"What we've got here is failure to communicate"... No, that's another thing. However, we are not so far from the meaning of this sentence. This new Arch Enemy album is not exactly what I expected. It is not even "real" Death Metal. In some tracks, like You will know my name, or Stolen life, they sound like Power Metal with guttural voices; and, in some others, like No more regrets, they seem to be a failing attempt of Symphonic Metal outfit. Anyway, let's talk about some aspects of this War Eternal.
It starts with a Preludium, which heads what is going to be symphony-like structure. After this first track we can find a series of songs, amongst which we also find the typical instrumental track which acts as a break in the musical continuum of the album and reminds us of previous melodies we have heard. After all, some say music is based upon memory.
Musically, there isn't anything especially interesting to find. There are the usual chaotic riffs that could define a Death Metal band, combined with the melodies which give them the status of Melodic Death. Although some of them are pleasant to be heard (as the melodic lines in War Eternal), some others trespass the boundaries of simplicity, just in order to sound even childish. One really bad point of this work is the excessive use of the same sequence of chords, which make the music seem much less elaborated. Furthermore, all the songs have almost the same structure, with heavy, fast and obscure riffs in their verses and grand melodies for the choruses, making all of it a little bit plain and boring. Only You will know my name sounds a little bit different.
On the other hand, there are the good aspects of the album (not everything was bad). We must remember that it is the first release of Arch Enemy after they changed their vocalist. Alissa perfectly lives up to our expectations, with her strong guttural voice, plenty of wrath when necessary (in On and on, her voice sounds like an epic warcry). Nevertheless, although we can hear some very shy clean backing vocals in songs like Avalanche, I still deeply miss Alissa's ability to shift between clean and guttural vocals. Anyway, she performs great gutturals which she can pitch and tune (something that I haven't heard so many times). Another thing that will not disappoint you is the fast and groovy rhythms of the different riffs we can hear.
The lyrics are another important point in assessing a new album. And, this time, they seem to be the only really good thing of it. Rich in vocabulary and rythm, they transmit exactly what they intend to with an astonishing intensity. Some of them are even catchy, which is always good.
At last, but not least, we must talk about the last song, which is a cover. I guess we can all agree that it perfectly conveys the sound and style of arch enemy. Nonetheless, a lot of details of the original are lost (sound, atmosphere, melodic lines, attitude...). Therefore, I think it was not a good choice to include it.
All in all, I cannot say that War Eternal is a disastrous album. not even bad or very bad. However, deep in my heart I know that it could be much, much more (and much better). I expected more myself. Anyway, I encourage you to give it a try, so that you create your own opinion.