Arch Enemy in 2009 is a band simultaneously just past their peak and well into their decline. Their commercial fortunes have arguably never been better—the last few albums have garnered them more exposure and more fans than any of the prior ones—but they’ve done so at the expense of virtually all supporters in the underground. Whether the band cares or not is up to them, but invariably, any mention of Arch Enemy amongst the members of my metal-friends circle deteriorates rapidly into, “They suck without Johan Liiva” and/or “They’ve sold out.” I disagree with the first part of that statement—I do not feel the Gossow years are without merit; I enjoy Wages Of Sin and parts of Anthems Of Rebellion. I do not disagree with the second part of that statement—Doomsday Machine and what I’ve heard of the heretofore-avoided Rise Of The Tyrants are only marginally interesting, appearing to be little more than thrashed-up and watered-down retreads of their former melodeath glories.
So here we have a DVD to add to that list of the marginally interesting—this is your standard concert film, with a bit of useless bonus footage and an overlong “watch once and forget” documentary. As with the last few albums, there’s nothing new here, nothing unexpected. That said, the show is shot well, a professional affair with multiple camera angles and excellent sound and picture quality. The set list is understandably skewed towards newer material, but there are plenty of older moments for the long-time fan, with songs from every period, including a few from the Liiva years. Angela’s voice is processed, as usual, but not so much as on recent discs, and her performance is solid, if terribly arena-rock. To these ears, the finest point of any Arch Enemy song has always been the interplay between the Amott brothers, and on Tyrants Of The Rising Sun, both are in fine form, ripping off fast and furious melodic leads like it’s nothing to them. Overall, the concert is entertaining, but far from essential to even the most die-hard fan.
The bonus footage consists of the usual array of promo videos and that aforementioned (largely) boring documentary about the band’s Japanese tour—all the expected trappings are here: interview footage with every band member, although predominantly Michael and Angela; a few scheduled PR visits to the ESP guitar factories; some interaction with the fans… In the interview footage, the band discusses their reasoning for filming in Japan, how the Japanese fans are more about the music than the band’s fashion or their place in the scene. So, if I may be American (which I am) for just a moment, I’d like to comment upon Arch Enemy’s fashion. Although borrowed from the Surrogate Band (sans crossed hammers), the band’s near-fascist fashion of black dress with red armbands is actually kinda cool, but seriously, Angela… White jeans that say “Pure Fucking Metal?” Maybe it’s me, but pants that say “pure fucking metal” aren’t…well…metal at all.
Arch Enemy hasn’t released anything that interests me in years. Tyrants Of The Rising Sun does not change that fact. Dedicated fans, take note. All else, move along.