Welcome to the year 2019, everyone has just arrived and already it seems like a militia of artists in all genres have promised to make it a stand out year for music. From Pop to Rock, to Hip Hop, all the way down to Jazz, artists everywhere seem to be edging for musical glory. That in mind, among the contenders for glory in the Heavy Metal world, stand the true and tried Arch Enemy.
Originating in Sweden, Arch Enemy has been one of the leaders in Melodic Death Metal for over two decades. Building a respected name for themselves in all areas of Heavy Metal in general, through the years, Arch Enemy has kept going strong. Now, with the new year commenced, they are set to release a brand new album, entitled Covered in Blood, via Century Media Records on Friday, January 18th.
Their first release since 2017’s Will to Power, the highly anticipated Covered in Blood is a compilation of all cover versions the band has ever recorded. Spanning a wide variety of material over the years, including recordings from their previous Vocalists and Angela Gossow, along with current lead lady Alissa White-Gluz, it includes Rock and Metal renditions of classics from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kiss, Megadeth, Carcass, Europe, Scorpions, Manowar, Queensrÿche, Pretty Maids, Dream Evil, Mike Oldfield, and Tears For Fears. Also including Punk tracks originally by Discharge, G.B.H., Anti-Cimex and Skitslickers, Covered in Blood has an enduring track list at a whopping twenty-four songs, all curated and injected with the Heavy Metal finesse Arch Enemy is known for.
With so much to discuss, first up on the impressive track list is a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Shout.” Completely matching the passion of the original song, White-Gluz’s guttural vocals add a new depth of frenzied desperation to the normally emotionally charged track. Without pause, the album bleeds into “Back to Back,” originally recorded by Pretty Maids. With hectic drums and guitar licks, White-Gluz’s screaming vocals spiral alongside the instrumentation. Though the original was more dramatic, this version is heavier and is sure to get your blood racing.
Moving on, “Treat me like a prisoner, treat me like a fool” beckons the growling voice of White-Gluz amidst a confident guitar focused intro, as “Shadow on the Wall” takes over. Unlike the initial folky version by Oldfield and Chapman, Arch Enemy’s version is inherently more seductive and darker in nature. Then, with “Breaking the Law,” a Metal staple of Judas Priest, Arch Enemy transform it into a more Thrash style and transmuted into faster paced Death Metal with a grittier film over the sound.
A similar theme is seen with Moderat Likvidation’s “Nitad,” which goes from spitting Punk to splitting Metal. This is dissimilar to their rendition of Anti-Cimex’s “When the Innocent Die,” which maintains much of the same energy in both song versions, though as all the covers so far the Arch Enemy version is slightly speedier. “War System” is forever under 60 seconds in either the Shitlickers or Arch Enemy version, and honestly, that should never ever change. With intensity unrivaled, this headbanger leads right into “Armed Revolution,” which completely and utterly overwhelming. Another Shitlickers cover under 60 seconds, “Sprackta Snutskallar” punches right through the speakers burning brightly before fading just as quickly with its battering bass lines and incoherent anger. Furthermore, “The Leader (of the Fucking Assholes)” is just as rageful and fed up with those damn assholes as the Shitlickers, jarring in its intensity and ready to incite riots.
Keeping the energy high, “City Baby Attacked by Rats” breaks the spell of Shitlicker songs as the G.B.H cover blares in. Typically Hardcore Punk, the Arch Enemy version is revamped with a new attitude with a kinship in the rebellious tone and badgering drums. Following up with “Warning,” originally by Hardcore Punks Discharge, somehow Arch Enemy manage to make it even more angry and condemning with their version. Thereafter, Scorpions favorite “The Zoo” is remade from the dramatic storytelling into a snarling manifesto with ironclad drums, bass, and guitar. This is while Europe’s “Wings of Tomorrow” goes from a fantastical thrill into a twisted fusion of fantasy and hammering metal as Kiss’ “The Oath” becomes less harmony and more harrowed and weighted. Succeeded by Dream Evil’s “The Book of Heavy Metal,” which is less bellowing and more hysteria, Queensrÿche’s “Walk in the Shadows” is dreamy as well as nightmarish in its fever dream haziness. In contrast, Carcass’s “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” is Arch Enemy’s own warning of war.
Near the end of the lengthy compilation, “Kill with Power” is a an enthusiastic take on Manowar’s own seething creation, in which the Arch Enemy version creates a throaty command of “Die! Die!” with full guitar breakdowns. Flowing into the iconic “Symphony of Destruction,” it sounds almost demonic in this cover of Megadeth’s own anthem of decay and destruction, as Iron Maiden’s theatrical “Aces High” is Arch Enemy’s deeper dirtier spin. Rounding out the collection is Europe’s “Scream of Anger” leading into Judas Priest’s “Starbreaker” and Iron Maiden’s “Ides of March,” which is a firework explosion of pure instrumentation of overall Heavy Metal bad-assery.
All in all, Arch Enemy’s Covered in Blood pays incredible homage to the forefathers of Hardcore Crust Punk and Metal royalty. Beyond that, Arch Enemy has proven that they can take any song and innovate it into their own design. A truly inspired work, Cryptic Rock gives Covered in Blood 4.5 out of stars.