Review Summary: Featuring some of the best moments in the genre, the album is essential listening, but is prevented from being classic by some dissapointing tracks.
Arch Enemy have quite a bit going for them. For one, in Angela Gossow they have an immediately recognzable singer, due to the fact she is one of the only women in a predominately male genre (the fact she has a voice so brutal she puts most men to shame helps). Furthermore, the band themselves comprise of some of the most talented musicians around. The Amott brothers are lightning fast shredders, but they don't let that get in the way of the songs. The rhythm section meanwhile keep things about as tight as can be.
So, with all these advantages, you'd expect Arch Enemy to deliver something truly mind blowing in Doomsday Machine, their latest release. Well, yes and no.
The thing tht strikes me most about Arch Enemy is the way they manage to take genre staples and subvert them. This is brilliantly demonstrated by the opener Welcome to the Machine. What could potentially be a very boring song (it uses the same chord progression throughout and only two guitar refrains until the end) manages to be a superb opener. The guitar refrains are simple, but not boring, and the playing is of such skill that the sound is constantly changing. The drums help tremendously to keep the interest, and there the promise of more explosive things to come is shown by the ending, with its doomladen harmonies and short but very impressive tapping solo.
There is a lot of amazing material on the album. In Nemesis the band have created perhaps the perfect metal song. Its lightning fast riff is heavy, but the verse riff it gives way to along with Angela's most brutal vocal performance on the album could destroy cities. The chorus meanwhile is the most uplifitng I have hear in a long time, giving anyone listening a feeling of belonging to somthing important, whilst retaining induviduality (a strong theme on Anthems of Rebellion). Finally they show excellent understanding on the need for dynamics, and as such the modulation into a final chorus from a quiet breakdown makes an already gargantuam moment even bigger.
Aside from just understanding dynamics, they recognize the need for a melody over the riffs. Since Angela might not be the best at this, the guitars take on the role and provide tunes that stick in your head as well as any pop punk effort, but aren't as annoying. Nemesis, Taking Back My Soul and Carry the Cross in particular use amazing melodies to great effect.
As well as being able to play metal to perfection, Arch Enemy are able to include some decidedly un-metal moments to excellent effect. The mid section of My Apocalypse, an excellent slow paced dirge, is remeniscient of Led Zeppelin's best work, whilst I half expected to hear David Gilmore start playing over the mid section of the intricate Hybrids of Steel. There are punk influences too, shown in parts of Machtkampf and Mechanic God Creation.
Lyrically, the album retains the quality shown on Anthems, and there are some superb lyrics on offer. Nemesis' chorus is one of the best (One for all, all for one, we are strong, we are one), whilst Mechanic God Creation and Machtkampf also stand out in this area as does the statement of intent opener. And when there are no lyrics, the guitars convey as much emotion as the ear curdling vocals. The tone is so sweet and complete that the Amotts can wrench every ounce of feeling from their fretboards. With the soul comes some serious speed too, perfectly complementing the nature of the songs.
However, there are faults, and despite the inventiveness and ingenuity of most of the material on display, there are moments where the band sem to go into autopilot. I Am Legend-Out For Blood literally feels to me like the riffs that didn't make the other songs. There is little sense of continuity in the song (the verse riff bears no relation to the rest of the song), and though there are all the facets that made other songs classic, they don't seem to click on this song. Even the solo is just the same two licks repeated again and again. A lazy effort that lets the album down.
Skeleton Dance and Slaves of Yesterday (yes, despite its superb verse riff), seem to not quite fit also. Its all there, its just not as good and for some bizzare reason these songs lack the passion and anger that infects the rest of the album. A pity, because if these three songs had been up to par, then it may have been the perfect album.
These defects aside, and Doomsday Machine is an album of staggering quality in places. The first 5 tracks are pretty much flawless and whilst the rest of the album can be patchy there are moments of brilliance throughout, setting the standard for the competition.