz grow into Lzzy Hale-like attitude, before moving back into growls. Never before has White-Gluz’s incredibly vast vocal range been so effectively showcased, particularly towards the end of the track where we hear clean and growling harmonies.
‘First Day in Hell’ is a cinematic piece with an ominous feel that seems to suggest a deep, dark, secretive ritual, perhaps in shadowed tomb. As something dreadful stirs, the vocals become hypnotic and disorienting, followed by relentless drums courtesy of Daniel Erlandsson. The song moves into a crunchy, galloping pace that is brought down at times, but even then it remains an absolute juggernaut with its great solos and headbanging riffs.
The interlude ‘Saturnine’ seems to pick up this story of tenebrous worship with its choral parts and strangely-tuned, mysterious sounds that seem closer to a harpsichord than anything else. The track fades out and brings us to ‘Dreams of Retribution,’ which enters with the same guitar tone and carries on the choral flavours, but with additional, monastic male parts that are somehow less unwholesome. The reverb-laden church atmosphere leads into very fast guitars and drums, and White-Gluz’s furious vocals. This is a Power Metal tune on steroids, a true showcase of instrumental precision, with touches of Prog grandeur and a little King Diamond-style creepiness.
The album closes with ‘A Fight I Must Win,’ which begins with a stirring intro of strings. It takes its time, building an atmosphere of preparation for a final battle. The power kicks in with a riffy groove, and a vocal cadence that will be familiar to Arch Enemy fans. There’s something of an idealistic 80s sensibility to the music, but also a very distant echo of more melodic Carcass. The track is not as aggressive as one might expect to close the album, but it is filled with glory and grandeur as it builds in intensity, and returns to the strings for the close.
Overall, Will to Power is arguably the finest album Arch Enemy have ever produced. It’s not often that a band who have been around for nigh-on a quarter of a century can create something so definitive and yet so innovative, but Arch Enemy have proven they can keep their sound fresh, and then some. A near-perfect album.