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Category: New releases (Page 1 of 2)

Review: Arch Enemy – “Will To Power”

Release date: September 8, 2017
Rating: average (3)

Line-up:

Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – guitars
Jeff Loomis – guitars
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

How do you introduce a band like Arch Enemy? It’s actually really easy: You don’t have to. They are on nearly every rock and metal magazine cover right now. If you haven’t heard of this band to this day, please allow me one question: Have you been living under a rock for the last three years?

Arch Enemy are truly known and loved for what they do. Their new album Will To Power has been really successful so far, but the release of this record hasn’t turned the world upside down. Alright, sarcasm aside: I won’t complain about a more than solid new record by Arch Enemy just because they haven’t drastically changed since their last record. No one is expecting any kind of major shift in style from this band. At this point, I am happy if their songs stay consistently high-quality.
So as I mentioned, the essence of Arch Enemy stays the same and probably will for the years to come – however, adding different elements into their music allows them to move with the times and to offer their loyal fans new and exciting music without changing their style completely. And that’s exactly what they intended with Will To Power. I will, though, complain about the fact that this album could have turned out better than it actually did.
The intro “Set Flame To The Night” sounds pretty mediocre to me. The next song, “The Race”, a quite fast and straight-forward song, seems to be doing the job as the first “real” track on the record, not more and not less. “Blood In The Water” just isn’t memorable. It is quite likely that you will forget this song very quickly, as it is way too packed with quite unimpressive riffs and unnecessary guitar tootling.
From this point on, the record starts to become enjoyable. “The World Is Yours” is the first track on this record that finally stands out. It isn’t nearly as catchy as “War Eternal” was, but it is really solid, quite dynamic for an Arch Enemy track and the bass sounds really cool. Next up is “The Eagle Flies Alone”, aka “You Will Know My Name 2.0”. I mean, the song is really good. I assume that at least one medium paced, epic track is part of every Arch Enemy record now. But the interesting thing about Will To Power is that they decided to put another slower, “ballad”-like song right after an already relatively slow track like “The Eagle Flies Alone” – it’s called “Reason To Believe”, and this really is the kind of song that gives you strength and hope. I really enjoy it. It is definitely something completely different for Arch Enemy, but oh, is it splendid! Thank God Alissa got to use her full vocal spectrum on this album, particularly on this track and also on some other songs to come. It seems that she has a lot more saying in the songwriting process now, as some melodies and singing styles are very reminiscent of older The Agonist material, which makes absolute sense. I have been a fan of The Agonist with White-Gluz, so I really don’t mind hearing some parallels to her old band. On the same note, Arch Enemy’s frontwoman is starting to form a personality of her own and, luckily, is not trying to copy her predecessor Angela Gossow. People can say whatever they want about Alissa White-Gluz, but thanks to her talent and hard work, she has risen to the very top of the metal scene, and rightfully so.
The album continues with “Murder Scene”, a quite classically structured heavy metal song that also sounds quite personal if you listen to the lyrics. “First Day In Hell” and “Dreams Of Retribution” are surprisingly dark, but well-done. In general, the following tracks stand out in comparison with other Arch Enemy tracks in the sense that they are less epic and more straight-forward and higher-paced, which is nice to hear for a change. “My Shadow And I” highlights my last point, as well as the cover “City Baby Attacked By Rats” originally performed by GBH. “A Fight I Must Win”, technically the last track off Will To Power, on the contrary, sounds like a classic Arch Enemy song again. The lyrics sound kind of unspectacular, but that’s nothing new about Arch Enemy either. I also see what they did with the violins at the end, which I find really unnecessary. Write an epic guitar riff, Amott. God damn it, it’s your final track!

Despite this record being solid, I can’t change the fact that to me, it is “only” solid. I can’t rate it as “outstanding” as it isn’t to me. What is presented on Will To Power is the least you would expect from Arch Enemy. I think it’s great that they are experimenting a little bit with different sounds, but I’m missing true hits on this record other than “Reason To Believe” and “The World Is Yours”. Fans will like it. But Will To Power will most definitely not blow anyone away who knows what Arch Enemy are capable of.

Tracks:
01. Set Flame To The Night
02. The Race
03. Blood In The Water
04. The World Is Yours
05. The Eagle Flies Alone
06. Reason To Believe
07. Murder Scene
08. First Day In Hell
09. Saturnine
10. Dreams Of Retribution
11. My Shadow And I
12. A Fight I Must Win
13. City Baby Attacked By Rats

Examining Arion’s last three singles

I didn’t plan to write this post. But as fate willed, Arion released a new track not long ago, and I just had to give it a listen (even though I should be doing something more important, for example calculus).
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Arion is a melodic power metal band from Finland. The band is formed by a couple of music students not older than a little over 20 years, with exception of their fairly new singer. Their debut album came out three years ago and I remember going nuts over it. It was my second favorite release of 2014 and I knew all the lyrics by heart. You get the idea.
As you might have guessed by the date of their first and latest album release, Arion haven’t managed to put out a new record, but they are making sure that they aren’t forgotten completely. Last year, they released two singles and a brand new one just yesterday. If they will be continuing like that, we will soon know all the songs off the new album without getting a new album … so shall we get into some details about the singles?

First of all, it never bothered me that Arion sounded like well-known and loved bands such as Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, at times even like Children Of Bodom; they somehow managed to create a good mix of these bands and threw in their own style and signature sound. But now, it does bother me that their new tracks increasingly sound like bad copies of their greatest tracks off “Last Of Us”.

“At The Break Of Dawn” (feat. Elize Ryd)
Let’s face it, Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) has collaborated with numerous artists in the rock and metal scene, with pleasant and not so pleasant results. So having Elize sing on your song or album is no guarantee for success (Timo Tolkki, I’m looking at you…). However, in the case of Arion’s first single after their debut album, Elize took this song to the next level. It is fresh, catchy and energetic, the vocal line is absolutely stunning and it still sounds like Arion. I do have to admit that I was a little sad that former singer Viljami Holopainen (who by the way has nothing to do with Tuomas Holopainen) didn’t get to sing this duet with Elize, they would have sounded beautiful together, and he would have probably really loved to collaborate with her.
Note that this song is Arion’s most listened track on Spotify, with over double the amount of listens than their other top tracks. So I am definitely not the only one who thinks that Arion did everything right with this track. I am wondering, though, if Elize was involved in the songwriting process. It would explain why “At The Break Of Dawn” turned out so well…

“Unforgivable”
When this song was released, I listened to it one single time and I thought it was so mediocre that I didn’t feel the urge to listen to it again … ever. I still did for research purposes, though. The vocals are weird and I can’t really see where Arion are going with this song. It is kind of all over the place. Not a hit for me.

“No One Stands In My Way”
So first of all, what we have here is a song title that could easily fit onto an Arch Enemy record. I was expecting a cheesy song title! Alright, it is kind of cheesy, I suppose …
“No One Stands In My Way” starts with a riff that instantly reminded me of the opening riff of “10 Silver Bullets” by Swallow The Sun. Shortly after, you can hear a bass line that is very similar to the one on “Out Of The Ashes” from Arion’s first record. In general, this song sounds like a new version of the aforementioned song, and it is without question that I like “Out Of The Ashes” a lot better.

The weird thing about the last two tracks is that if you start listening at every single instrument individually, you really start questioning what these guys are trying to do. But weirdly enough, the tracks aren’t awful as a whole. I don’t get it.

I am very anxious about the new album, in case it will ever see the light of day. I truly doubt that I will adore it as much as their first album. Without their talented former singer Viljami Holopainen and with their new singer Lassi Vääränen (who is not bad but not exactly outstanding either), the quality of Arion’s songs seems to be decreasing with every new release. Could it be because they are on their own now? It is a known fact in the metal scene that Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering) and Matias Kupiainen (Stratovarius, Arion’s drummer’s elder brother) helped the band in the songwriting process for “Last Of Us”. Are they lost without a little help from some more experienced musicians? Or have they been able to write such hits as “Seven”, “Lost” or “Last Of Us” all on their own, but are somehow drifting into the wrong direction now?

Let’s hope we will find out soon … until then, I will listen to “At The Break Of Dawn” and their first record on repeat.

Review: In This Moment – “Ritual”

Release date: July 21, 2017
Rating: average (3)

Line-up:

Maria Brink – vocals
Chris Howorth – guitar
Randy Weitzel – guitar
Travis Johnson – bass
Tom Hane – drums

Maria Brink must be one of the most provocative artists in modern heavy music. While she is easily mistaken as someone who is all about shocking everyone with her looks, I truly acknowledge her genius: Few vocalists express their emotions as openly, very few don’t deter from addressing personal tragedies as directly as Maria Brink. I will always remember the lyrics and the video of the song “Sex Metal Barbie” – In This Moment turned all the hatred that the band ever received into one of their most powerful and equally disturbing songs. I am sure that many won’t agree with me, but I believe that Maria Brink is not technically a role model, but an important female figure in today’s music industry: She has many talents, does whatever she wants, isn’t afraid of criticism and has a hugely empowering impact on women who don’t fit into today’s society.

Alright, after my little sortie into feminism, let’s get into the music. People have very divided opinions on In This Moment, which is no surprise considering their style and their offensive lyrics. Ritual once again falls into that category: The music In This Moment are presenting on this record is very little different from what they usually offer, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, that’s not the case when the music isn’t the best in general. To me, it always seems as if In This Moment have a lot more potential than they actually deliver. The aforementioned single “Sex Metal Barbie” showcases exactly the kind of energy, emotion and musical genius this band is capable of. Luckily, there are some tracks on “Ritual” that go into the right direction, namely “Black Wedding” featuring nobody else than Rob Halford. This song makes you want to dance and sing along immediately and the lyrics and the melodies just go together so nicely. The rest isn’t bad. It really isn’t. On the one hand, I usually can’t get the main melody of “River Of Fire” out of my head for at least six hours after listening to that song. In This Moment have also succeeded with their cover of “In The Air Tonight” originally performed by Phil Collins, as it really is a great mix of the original and their own style. “Joan Of Arc” and “Witching Hour” give me serious American Horror Story vibes, the atmosphere on these tracks is just amazing. “Oh Lord”, the first single off the new record, on the other hand, is a little unspectacular, just like all the other tracks on Ritual.

The bottom line is that this album doesn’t feel like one hundred percent. In This Moment are somehow stuck at seventy-five percent. Ultimately, I believe that if you enjoy In This Moment, you will enjoy this record, period. But after listening more closely, I can only conclude that this record will never satisfy a music enthusiast’s need for creative, unique and sophisticated songwriting. I will continue to listen to those three to five songs by In This Moment that I like and that’s it.

Tracks:
01. Salvation
02. Lord
03. Black Wedding
04.  In The Air Tonight
05. Joan Of Arc
06. River Of Fire
07. Witching Hour
08. Twin Flames
09. Half God Half Devil
10. Me Importa
11. Roots
12. Lay Your Gun Down

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