In their current state, there’s more credence than ever to the argument that Arch Enemy could be considered some kind of supergroup. Not only are they amongst the best-known and consistently prolific acts in modern melodic death metal (particularly since In Flames have virtually disowned the genre entirely), but with this current incarnation, they now have their widest-reaching and arguably most recognisable names to date. Of course former The Agonist vocalist Alissa White-Gluz retains her role, but between 2014’s War Eternal and now, the lineup has been bolstered by Jeff Loomis, guitarist of Nevermore and prog stalwart in his own right.
But on the flipside there’s the number of stigmas associated with the whole supergroup argument, that those acts usually come across as overblown and self-indulgent, and are rarely able to live up to the sum of their parts. And in a sense, it’s not as if that isn’t the case Will To Power. Arch Enemy’s tenth effort should still pack in enough to please the hardcore fans who’ve stuck with them this long, but with a greater propensity of clean vocals added and some striking moments that feel like the band indulging in their most secret power metal fantasies, Will To Power ticks those larger-than-life boxes with consummate ease. It’s reminiscent of Iced Earth’s Incorruptible from earlier this year in more ways than one – expertly crafted and fine-tuned with the sort of instrumental chops you’d expect to be shown off, but also with the same sort of humourlessness and lack of longevity that takes an axe to how much it can convincingly achieve.
At their most fundamental level though, Arch Enemy do manage to impress a lot, dishing out the sort of instrumental work that has the complexity, stomp and scope that musicians of this calibre should be producing. It all comes in the right balance too – Reason To Believe remains in liquid melo-death mode throughout but knows exactly when to pull back for passages of clear guitar work, First Day In Hell stampedes along with its militant gallop, and The World Is Yours is just pure, OTT power metal, zipping, windswept solos and all. And at the centre of this to keep everything from flying clean off the hinges is Alissa White-Gluz, with the sort of power in her demonic roars that fully complements the contributions of the rest of the band, but with control that arguably pieces any disparate instrumental passages together a lot more effectively than they would on their own. Factor in some newly adopted clean vocals that may only be auxiliary but definitely fill a hole in Arch Enemy’s stature, and Will To Power does manage to securely attach itself together for a smooth, well-produced whole, despite the initial touchstones of melodic death metal and power metal occupying very different realms of the genre.
That’s something that does come up too, primarily in the fact that Will To Power isn’t exactly the most engaging album. It’s all well and good to have the solos spiraling away in every direction, but that seems to overtake actual songcraft too often here. The middle particularly suffers here, with a track like Murder Scene being stripped of any defining features, and the minute-long interlude of choral vocals and more airy soloing on Saturnine whose only purpose seems to be another opportunity to hammer home that this really is power metal in melo-death clothing. And considering how deep that influence runs, going for typically and unnecessary seriousness on The Eagle Flies Alone and A Fight I Must Win‘s flagrant self-esteem anthems / battle music, Will To Power is put in precarious spot of how seriously it should really be taken (though it is kind of perfect that White-Gluz is able to give this sound more balls than any typical broadsword-wielding Viking wannabe could muster).
With all that being said, Will To Power is still a decent album, and an interesting case study in how to evolve and develop a set sound without losing any original integrity. It mightn’t be that impressive in terms of actual songs (though it does have its moments), but at least Arch Enemy have the instrumental skill to bypass that was relatively little overall damage. But that also means that Will To Power doesn’t have much staying power beyond isolated tracks, and as such, hits a point where what’s here isn’t bad, but a lot of work is still needed to tap into whatever latent potential is here. Still, not bad, even if it could and should be better.
For fans of: Children Of Bodom, Dragonforce, Scar Symmetry
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Will To Power’ by Arch Enemy is released on 8th September on Century Media Records.