Arch Enemy – Deceivers
Arch Enemy have some serious weapons in their armoury. When singer Alissa White-Gluz and guitarist Jeff Loomis joined the band in 2014 it opened a whole new chapter for them. With this, their 11th album (the 3rd with the new members) they are further cementing their place in the Premier League of metal. I am not that familiar with their previous material, so I am taking this new album at face value. Or maybe that should be at face-melting value?
The material falls under the melodic death metal sub-genre but there is also a symphonic edge to it. As my taste in music has grown heavier and more extreme, ironically, I am only now “discovering” bands like this. Of course, they have been right under my nose all along, skirting around the periphery.
From the word go the weaponry I alluded to earlier is evident in ‘Handshake with Hell.’ Alissa has an incredible range in her vocals from low gutturals to soaring cleans. The twin guitar attack of Jeff Loomis and Michael Amott will have you reaching for the nearest air guitar. The quieter section later in the track reminds me of Unleash the Archers and Alissa’s fellow Canadian Brittney Slayes. It really does have a bit of everything, and sometimes that is just how I like it.
Arch Enemy – Handshake With Hell (click here if video does not play)
In an episode of Inside Culture where Professor Mary Beard interviews various guests – bear with me here – there was a humorous moment. The guest in question was Booker prize-nominated British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and Mary asked her about her musical preference. Imagine the professor’s reaction when her guest declared that she loved heavy metal and in particular Arch Enemy.
She then proceeded to show Mary a video on her phone of the band’s video for ‘The World Is Yours.’ Mary, Rather taken aback, said “It’s a bit in your face, an affront on the senses.” Well Mary, that is just what the doctor ordered, so bring it on. And accordingly, it is brought on with ‘Deceiver, Deceiver’ in a full-on assault and no clean vocals from Alissa in this one.
Arch Enemy – Deceiver, Deceiver (click here if video does not play)
From here on in, I am pretty sure that there is no more clean singing. But there are plenty of great riffs and dramatic bombastic ambiance. It is true that the general feel of the songs is indeed an “affront on the senses.” However, the intensity is softened and embellished by the twin guitars. These elements can be experienced as you bask in the excellence of ‘In the Eye of the Storm.’ It is notable that even though there is practically no clean singing, you can still mostly make out the lyrics.
Arch Enemy – In The Eye Of The Storm (click here if video does not play)
As each track finishes you are left with anticipation of what the next one will bring. There are no disappointments, it must be said, just one great song after another. The pace shifts up a couple of gears for ‘The Watcher’ to the point of being sub-thrash. Despite this there is a catchy chorus and some great guitar work as the track changes subtly during its progression.
As ‘The Watcher’ fades out it is replaced with the symphonic intro to ‘Poisoned Arrow.’ This is short lived, and don’t worry the song does get heavier with a pounding riff and little guitar breaks punctuating the whole thing. Most of the tracks are under 5 minutes long but all pack a punch. The opening line rasped out by Alissa in ’Sunset Over the Empire’ is “Welcome to the Apocalypse, the End of Days.” Welcome indeed, it certainly feels like that some days.
Arch Enemy – Sunset Over The Empire (click here if video does not play)
The album was written and recorded, like many, during the pandemic. This posed its own problems with the various members of the band living in different countries. Despite this they persevered, and the result is this fine addition to their catalogue. Leading up to the album release a few singles were put out and number five among these was ‘House of Mirrors.’ It’s on the short side but punches above its weight, and remember, “In a House of Mirrors you’re never alone.”
Arch Enemy – House Of Mirrors (click here if video does not play)
The last four numbers are different from each other. Starting with ‘Spreading Black Wings’ which is doomier with Black Sabbath type riffs and is satisfyingly heavy. Then comes a 96 second instrumental with a bit of a psychedelic feel to it called ‘Mourning Star.’ Second to last ‘One Last Time’ has some spoken word in the middle of a catchy, lively rocker. And finally, ‘Exiled From Earth’ seems to be about the end of humanity. It has lines such as “Back into the Primordial Soup we descend “and “Now Gaia reclaims her throne”. Apocalyptic stuff to finish a brilliant 45 minutes.
This is a cracking album from one of the stalwarts of the metal world. Now that concerts and festivals have returned, I am sure they will be itching to catch up on lost time. Hopefully, that means I will be able to see this line-up before too long. Because this is yet another band that I need to keep an eye on now.
- Handshake With Hell
- Deceiver, Deceiver
- In the Eye of the Storm
- The Watcher
- Poisoned Arrow
- Sunset Over the Empire
- House of Mirrors
- Spreading Black Wings
- Mourning Star
- One Last Time
- Exiled From Earth