One of the biggest stories in the metal world during the first half of the year was Arch Enemy’s big lineup change, as longtime vocalist Angela Gossow was replaced by Alissa White-Gluz, formerly of The Agonist. Changes at the vocalist position are among the hardest for a band or its fans to accept or adjust to, but this was one of the rare cases where a band not only survived the lineup change, but emerged even stronger as a result. In a somewhat ironic twist, War Eternal takes me back to the days of Gossow’s first album with Arch Enemy, Wages of Sin. The compositions are just as brilliant, if not more so, and White-Gluz’s vocal performance is delightful in its ferocity. After listening to War Eternal many times, I am quite confident to say that Michael Amott made the correct decision when he decided to bring White-Gluz into the band, because she is exactly the kind of powerhouse vocalist needed to carry Arch Enemy into the next phase of their legendary career.
Key tracks: “War Eternal”, “Down to Nothing”
Speaking of lineup changes at the vocalist position, can we talk for a moment about how utterly brilliant Dianne van Giersbergen is? Some might call this blasphemy, but I am not exaggerating when I say that she could take over IMMEDIATELY for Tarja Turunen as the preeminent operatic female vocalist in metal today. The fact that she has a six-octave vocal range (at minimum) and full command of a wide range of styles is just the beginning. What really pushes van Giersbergen over the top is her ability to seamlessly transition her voice all over the spectrum, moving through different ranges and styles with no apparent outward strain. Call me crazy, but I firmly hold to the belief that the music on Sacrificium is as good as it is because of van Giersebergen’s presence and her ability to push any composition over the edge to greatness, simply by adding her voice to it. Sacrificium is a stunning and ambitious album that will have you convinced VERY quickly of van Giersbergen’s natural talent and the band’s equally impressive songwriting skills.
Key tracks: “Nightfall”, “Temple of Hate”
The return of the band that created the Gothenburg sound might be one of the most significant comebacks in recent memory. At the Gates has been playing festivals and one-off shows for several years now, but the prospect of new music was left unrealized until now. Although everyone likely knew that their comeback album would be good, few could have predicted just how incredible At War with Reality would be as a finished product. This album makes me forget the nineteen year gap that exists between it and its predecessor, the previously-untouchable Slaughter of the Soul. At War with Reality not only equals the older album, it also reminds everyone what the standard should be for melodic death metal in the current age. As other bands have languished, experimented, or fallen apart, the genre creators have returned and found it wanting. Hopefully this album will help to raise the standard for At the Gates’ contemporaries that still remain.
Key tracks: “The Circular Ruins”, “The Head of the Hydra”