It’s sometimes a little depressing to consider the trajectory that ARCH ENEMY’s career has taken over the last 6 years or so. After dropping the so-so Johan Liiva and recruiting the then relatively unknown Angela Gossow many expected them to fall flat, in a musical sense, but quite the opposite happened – they released the superb “Wages Of Sin” album, a piece of work that showed just how potent melodic Death Metal can be when done right. It was their coup de grace but since then the quality of their music has dwindled with each successive output – “Anthems Of Rebellion” was merely an OK album that was molded on the “Wages” template but with far simpler (and thus less enthralling) musical structures, not to mention lyrical content. The rot had begun to set in but it was not until the release of the quite incipit “Doomsday Machine” album that the proverbial sores really began to fester. That album was a complete bore from start to finish with the band’s once triumphant sense of melody buried by half-baked songwriting and derivative and lifeless riffs. The increase in vocal effects didn’t help matters either. So yeah, after that album the band fell off my radar completely and I’m sure I’m not the only one in this regard. Well, lo and behold, these bastards are back with a fucking vengeance on “Rise Of The Tyrant”, an album that utterly destroys anything released since the aforementioned “Wages”. Believe it.
It seems Michael Amott and co. have taken notice of the numerous criticisms leveled against their recent output because “Rise Of The Tyrant” does EVERYTHING right that the two previous ones did wrong: first, there is not a whiff of effects present on Angela’s vocals, causing her to sound more vicious and ‘natural’ than ever before. Second, the riffs are all cut from the “Burning Bridges/Wages Of Sin” cloth (i.e. they are thrashy, aggressive and yet still very melodic in nature); and three, the band’s sense of songcraft is as good as it has ever been, with none of the riffs or melodic nuances sounding forced at all. On the two previous albums the band used stop-start rhythms and melodic interludes to juxtapose the riffs – on here they are used to accentuate the riffs and add to the overall melodic dynamic of the album. They are smoother and more natural, with each solo and harmony perfectly segueing perfectly into the next. Supplement all this with a kick-ass production and you have one of the strongest albums of the band’s career. No fucking kidding here, kids! The songs harken back to the early days of the band and on the whole this album is one of the heaviest of the band’s career, with only the pointless little interlude (“Intermezzo Liberte”) providing a brief respite from the sonic battery.
Kicking off with the sound of an air raid siren and some furious thrash riffage “Blood On Your Hands” explodes through the speakers with a strong “Enemy Within” vibe, and the great little melodies that set up the equally good chorus is the cherry on top. The next track, “The Last Enemy”, is even heavier and faster – think “Ravenous” on PCP with a little DESECRATION thrown in. Quite the neck-breaker then. They haven’t lost their sense of melody though, as “I Will Live Again” is a more mid-paced number with a slightly dreamy vibe. From there on the album maintains its balance between aggression and impeccable melody throughout with only the title track being a bit of a meandering number. Angela sounds more pissed off than ever, the Amott brothers are pulling off those classy solos and biting riffs again and Daniel is as solid as ever behind the kit. For some reason the bass isn’t very discernible this time but this is a minor gripe.
All in all this is the album that ARCH ENEMY should’ve released after “Wages Of Sin”. It sees the band operate with renewed vigor again and as it stands at the moment it is my second favorite album of theirs. A blistering comeback album that should be heard by all the band’s detractors as it recovers a hell of a lot of lost ground for this band. I’m a fan again!
PS: I burp, fart, spit and vomit in the direction of Century Media Records HQ for lacing my promo copy with copious amounts of noisy samples that sound suspiciously like a ringing satellite phone. Be damned!
(Online September 26, 2007)