“This is hellish inferno! This is WAR ETERNAL!”
Yes. The time has come…I’m reviewing Arch Enemy’s new album War Eternal! This album dropped on June 10th. I had been anxiously awaiting its release since it was announced in March, so it is hard to believe that it has already been out for a month! As everyone and their grandmother has heard by now, this is the first album with the new lead vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, as Angela Gossow stepped down and chose Alissa to replace her. Though some fans were rather disgruntled by Angela’s departure, I was still very optimistic about the future of the band. I am a huge fan of Alissa White-Gluz and her work with The Agonist, so I was confident that War Eternal would be amazing! It is only July, but I already know that War Eternal is going to be my favorite album of 2014. So here is my track by track review of War Eternal!
Let’s start with the sick cover art. Interpreting artwork isn’t one of my strong suits. But after I watched an interview in which Alissa White-Gluz explained the meaning behind the cover, its significance became clear to me. Most notably, the baby is surrounded by danger, but the only thing protecting it is death (represented by the cloaked figure holding it). This art reflects the nature of life, as well as the theme of the album itself.
Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor)
This track captures the melodic elements of the album. It features orchestral and operatic music, leading up to Never Forgive, Never Forget. You can feel the intensity building as you listen to this track, until it launches you head first into one of the heaviest songs on the album.
Never Forgive, Never Forget
If you are ever mad at someone and need something to listen to, this is the song you have been searching for! The instrumentals are loud, strong, and fast. The lyrics are angry and vengeful. Paired with Alissa White-Gluz’s brutal vocals, they deliver a true punch in the gut. Let this snippet of lyrics show you what I mean: “Time heals nothing! I’ll never forgive! Never forget! Never! Never!”
The title track is the first single that was released, and I had been listening to it nonstop prior to the album release. I love the resounding strength of the chorus. It has a melodic cadence, yet also carries the crushing metal attributes Arch Enemy is known for. One of my favorite lyrics on the album comes from this song: “Back against the wall, in danger of losing it all. Search, deep inside–remember who you are!”
As the Pages Burn
I love the fast-paced verses in this song. They are so exhilarating to listen to! Then, the song slows down for the chorus, which is screamed to a melody. I love how Alissa White-Gluz takes a vocal style that is typically not thought of as melodic and turns it around. The powerful chorus (written while White-Gluz was suffering from insomnia) is worth reciting: “Sweet amnesia, here to free you, as the pages burn!”
No More Regrets
The most notable feature of this song is the fast and heavily involved guitars and drums. The opening sweeps you off your feet and blows you away! Behind these crazy-exciting instrumentals, I find inspiration in the lyrics. Most notably: “No, no more regrets. What’s done is done, can’t be erased. All I know, is that regret, can’t change this bitter after taste.” This song is about moving forward in life and leaving behind the past, a theme that runs strong in this album.
You Will Know My Name
This song begins slow and soft with sounds of children in the background, but becomes heavier when the vocals emerge. The vocals are filled with pain and emotion. For example: “Judging eyes, watching me, is all I’ve ever known! When I try to open up my heart, I am ridiculed, and torn apart!” I feel an outpouring of soul and and personality, as if I am climbing inside someone’s mind and reading their fears and insecurities. Alissa White-Gluz definitely mastered the vocals on this track! She also does an amazing job portraying the emotion of this song in the music video, which is my favorite of the videos released for this album so far.
Graveyard of Dreams
This song marks a transition from the Arch Enemy we know into uncharted territory. All three singles that were pre-released are found in the previous half. Additionally, the following half of the album takes creative leaps by incorporating more melodic and orchestral elements. This track lies as a buffer between the sound we are familiar with and their new, evolved sound that is inevitable with the inclusion of a new vocalist.
This song is filled with anger and strength, captured most potently by the aggressive vocals. Though this is one of the shorter songs on the album, the screams and the lyrics behind them pack a powerful punch! From the chorus: “Do you ever really know someone until you look away? Displace my trust, only to learn, honesty is just a word!”
Time Is Black
I love this song! The beginning is beautiful and meaningful. At first, soft glockenspiel and the sound of a baby crying fills your ears. Then, the song bursts into heavy guitar. I appreciate the meaning behind the arrangement of this song and the lyrics. I absolutely love the line: “If I could pull the fabric of time and bring the future near, the answers wouldn’t be so far, the truth would be so clear!” In the middle of this song, the glockenspiel returns and is echoed back by the guitars, a juxtaposition of two music worlds that is breathtaking to hear. An interlude of harp and violin is also incorporated before diving into the gut-wrenching chorus: “Time is black, and nothing will escape! Nothing will remain!”
On and On
The beginning of this song is loud and fierce, quite an awakening from the soft glockenspiel that closed Time is Black. (I flinched when this song began on my first listen of this album!) The vocals and lyrics are filled with strength and power. The commanding chorus transports me to a battlefield: “On and on! The battle knows no victory! On and on! Weapons high, reject defeat!” I love the abrupt ending and of this song and the whimsical echo of guitar that is left tingling in the listener’s ear.
This is my favorite song on the album! The incorporation of orchestral elements adds profound depth and beauty. The emergence of Alissa White-Gluz’s beautiful clean vocals in the background of this song gave me chills on my first listen! Listening to this song makes me feel as though I am in an avalanche, rocks tumbling around me. This song grabs me from within and moves me to close my eyes and head bang along. I love the lyric “Stand up as the whole world turns away!” Satisfying every musical desire, this song marks the climax of the album.
Down to Nothing
The bar is truly set high for the song that follows Avalanche, but Down to Nothing still leaves me headbanging along, partly from the adrenaline rush left over from Avalanche. The lyrics of the chorus are empowering: “I will not let this moment define who I am…I am strong, eternal! Now you see me, now you don’t!” As this is the last original song that includes vocals on the album, it feels as though Alissa White-Gluz is alluding to her new found role in the band and promising a bright future for Arch Enemy. The final lyric she screams is “I will return!”
Not Long for This World
This song releases the listener from War Eternal‘s powerful grip. I find it calming and reflective–a time for the listener to contemplate the songs that have been filling their ears for the last 45 minutes. I think the ending of this song is one of the best album endings I have ever heard. It is somewhat spoiled by the inclusion of the bonus track, but I am definitely not complaining about that! It ends with steady beeps and heart beats, contrasting with the noises of children and babies included throughout this album, as if War Eternal captures an entire human life.
Shadow on the Wall
This song (A Mike Oldfield cover) is very different from anything Arch Enemy has ever recorded, but I enjoy its fun, catchy, and interesting vibe. This song cheers me up after Not Long for this World and allows me to hear Alissa White-Gluz’s vocals one last time. The lyrics are not nearly as deep and meaningful as the rest of War Eternal. I am glad they are not original! However, Arch Enemy definitely did an excellent job on this cover. Shadow on the Wall is an upbeat and positive way to leave the listener.
This concludes my track by track review of War Eternal! Arch Enemy truly took the world by storm with this album during a time of doubt and criticism. War Eternal is a remarkable achievement! I prompt you to listen to this album, and then listen to it a few more times! It is impossible to intake the full meaning behind this album in a single listen.