The Swedish melodic death metal group Arch Enemy has enjoyed immense acclaim and popularity in their modern incarnation. Though some may still miss the valkyrie-esque Angela Gossow, the fans have had two albums to get used to new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz from Canada. In addition, the new line-up also includes a veritable guitar god from America, Jeff Loomis, most known from Nevermore. The term “Swedish” is staring to feel loose. Their last two albums have been massively popular, the newest of which, Will to Power, came out just this September, landing in at #2 on the Finnish album sales charts. Therefore, it was no surprise that their show at The Circus was sold out.
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Strangely enough, I’d never seen Arch Enemy before. I’d heard some of their stuff in the early ’00s but it failed to reach me and therefore I never really followed up on them. Then since their resurgence with War Eternal, when everyone was hyping on them, I felt the need to check them out. Though maybe not the most innovative record in existence, it was a solid melodic death metal romp done with great attention to detail and atmosphere. I did since discover more of their classic material but I fear I will always be a rookie when it comes to these guys. Obviously I was very excited to see them live for the first time and was hoping they’d play at least some songs I’d recognize.
From 19:00 when the doors open and on, there was a continuously long queue to get in. This tends to happen when The Circus is sold out. The first wave of fans swarmed the merch stand so that the most popular sizes sold out within the hour. I wasn’t sure if this was a sign they had been unprepared or if the fans had just been particularly enthusiastic. The most popular shirts were the ones with the album cover on them. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it that much but ever since I got the LP I it really opened up to me. It had a sort of emblem that was kind of at war with itself.
The opening act was a Ukrainian metalcore group called Jinjer. Before they took the stage, an intro tape riled up the crowd, who tried as they might to clap along to it but tired quickly. Following this was an awkward silence whilst the band still checked their instruments. After what felt like the longest minute of my life they finally began to play. They were very much of the school of thought that melodic death and metalcore are essentially the same. Soon after the first riff, the vocalist climbed on stage. They, not unlike the headliner, also have a female vocalist, Tatiana Shmaylyuk. She was a commanding presence, taking control of the crowd immediately. She stood up on the monitors so the whole crowd could see her imposing image. Her vocals mostly consisted of brutal growls and screams, occasionally breaking for some clean singing. On the albums these clean vocals had been heavily modified so that a more old school listener would easily dismiss them. Here they were in no way distorted and we got to enjoy them as welcome variety, as opposed to a constant annoyance.
Jinjer’s sound seemed almost proggy at times. Rest assured this was no Attack Attack! The sound relied heavily on bass guitar, which consistently served as the lead instrument, leaving the guitar to mostly play power chords. The bass sound was largely influence by the likes of Meshuggah and Gojira, which wasn’t a bad thing per se but wasn’t exactly new. Their drumkit was almost adorably small. Seldomly does one see a drummer’s whole torso at a large club such as The Circus.
Even though it wasn’t my genre, I enjoyed it. Their sound was dynamic and interesting. The clean vocals were admittedly the weakest parts but at least they weren’t absolute deal-breakers like on the albums. Shmaylyuk’s accent was a bit distracting but I didn’t spot any egregious grammar mistakes, which was a huge point in their favor. They also had very erratic lighting that was perfectly in tune with the music. I’d say I liked Jinjer a lot more than I thought I would.
Just before Arch Enemy came on stage, they played an intro track. It was “Thuderstruck” by AC/DC. The audience was thrilled and clapped along to it but gave up after the first verse. Following that was yet another tape. It was the intro track to Will to Power, “Set Flame to the Night”, after which the show began in earnest. The first song proper was “The World is Yours.” At first they had an issue with the vocals, as they came out too quietly, but they soon fixed it. The song itself was the single with which they promoted the new album. It’s all about finding the strength within to pursue one’s dreams. Lofty ideals aside I always found it a banal song with little to offer. It’s mostly based on one particularly weak melody and it was always the weakest song on the record. In a sense I was relieved they did it straight away. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid.
White-Gluz was a returning champion the entire night. Her presence on stage was undeniable. The crowd was obviously 100% on board to begin with so she got to strut around like a heavy metal Freddy Mercury. Her almost iconic hairstyle was modified to be blond on one side while blue on the other. This created a sort of Harley Quinn look – but with cornrows on the side. I’m no fashion critic but it looked fabulous on stage. It was also a delight to watch legendary guitarist Michael Amott harmonizing with Loomis. It was a real shame Amott didn’t let Loomis write any music since he joined the band for fear of messing with the sound. It seemed like a waste of a perfectly good Loomis. That being said they had an obvious chemistry on stage. Loomis fit the band like a glove.
During “Apocalypse” the sound lost all low-end for a bit near the end. Fortunately, the bridge had a crowd participation phase to offset the problem. The crowd went along with it as if nothing weird had gone down but I saw White-Gluz’s face twitched just a little when the problem appeared. It resurfaced during “You Will Know My Name” soon after. It kept coming up for a while but never lingered that long. In between songs it always came back to the default setting.
Once White-Gluz announced “Blood in the Water” from Will to Power it became clear that the crowd was familiar with the new album and were enthusiastic about it. Sometimes the crowd chanted along with admirable passion but admittedly clapped way off tempo. Such is the way of the world.
Before they did the video track, Liina Rislakki from Century Media came on stage to announce that the War Eternal video had just reached 27 million views and gave them a plaque to commemorate the occasion. White-Gluz cordially thanked the fans as being the reason they got this distinction in the first place.
After a triumphant few songs, it was abruptly time to wind down the set. In one monologue, White-Gluz gave a clear shout out to Jinjer. She said they were honored to play with such a great band and that they had lots more shows to go. For “No Gods No Masters” they asked the crowd to get their hearts beating in the same rhythm. “That’s 666/bpm.” I’m not ashamed to admit I laughed out loud.
After “We Will Rise”, they did the usual disappearance waiting for an encore, which they promptly provided in the form of “Avalanche”, after which Loomis played a solo that had the crowd clapping along. At times it was sublime. Amott joined in after a while. It was the best bit – just the both of them, masters in their field, having at it. It only took a few minutes, then they finished the show with “Nemesis.” It was a catchy, melodic, great song, and it was the perfect note on which to end.
Despite some minor technical issues it was a solid, great gig. AEs resurgence is well on track and the group, as well as the fans, seemed brimming with enthusiasm. The set was mostly focused on the last two records, but can you blame them considering how popular they have proven themselves to be? Even the opening act was far better live than I could have expected. Seeing as it was a sold-out night, there seemed to be no doubt they would return and soon. As they themselves said, next time they have to go some place bigger. You may find me in the front row.
Set Flame to the Night
The World Is Yours
Blood in the Water
You Will Know My Name
The Eagle Flies Alone
As the Pages Burn
No Gods, No Masters
Dead Bury Their Dead
We Will Rise
Photos: Janne Puronen