Rise Of The Tyrant
posted on 10/2007 By:
I'm apparently missing out on something, because I can't find many serious negative reviews of this album. Everyone is eating it up, calling it either a magnificent return to form or a giant leap ahead of the melodic death metal competition in 2007. But I don't believe Rise of the Tyrant is either of those; it's certainly a comeback album, but the lows of the previous two albums were damn low, and has it really been so long since April, when Fiction came out?
To put all the cards on the table and to be as forthright as possible, I think Arch Enemy was best with Johan Liiva, and I think every release from Wages of Sin to the present has paled in comparison to the early greats ( and Stigmata and Burning Bridges, especially). I like Gossow's vocals just fine but I don't like the processed treatment of them on the albums. Finally, I want my money back for Doomsday Machine.
Now that we're clear about things, let's talk about Rise of the Tyrant. Chris returned to the band and here the brothers Amott once again flex all their shredding, riffing, soloing, and leading might, and there really isn't anything to complain about in the guitar department, technically speaking. The Nordstrom production is great as always, and the riffs have been brought to the front of the mix, right where they belong. Nothing sounds too clean, over-produced, or sterile, and I love the guitar tone. My only gripe is a familiar one with Arch Enemy by now: Angela's vocals are over-produced, even if less so than on earlier albums. She's become stronger as a vocalist (take "The Great Darkness" for example) and she sounds great live, but sometimes she's buried beneath so many effects it's hard to appreciate those gains.
But we all expected guitar virtuosity and top-notch production. The question is, Is this better than Doomsday Machine? Thankfully, the answer is an easy yes. It's true: RotT is a comeback album. After a slump that saw Arch Enemy's output quite obviously losing creative steam, rehashing ideas to send soulless paint-by-the-numbers melodic death metal to the press, the band has pulled it together, gotten angry, and written a fast, aggressive, and admittedly infectious album that more than nods to the band's early albums while retaining the trademark Gossow-era sound. Where Doomsday Machine was recycled and boring, RotT is new and exciting.
At first. Then, halfway through the album I'm bored again. Solos and soaring leads are great, and Michael and Chris are impressive, but musical talent needs to translate into songwriting skill to make albums worthwhile listening experiences, and that's exactly what RotT doesn't do--it doesn't provide many worthwhile songs. "Blood On Our Hands" is one of the good ones (the best of the lot, I'd say), and lots of the first half of the album is definitely worthwhile. But for every anthemic chorus and engaging track there's another that lacks originality and heart. RotT may be meaner and leaner than the last two albums, but it still suffers from post-Liiva Arch Enemy syndrome, that debilitating condition that takes the soul out of a Swedish melodic death metal band, leaving the body unaffected, making it particularly hard to diagnose.
It's hard because, when I focus on the details, on the passages and on the individual parts that make up the whole, they are by and large the same parts that made up the superior Wages of Sin, and they sometimes have a lot in common with the far, far superior Burning Bridges. Not recycled, just done right. Take "Blood On Our Hands" for example. It comes ripping out of the gate, guitars in a flurry, Angela's voice spot-on, the riffing complex and more importantly interesting. The keyboards in the background during the chorus aren't overdone, and the leads are captivating. Some cool ideas here, to be sure. The song is extremely catchy without sacrificing its brutality. It's Arch Enemy done right. Now look at "The Last Enemy." The same formula, but the parts don't add up to a satisfying whole in the same way. Instead of throwing me around in a whirlwind of melody, it's handing me a pillow and a pair of headphones. The ideas started off fresh, but somewhere along the way ("Intermezzo Liberte", specifically) they became tired and the songs have suffered for it. The mid-paced songs are the weakest on the album, especially those in the latter half ("Night Falls Fast" and "Revolution Begins"), but there are a few duds in the beginning, too ("The Great Darkness" and the cheesy "I Will Live Again"). Not too be overly critical, I really enjoy "The Day You Died", "In This Shallow Grave", and "Vultures" as well as "Blood On Our Hands."
Rise of the Tyrant isn't a bad album; in fact it's an above-average one. And the band earns respect for at least stepping up the plate and swinging for the fences on most of the tracks. That they ran out of gas and didn't hit a home run this time around is a little disappointing after the high-caliber first track, but at least they didn't strike out again.
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