Arch Enemy - Will to Power - (6.5/10)
Published on September 25, 2017
As great as 2014’s War Eternal was, Arch Enemy remain at a point in their career where they need to shake things up in order to stay relevant. Having managed the impressive introduction of ex-Agonist vocalist Alissa White-Gluz on that previous record, the addition of ex-Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis to their ranks set Will to Power up to be a bold continuation of the slight-yet distinctive variation introduced on their previous release. However, when lead-single “The World Is Yours” failed to set the world on fire, and it subsequently emerged that Loomis was seemingly restricted from contributing to the writing of this new offering; alarm bells started to ring. Will to Power is far from the complete disaster these misgivings hinted at, but it remains an undeniably lesser and unshakably bland entry into the Swedes’ otherwise nearly flawless discography.
Will to Power’s cliché title and its less-than-inspired album art are a good indication of what it largely contains. Although the album absolutely roars out of the traps with “The Race” (“Set Flame to the Night” is one of those pesky instrumental intro tracks), much of it is absent of that number’s energy or distinction. The record manages to maintain the majority of its opening momentum throughout the early moments of its lead-single, which sound decidedly more ferocious within the album setting. However, as soon as its ill-fittingly cheesy chorus kicks in, it all but saps the record of its conviction. This single, lackluster segment doesn’t exactly undo what came before it, but it certainly brings proceedings to a screeching halt. Arch Enemy had already hinted at their power metal underpinnings with their superb cover of Manowar’s “Kill With Power,” over a decade ago now. Yet where they brought their supercharged, melodic death metal menace to that genre classic to convincing result, the opposite attempt here—to inject a major-scaled sense of anthemic optimism into otherwise overtly aggressive surrounds—falls flat on its face.
Despite the aforementioned need for variation, it’s the more “experimental” moments like these that prove Will to Power’s weakest offerings. While the mid-paced trudge of “The Eagle Flies Alone” manages to rally somewhat from the uneven affair that proceeded it, “Reason to Believe” undoes all its good work and then some. While the brief bouts of White-Gluz’s clean-singing on “Avalanche” proved a surprising highlight on War Eternal, the choice to go all-in on them here in the form of a distinctly Whitesnake-ian ballad proves an embarrassing misstep. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Whitesnake, but everything in its context, and even so, the execution here is particularly poor. White-Gluz’s vocals don’t seem half as accomplished as they were on that previous record or during her time with the Agonist—clean or otherwise—and the ridiculously trite lyrics that pervade this release, here and elsewhere, only accentuate their under performance.
Two dodgy tracks does not a bad album make, and there are enough stronger moments on Will to Power to balance out these distinctive missteps. “First Day In Hell” is a sold, mid-paced stomper in the vein of “My Apocalypse” and “Dreams of Retribution” proves the album’s MVP late in the game. These later numbers along with its ravenous opening salvo more than justify Will to Power’s existence and each of its other offerings, with the exception of “Reason to Believe,” have at least one moment in them that reminds the listener just why Arch Enemy have cemented themselves, up to this point, as the gold-standard of melodic death metal. However, by positioning its two greatest liabilities dead-center and including at least two-or-three extraneous tracks robs the record of the majority of its impact and, at best, it stands alongside Khaos Legions in the lower echelons of Arch Enemy’s otherwise outstanding output.
What Will to Power predominantly contains is Arch Enemy by numbers, which is fine; Arch Enemy are, after all, a very, very good melodic death metal band. However, this deficiency of inspiration also means the album is left severely lacking of the personality required to distinguish itself within the band’s broad and otherwise largely superior catalogue, and what little variation it offers would perhaps have been best left on the cutting room floor. Will to Power is in many ways the more uneven and subdued Anthems of Rebellion to War Eternal’s more savage and direct Wages of Sin—sans that record’s superior songwriting. Nevertheless, if Arch Enemy are set on repeating themselves then that means their next Doomsday Machine is right around the corner, and for that we can still wait with baited breath.