Arch Enemy is a Swedish Melodic Death Metal band that has been going strong for over twenty years, with December 12th being the 21st anniversary of their debut album, Black Earth. They are a supergroup in almost every sense of the word, not only because the band was literally formed by members of other groups such as Carcass, Armageddon, Carnage, and Spiritual Beggars, but to this day, founder and guitarist Michael Amott remains the only constant member. Will to Power is the band’s tenth studio album, following up 2014’s War Eternal.
This album is a pretty significant milestone for Arch Enemy. Not only is this the first album with their new guitarist Jeff Loomis, formerly of Nevermore, but this is the first time we get to hear some clean vocals. Die hard fans needn’t worry, for this isn’t as drastic a change of style as, say, Celtic Frost’s infamous 1988 album Cold Lake. Instead, it is incorporated more smoothly, and makes its biggest impact on the track “Reason to Believe.” For those who may not know or just need a reminder, lead vocalist Alissa White-Gluz was a member of the Metalcore band The Agonist, where she performed a nice balance of both clean and harsh vocals. There’s more to discuss with Alissa’s former band later, but for now, let’s focus on the instrumentals.
I’ll be completely honest, I’m not as well versed in Nevermore’s discography as I probably should be, but I love what Jeff Loomis brings to the table on Will to Power. Arch Enemy, and by extension, the melodic death metal genre as a whole, has always had roots in those classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, so it’s nothing new to hear a bevy of melodic dueling guitar riffs. What sets this album apart from its predecessors is that the scope of each track feels so much larger and more epic. A perfect example of this can be found in the chorus of both singles, “The World Is Yours” and “The Eagle Flies Alone,” as well as even the opening into “Set Flame to the Night.”
As for the rest of the rhythm section, Daniel Erlandsson is an absolute beast on the drums. As I’ve tried to assure fans, despite a few slight adjustments, this is still very much a tried and true Arch Enemy album, as evident by some of the faster tracks such as “The Race” and “Murder Scene.” My two favorites on the record also happen to be the longest tracks, “Dreams of Retribution” and “A Fight I Must Win,” which is a great closing number (not counting bonus material).
Getting back to the vocals, Alissa White-Gluz is doing some incredible work. She’s claimed during interviews that the writing process hasn’t changed between Will to Power and War Eternal, but from an outsider’s perspective I have to disagree. Given that this is her second album with the band, she’s radiating much more confidence both as a singer and as a person, and that’s certainly reflected in the lyrics. On a surface level, one could potentially write these lyrics off as being cliché, with even the title of the album sounding more like a self help book. But if you know anything about what happened between Alissa and her former bandmates of The Agonist, and how she was forcefully removed from the band that she poured her heart and soul into, followed by how she dug herself out from depression as she joined up with Arch Enemy, the lyrics carry some deeply significant emotional weight.
With that in mind, the one negative I have with this album is that I wanted a little bit more experimentation. Now, as great as it may be for hardcore fans that the band has stayed true to their core sound, having a new vocalist in my opinion should have allowed for the freedom to switch things up, especially on their second album. Alissa White-Gluz is an incredibly talented vocalist, but one advantage she has over her predecessor (now band manager) Angela Gossow is that she has a wider range. She can switch between clean and harsh vocals with ease, but hasn’t been able to show that off until recently. “Reason to Believe” is a great song, but I would have loved to hear at least one or two more similar to that. The last thing I want for Arch Enemy is for the band to fall into the same trap as AC/DC, who almost never changed their style despite getting a new vocalist.
Overall, I was very impressed with Will to Power. I’m hesitant as of now to call it the best album from Arch Enemy, but it’s at least a strong follow up to War Eternal. Jeff Loomis is a welcome addition to the band as their new guitarist, and Alissa White-Gluz has proven once again to be a worthy successor to Angela Gossow. My favorite tracks on the record would have to be “The Eagle Flies Alone,” “Reason to Believe,” “Dreams of Retribution,” and “A Fight I Must Win.”