DVD REVIEW: ARCH ENEMY – “As The Stages Burn”
Arch Enemy has been around since 1996, and to celebrate their 20th anniversary, not only have they headlined the world’s biggest metal festival – Wacken, in Germany – they have also recorded the whole thing for their new live DVD ‘As The Stages Burn’. Did Arch Enemy manage to live up to the challenge of headlining the world biggest metal festival Wacken?
Coming on to the “Khaos Overture” with visuals that look to be from a military tracking system mixed in with some crowd shots, the band goes straight into “Yesterday is Dead and Gone” with frontwoman Allisa White-Gluz screaming “Wacken, let’s see those horns in the air!” It’s a strong and energetic start and the crowd soon gets caught up in Alissa’s enthusiasm, while the rest of the band sound like they’re in perfect form. We get treated to “War Eternal” a lot sooner than I would have expected, it’s an absolute belter of a performance, and it seems like Arch Enemy have stepped up their already usually quite impressive game, not only for this headlining act, but also for the tour they have been on in support of the ‘War Eternal’ album.
Up to this point, the stage decoration has just been some long white drapes with AE on them and a pentagram symbol behind Daniel Erlandsson drum kit that’s part of the lighting set up but as “Ravenous” starts, they fall away to reveal a far more fitting Arch Enemy set. The new set resembles a satanic church with skulls everywhere as well as pictures now replacing where the drapes were. However you can’t really see what the images are as the camera doesn’t really show the staging very much during the song. Again, Alissa does a good job getting the crowd pumped up, this time getting them involved in a call-back and clapping along during the main guitar solo. It’s another song that goes down even better in a live performance. The band move right into “Stolen Life” without so much as pausing for breath, followed by “My Apocalypse”, where we see pyrotechnics for the first time of the night. It certainly looks like they are going all out for this set, not that you would expect any less.
Alissa keeps up her outstanding performance, and keeps getting the crowd involved in the songs. By this point, the band seem to be having the time of their lives, and the audience looks to be having nearly as much fun themselves. Arch Enemy are a band that prefer to let their music do most of the talking, not relying on stage props and changing backdrops to add anything to the show as much as some of the bigger bands do. When they begin “Bloodstained Cross”, you can feel the energy level go up a notch and the crowd responds with them. The band is able to maintain it at that height, as we get treated to “Under Black Flags”, with a standout solo from Jeff Loomis. Everything is going almost flawlessly, it’s a thing of beauty to watch even on DVD. “As The Pages Burn” from the new War Eternal album is the next offering “on this special night” as Alissa puts it, and she’s entirely right. They move without pause again straight into “Dead Eyes See No Future”, followed by “Avalanche” and “No Gods, No Masters”, all while keeping the crowd involved with every song – it really is a great thing to witness, and really adds to the experience the live crowd got treated to.
Then comes what I think is the strongest song in the set, “We Will Rise”. There is just something about the song, particularly in a live show, that I’ve always felt makes it stand out on the band’s set list, and here is no exception. It’s the beginning of the end of the show, but what an outstanding way to end the set it is. They follow it up with “Nemesis”, before closing out the set with “Fields of Desolation”.
The camera work on the DVD is amazing; they used 13 cameras to film the set they keep the shots of the band lined up well with the music – moving between band members every so often but most of the time focused on Alissa, and occasionally throwing in a wide or crowd shot to change things up a bit. They don’t ever do any close up crowd shots, but I don’t think that takes anything away from the presentation of the show. The camera work is smooth it doesn’t jump around with lots of different shots in a few seconds it just uses the shots of the band it needs and doesn’t have to do anything more.
Bottom Line: This show is one hell of a wild ride, with Arch Enemy never once letting up during a 70 minute set that seems to fly past. It’s energetic and relentless in a way only Arch Enemy could do. The band have certainly come a long way since it’s conception twenty years ago, and this performance at the world’s largest metal festival shows just how good they’ve become. With some of the older bands starting to call time on their careers, and people wondering where the next headline act might come from – don’t worry, Arch Enemy are more than capable of filling that void all by themselves. If you have never seen them before, or even if you have but haven’t seen this DVD yet, this show is a must-see for any metal fan, it’s of such a high quality you will be playing it on repeat for quite a while to come.