Live Review: Arch Enemy

O2 ABC, 09/02

A six-song-but-hour-long support slot for Wintersun shows how big a deal the band is to people. Essentially a solo project for Jari Mäenpää who performs every role on the band’s albums, they’re admired in a number of metal circles, from the purists to the symphonic metal fans.

Their record The Forest Seasons from last year is an under-heard masterpiece, a maxed-out folk-metal The Four Seasons impressive in that it works, and admirable in that it’s somehow really good. It twists and turns through the seasons with appropriate death growls and melodic choruses, and so too does their set, slightly hampered by the melody being lost beneath the crunch of the guitars. Wintersun’s long songs don’t outstay their welcome when masterfully produced, but without the same clarity, the repeated riffs lose something in the live environment. They are more than just a balls to the wall metal band, so burying the melodic keys so deep in the mix means only part of the Wintersun package is on offer. A welcome set, but a little muddled.

Arch Enemy are very much balls to the wall metal, to a fault. Their set spans a twenty two-year career, yet you’d be forgiven for thinking every track played is from the same album. Despite a vocalist change and one of metal’s greatest guitarists, it always feels like Arch Enemy are holding back. Which is not to say it doesn’t come together sometimes – over a decade later, ‘Nemesis’ has firmly planted itself in the canon of best metal songs ever; ‘Dead Bury Their Dead’ is a perfect fusion of the riffs serving the song and building to a climax that feels as huge as the band’s legacy. And the band themselves are great – Alissa White-Gluz will always be the newbie, but she looks more comfortable in the band with each passing day, owning the stage with a presence double that of the last time they played Glasgow in our very own QMU. Michael Amott is one of the genre’s biggest guitar heroes, with an iconic tone and an ear for a riff or two.

It’s that this world-class talent doesn’t come together more often that makes an Arch Enemy gig a little frustrating: the songs aren’t always worthy of the people performing them. When the magic happens, it really happens, but there’s just not enough of it to span a sixteen song set.


[Scott Wilson]

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