Top positive review
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A solid slab of Heavy Metal
on 9 September 2003
2003 has been far from the finest year for the melodic metal genre. In Flames released 'Reroute to Remain', an album that whilst perhaps not as bad as its harshest critics would make out is almost certainly the weakest album the band have released and Soilwork released 'Figure Number Five', an album which in itself was not a huge departure from their previous effort 'Natural Born Chaos' and whilst being a good album, had a certain rushed quality to it. Arch Enemy however, a band that have never really fit in to the typical "Gothenburg sound" with their heavier, 'Heartwork'-era Carcass influence sound, have certainly come up trumps with this, their fifth studio album and most diverse album to date.
Following steadily on from the progress made on 'Wages of Sin', the band have stepped up a gear and reintroduced a little of the heaviest lost on 'Wages...', resulting in an album that combines the melodic strengths of that album with the heaviness and intensity of 'Stigmata'. Opening track "Silent Wars" is an Arch Enemy classic with superb drumming, a heavy crushing main riff and superb lead guitars as always. From the outset it is clear that the band have neither watered down their sound ala In Flames or gone for a more direct, accessible approach ala Soilwork.
If you've heard any of the tracks from this album already, such as "We Will Rise" or "Leader of Rats", which have both been released as promos, then you may worry that this is not going to be a great album. All lectures about judging a 13 track album on the basis of a couple of tracks aside, there is no cause for concern because these are hardly the strongest tracks on the album - although they do sound more appealing within the context of the album. "We Will Rise" reminds of "Tears Of The Dead" in places and the songs slower pace is only one aspect of the album. As mentioned earlier, this is a diverse album: "Silent Wars", "Dead Eyes See No Future" and album closer "Saints and Sinners" are classic Arch Enemy tracks, "Despicable Heros" is an intense thrasher in the vein of The Haunted, and then there is "End Of The Line" and "Dehumanization", the two tracks with clean vocals courtesy of Chris Amott. The use of clean vocals is unlike that of Soilwork's recent outings, instead used as backing vocals to compliment Angela's growls. The clean vocals are restrained and add a unique edge to Arch Enemy's style. In moderation, this is something I'd like to hear on future Arch Enemy albums.
'Anthems of Rebellion' is a tight, heavy album that gets better the more you listen to it. The production is crisp and heavy, and flatters the band's sound immensely. The musicianship is unsurprisingly second to none, and Angela's vocals seem to have improved slightly since 'Wages...', giving the music an extra brutal edge that Johan Liiva was simply unable to do on the bands earlier material with his often monotonous - albeit unique - bark. That's not to say that Liiva was a bad vocalist; indeed, fans will always argue over who is the better vocalist and lets not forget that Liiva undoubtedly improved over the course of the three studio (and one live) albums that he appeared on. Angela's growl is far from original but it fits in with the music just fine - she does the job.
The band have managed to progress without doing anything to alienate their fans, and as a result have a lot of life in them yet. 'Anthems...' is rarely dull and it's hard to see why any Arch Enemy fan could not like this. It's not a perfect album, but albums rarely are. You could nitpick away at this if you really wanted to, but if you just sit back and listen you realise that what you are listening to is a great slab of heavy metal. The results on this album are all to evident and 'Anthems of Rebellion' is a great album that is easily on par with anything the band have done before, and will only disappoint only the most hardened of cynics. This deserves a place in any Arch Enemy or melodic metal fan's collection.