he buzz for this album has been huge. Arch Enemy's previous full-length was the fastest-selling album in the history of its label, Century Media. Incessant touring with the likes of Iron Maiden and Slayer, as well as a high-profile slot on this summer's Ozzfest, has created worldwide exposure for the band. In interviews, band members promised that the new album would be "more extreme." In metalspeak, "more extreme" is "more good," and the Century Media machine ubiquitously hyped the countdown to Doomsday Machine.
The hype was understandable, given Arch Enemy's pedigree. Guitarist Michael Amott was a member of the legendary Carcass, bassist Sharlee D'Angelo played in King Diamond's Mercyful Fate, and Daniel Erlandsson drummed for seminal Swedish band In Flames. Singer Angela Gossow joined Arch Enemy in 2001 as an unknown but proceeded to shock metalheads with her unearthly midrange shriek that easily descended into mannish death growls.
Wages of Sin, her first album with the band, was a resounding success, establishing Arch Enemy's current sound: new-school thrash and death metal riffs, old-school melodic metal leads, and face-peeling vocals on top. 2003's Anthems of Rebellion streamlined these aspects with tight songwriting, yielding the massive hits "We Will Rise" and "Dead Eyes See No Future." Doomsday Machine finds Arch Enemy stretching out on song structures, with mixed results.
First and foremost, this is a guitar players' album. With melodic solos all over the place, the album has a strong '80s vibe. The leads are mostly tasteful, and Amott's wah-fueled tone is fiery, but the wheedly-deedliness sometimes reaches Guitar Center-esque excess. More work could have gone into the riffs, which are hit-or-miss. "Nemesis" is a prime example; it's a frustrating mix of alternately blazing and bland riffs, with flashy solos and melodic choruses dropping from out of nowhere. At 2:35, a crushing Carcass-inspired breakdown enters, but it gives way at 3:00 to emasculatingly pretty, clean guitars. The song feels like it has wet itself, and never recovers.
The rest of the album is similarly disjointed. For every kick-ass riff, there's a deflating moment around the corner. One reason is that the material usually isn't hard enough to match Gossow's voice from hell. The brutal blastbeats in "I Am Legend/Out For Blood" are the only time that her voice truly gels with the band. But 20 seconds later, the band is off on some galloping Iron Maiden-esque riffs, and, embarrassingly, you find your dad headbanging next to you. By all accounts, Gossow was pushing the band to make more extreme music, but evidently she lost. She was certainly out of the room when "Hybrids of Steel" was penned; it's a Steve Vai-esque exercise in guitar wankery that seriously breaks up the flow of the album. Minus that instrumental, and with more focused songwriting, this album could have been killer. Instead, it's a collection of riffs strung together, with some hot guitar playing.
One last note: The lyrics here are horrible. No one listens to metal for the lyrics (hopefully), but these jump out at you with their cheesiness: "I am after you / A shadow on the hunt / Don't turn around / I am right behind you / I will get to you / And take you down / Tear your insides out / Crush your soul / I am out for your blood / Out for your blood." Gossow's vocals are scary enough so that for a moment, you think she's serious. Then you laugh and keep headbanging as the next Judas Priest riff hits.