ARCH ENEMY — Will to Power (review)

ARCH ENEMY — Will to Power album cover Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Sweden's Arch Enemy are the kind of band who I have always enjoyed but not necessarily found to be the most remarkable act around. Very hit and miss in terms of how interesting I find their albums, I was actually blown away by how much I enjoyed their last offering War Eternal (2014). Though the last ten years have resulted in a real up and down listening experience in terms of quality, I had high hopes resting on their eleventh album Will to Power (2017), which sees Jeff Loomis of Nevermore fame joining their ranks.

This is not just because of War Eternal being a new career high point for them, but because everything leading up to Will to Power seems to have being putting all the pieces in place for Arch Enemy to break their mould and deliver something that, at long last, brings their music to the next level. They have a vocalist in Alissa White-Gluz whose dual style of growls/clean singing was only lightly scratched on War Eternal (in a real blink and you'll miss it kind of way). They were showing tendencies of experimentation with symphonic elements on the last album, which were integrated well. And now they also have Jeff Loomis, one of the main writers of major (and very different to Arch Enemy) metal band Nevermore, whose new blood is surely going to influence their sound right?

Wrong. Loomis didn't contribute a single thing to Will to Power. The album feels so typically Arch Enemy that Michael Amott may as well just have played all the guitars himself and hired a session player for the second guitarist role when playing live. Such a noted player like Loomis feels wasted here as is. As for the other things I spoke of in the previous paragraph, the symphonic elements do make an appearance on a single track, the closer A Fight I Must Win, but mostly outside of a metal context. Otherwise they've evaporated into thin air. Alissa White-Gluz does use her clean singing voice on one song, Reason to Believe, which feels very much like a testing the waters kind of track to see how well fans receive it, while playing it completely safe with the rest of the release. And that's exactly how Will to Power comes across by and large. Safe and phoned in. The songs aren't bad in themselves, but it's nothing we haven't heard before from this band and many others in their genre.

In all fairness this isn't anything new with Arch Enemy, but unlike their best albums such as War Eternal and Rise of the Tyrant (2007) most songs aren't memorable individually after the event. That makes all the difference with a band like this. But as has always been the case in the past, Will to Power is not a terrible record by any means. I don't think Arch Enemy have ever made one of those. But it is very average and only made at all noteworthy by that one song Reason to Believe that uses clean vocals. That works really well, as I expected it would given the bands polished production sound. If only they'd been brave enough to use more of the clean singing.

Will to Power is the kind of record that makes one think whether Arch Enemy knows how much potential they have right now (I can't be the only one to hear it) or are content to just keep doing the same thing over and over, occasionally producing a War Eternal or Rise of the Tyrant quality album. I'm sure there's someone out there reading this and thinking 'but that's what they play, why should they change it?' and it's a valid point. And it would be fine if every album was as good as War Eternal. But as I see it when you're turning out more albums like Will to Power and the earlier Khaos Legions (2011) and Doomsday Machine (2005), where the term 'uninspired' springs to mind surely it's time for a bit of bravery with your writing and to use every weapon at your disposal? A band doesn't have to leave their established genre behind to make a record that sounds different from their others. This one just sounds over 90% recycled.
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adg211288 wrote:
12 months ago
I was going to give it 3.5 same as you did Paul, but I've found myself slipping into my old habit of rating releases higher than really fits with my rating system. I'll probably have to reexamine a few albums actually and adjust their scores.

This is what 3.0 means on my system:

3.0 // Enjoyable but lacking something.

Sums up this one pretty well IMO.

Nightfly wrote:
12 months ago
I like it better than you Adam but it's no album of the year contender, or even top 10.
666sharon666 wrote:
12 months ago
Listenable but unremarkable sums this one up well. A disappointment after War Eternal. There's a few tracks that represent the anthemic melodeath style they're best at, but not enough to make this one of their better albums.
adg211288 wrote:
12 months ago
I expect Loomis will leave this band before long with that kind of attitude from them. I know he has other projects to channel his own creativity into, but I reckon a major band like this is going to demand most of his time.
DippoMagoo wrote:
12 months ago
Yeah, I gave it one listen so far and it seemed pretty bland and uninspired. I read an article recently where they said they didn't let Jeff Loomis help with the songwriting because his style doesn't fit their sound. Now, regardless of whether that would be a good idea, the fact is if the band is saying they don't want anything that "doesn't fit their sound", that clearly shows they aren't willing to take any risks with their music and be more inventive, like many fans are hoping for. I like the two lead singles, but the rest of the album seems to blend together to the point where it becomes forgettable, so I definitely think they need to change something next to time, or else they could become a joke.

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