Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant

Memories of Arch Enemy’s last two albums are warped in a spiral of negativity. Adjectives fasten themselves, locking into the memory, constructing associations running the gamut of banality and lustreless soundscapes. Plodding riffs cascading into groove, frequent gyrations on the screams of recycled rhythms. Protests cite the occasional tracks of quality, prodding at one to ignore the truth: that this album duo indeed fail to continue a streak of brilliance the band was cultivating so successfully. Alas, mediocrity can’t be erased by the recollection of past triumph.

Now, what is this? A new Arch Enemy opus, Rise of the Tyrant, studio release number seven, lunging from the palms of the Swedish quintet into our welcoming aural cavities.

Gone is the preoccupation with guitar tracks that jog along, toneless, fearing melody will catch them up. Here is the veritable “return to form”, oft-pronounced in the past, chanted from belfries with no consideration for the validity of the claim – but this is the genuine article, the album to overwrite recent dips in calibre, inverting memories mired in the pungent odours of disappointment.

The dramatic surge in quality comes through hefty bolts of vitality, a newly-discovered fount of energy flooding the band. Perhaps credit should be given to Christopher Amott, guitarist and co-founding member, who exited the band a few years ago only to return earlier this year. No doubt his head became layered in vast swathes of riffery during the hiatus, all to gush intensely outwards upon his return.

Songs like ‘In This Shallow Grave’ demonstrate the grilling heaviness present on the last two albums, but this time added with the missing element of ingenuity needed to captivate the listener’s attention – that wavering, fickle cord that links musician and enthusiast. ‘Night Falls Fast’ shuttles along in a similar vein, summoning comparisons with the thrash titillations circumnavigating debut album Black Earth. Yet never does the reverberations of Rise of the Tyrant fall short of sounding absolutely contemporary.

A crucial influx of melody underscores the album, warm lapidary lines of melodic sustenance boring through each and every song. Contrasts are established through the intermixture of thrilling sonic blasts of metal and decelerating pullulations of glowing harmonies, joyous juxtapositions coursing at exactly the right pace. The height of this convergence comes with ‘The Day You Died’, its central motif a roaming, dense riff of dynamic chugging overlaid with a melancholic lead shivering in sparseness. Reminiscent of In Flames Clayman-era (before the transition to insurmountable hideousness), this song is precisely that which has been lacking of late, the smooth touch expressed to perfection on Burning Bridges and Wages of Sin.

Even the dual guitar relays get a spark of rejuvenation here. The Amott brothers evidence their axe-wielding skills with biting force, encircling passages in winding double helixes of harmonised lead guitar, propelling momentum in lightning flashes of scalar dance.

It’s a relief to see equilibrium re-established here, for wrongs to be righted, past blips elided. The confirmation that Arch Enemy are producers of sublime musical expanses is a fact left numbing the head after listening to Rise of the Tyrant.


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