Review Summary: Another Arch Enemy album. Could be worse, could be better.
Arch Enemy keeps soldiering along, ever honing their squeaky clean, polished and attractive version of melodic death metal. Now featuring ex-Nevermore songwriter, Jeff Loomis, who replaced Nick Cordle previously, and the second album to be released with Alissa White-Gluz, whose transition into the band after the departure of long term singer Angela Gossow was nigh on seamless, another typical Arch Enemy platter is served, full of power metal concepts carved into melodic death metal templates and layered with ostentatious guitar-work from Michael Amott. Business as usual.
Bizarrely, Arch Enemy has elected not to utilise Jeff Loomis’s choppy writing on their 10th album. Instead, Michael Amott takes responsibility for all fretwork in ”Will to Power”
, resulting in an album that is chock-full of empowering leads, boastful bravado and enriching melodies. These attributes alone underline the core concept that gravitates around the songs: Strength. Above anything like the level of talent that the band comprises of and the crisp production that went into it, this album is simply designed to make the listener feel triumphant, unstoppable and invigorated. Admittedly, in some ways, it succeeds. Alissa’s dark tone and the way it sounds like she grits her teeth at the end of each line matches the lumbering guitars brilliantly in the bitter “First Day in Hell”. Songs like “The Race” and “The Eagle Flies Alone” also features a faster, motivated pace coupled with frantic blast beats and comprehensible growls to enhance the powerful attitude Arch Enemy presents. Feel the wind in your hair, straighten your shoulders and stand for something, dammit!
The majority of this album might be designed to sound as stirring as possible, however, they have an annoying tendency to sound exactly like one another; this is a problem that has been plaguing the band for the past decade of their career. Featuring a new, formidable vocalist and guitarist, ”Will to Power”
displays so much missed potential where Arch Enemy could have focused on revitalising their influential sound but instead stuck with something clean and comfortable. With a strange, edited fade-in of guitar melodies, “The World Is Yours” stumbles dangerously close to an abyss that sucks out any form of innovation, leaving only the generic remains. Luckily, a barrage of stamping riffs pulls them back from the edge. A distinct sense of danger and spite that albums like “Wages of Sin”
and “Anthems of Rebellion”
effortlessly resonated feels absent here and the empowering sensibility this album projects is exactly what holds it back.
Nevertheless, this album does introduce a handful of moments where Arch Enemy signals their intent to evolve. “Reason to Believe” is the obvious example of it as it showcases Alissa’s abilities as a clean vocalist. Some sort of progression in this band is refreshing to hear but when it’s placed in the middle of the tracklisting, it sounds like Arch Enemy has included it as a necessity; as if they felt the need to prove that they have the potential to progress, but only do so on this single occasion. Some of the subsequent songs could have emphasised this evolution by showcasing Alissa’s affectionate vocals in their towering choruses, yet the only time that they attempt this technique is in the subsequent song, “Murder Scene”, where her voice is unhelpfully obscured by the guitars.
Along with the more frequent orchestral inclusions and the cleanliness of the album’s production, this significant development does question what direction Arch Enemy will choose in the future. Overall, ”Will to Power”
does exactly what it was designed to do but one can easily play the previous two albums to hear similarly styled songs and still get the same empowering feeling as if you were listening to their most recent effort. For those looking to be motivated, this is an effective stimulant, for those hoping for a revitalization from a highly influential band, this is a decent album and not much more.