ARCH ENEMY: DOOMSDAY MACHINE (2005)
1) Enter The Machine; 2) Taking Back My Soul; 3) Nemesis; 4) My Apocalypse; 5) Carry The Cross; 6) I Am Legend / Out For Blood; 7) Skeleton Dance; 8) Hybrids Of Steel; 9) Mechanic God Creation; 10) Machtkampf; 11) Slaves Of Yesterday.
No changes in the formula whatsoever, but the band is still going strong — at least, in the early sections of the record. We kick off with a somewhat false start: the instrumental 'Enter The Machine' should, by all means, be setting up a suitably ominous atmosphere, but the lead lines played over the ironclad rhythm sequences are inexplicably set in a «stadium rock» pattern — reduce the heaviness a little bit and you could safely use the result to start off an Asia concert. Seems like someone took the «melodic» of «melodic death metal» a bit too literally this time.
The situation is immediately corrected on the next three tracks, which pretty much tell us everything we need to know about the then-current state of the band. First, 'Taking Back My Soul' prepares the stage with a nice rollicking art-metal melody. Then it's time for adrenaline spraying — 'Nemesis' is one of the band's fastest and, at the same time, tightest-controlled speed-metal runs, sort of the obligatory 'Highway Star' in the band's catalog. The nasty thing does try to transform itself into a sing-along martial anthem in the chorus, but at least the thrash-influenced verses return often enough to forget the bits of pomp.
The centerpiece of the album, however, is track number four, to my surprise, relatively rarely praised by metalheads — but I think 'My Apocalypse' is the clear standout on the album and, in fact, the band's entire catalog. The thunderous, well-sequenced intro recalls Metallica at their best (and I love the spooky «whooo»-shing ghost-like noises introducing some of the bars, although I have no idea what they are); and the verses rely on an oddly math-rock-style syncopated melody that is a Black Sabbath-y devilish wobble for one second and a King Crimson-ian choppy pattern the very next. Against this stop-and-start background, Gossow's growling is ever more potent, and by the time it all culminates in the chorus — "my apocalypse is near!" — the song becomes one of those very few Arch Enemy tunes whose «doomsday» aura is possible to take seriously. A genuine breakthrough here, I would say.
Unfortunately, the band seems to have missed that impression themselves: after 'My Apocalypse', the album takes a steady turn for the predictable and the mediocre. The songs are too slow (with the exception of 'Out For Blood', the only other thrashy piece on the record), too soft ('Carry The Cross', with its echoey guitar jangle, is almost wimpy by this band's standards), and too anticlimactic (the decision to fade out the last track, 'Slaves Of Yesterday', rather than end it with a bang, was clearly a mistake). Repeated listens bring out craft, but not invention — and even a rigidly formulaic band needs to invent, or else it will degenerate into endless re-proving of their point, which has already been proven too many times.
Still, on the strength of those opening numbers and on the lack of any awful failures, Doomsday Machine holds up as a decent achievement of the melodic death genre, and deserves its thumbs up. I just wish that, as a whole, the LP lived up more to its title — as it is, only 'My Apocalypse' forms the perfect gift to all fans of December 2012.
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