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Category: Reviews

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

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

Review: Rings Of Saturn – “Ultu Ulla”

Release date: July 28, 2017
Rating: outstanding (4)

Line-up:
Lucas Mann – Guitars, Bass, Synth
Ian Bearer – Lyrics, Vocals
Aaron Stechauner – Drums
Miles Dimitri Baker – Guitar

The first time I heard about the band Rings Of Saturn was when I watched one of Jared Dines’ videos. It is called “10 ways to headbang (for beginners)” and that’s where he shows different types of headbangers at metal shows. At some point, there is one type called “Every Rings Of Saturn Show” and he shows a guy who just can’t figure out how to headbang. So apparently, Rings Of Saturn’s music is so complicated when it comes to rhythm that no one can figure it out.
So now I’m sitting here, listening to Rings Of Saturn’s new record Ultu Ulla because weird music is just what I’m into; additionally, I wanted to check out this band ever since watching that video.

The record is composed of several explosive, fast and mind-blowingly complex tracks accompanied by some fresh acoustic intros and interludes for good measure. Rings Of Saturn show that deathcore doesn’t have to be repetitive, but can in fact be really exciting and interesting for fans of technical and progressive music: Abysmal, dark breakdowns alternate with colorful synthesizer and guitar melodies on Ultu Ulla. Merely the vocals sound a little monotonous to me, but I assume that people who are listening to Rings Of Saturn aren’t doing so because of the vocals in particular. This is a band that surely has things to offer past good vocals.

I can tell you that once you have gone through the initial “What the heck am I listening to”-phase, you might really enjoy this record. Ultu Ulla is something different that is worth giving a listen, so don’t be put off by retro video game soundtrack inspired guitar melodies and Rings Of Saturn’s alien and space concept. Highlights: “Servant Of This Sentience” and “Inadequate”.

Tracks:
01. Servant of this Sentience
02. Parallel Shift
03. Unhallowed
04. Immemorial Essence
05. The Relic
06. Margidda
07. Harvest
08. The Macrocosm
09. Prognosis Confirmed
10. Inadequate

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