Time passes, the world changes, but some things remain constant and unassailable. Heavy metal has endured for more than four decades because its spirit is eternal, and few bands embody the intensity, integrity and lofty artistic ambitions of the genre with more dazzling aplomb than Arch Enemy. Formed in Sweden in the mid-90s by former Carcass/Carnage guitarist Michael Amott, this most explosive and proficient of modern metal bands have spent the last 20 years propagating an unerring creed of technical excellence, songwriting genius and thunderous, irresistible live performance, accruing a huge global fan base along the way. And now, in 2017, Arch Enemy are ready to rise again and climb ever further up the ladder toward pure metal supremacy.
“The band’s core musical philosophy hasn’t changed much since I started the band,” says Amott. “It’s still about creating intense heavy metal with extreme vocals and a lot of melody in the guitars. We’ve always loved writing and meticulously crafting the best songs possible, that’s the main motivation for us.”
When Arch Enemy released their debut album Black Earth in 1996, death metal was stagnating and in desperate need of a kick up the ass. Amott’s blueprint for the purest of metal strains proved an instant underground hit, both in Europe and Japan, and almost single-handedly resurrected death metal as a viable art form with mainstream potential. Signed to Century Media Records for 1998’s sophomore effort Stigmata, Arch Enemy marched purposefully towards a new millennium with a rapidly growing reputation. 1999’s Burning Bridges added to the band’s momentum, their razor-sharp blend of brutality and epic melody becoming more refined with each creative step. But it was in 2001, when original vocalist Johan Liiva stood aside and mercurial frontwoman Angela Gossow stepped in, that Arch Enemy truly took off.
Released in 2001 in Japan and nearly a year later in Europe, Wages Of Sin showcased a revitalised line-up and newfound gift for immortal anthems, Gossow’s feral roar adding many layers of charisma and power to Arch Enemy’s already monstrous sound. Swiftly dedicating themselves to a relentless touring schedule, the band’s upward trajectory continued throughout the first decade of the 21st century, with each successive album enhancing the band’s reputation and bringing legions of new fans to this resolute heavy metal campaign. Albums like 2003’s vicious Anthems Of Rebellion and 2011’s pitch-black and savage Khaos Legions ensured that Amott and his loyal henchmen – Gossow, drummer Daniel Erlandsson, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo and Michael’s guitarist sibling Christopher – remained firmly at the top of the extreme metal tree: respected veterans at the height of their powers.
“Surviving and thriving in the metal scene is not always easy,” Amott admits. “ Contrary to what I’ve seen a lot of people say, I feel the scene is actually quite trend driven and it’s impossible to be at the peak of your popularity all the time. In the past two decades we’ve seen a lot of trends and bands come and go. What I’ve always believed to be important is to stay true to yourself and the reasons why you started. Why you love music must always be at the forefront. I’m pretty good at keeping the 15-year-old Michael Amott alive in my heart!”
Always focused but impervious to other’s rules and expectations, Arch Enemy evolved once more in 2015 following the departure of Angela Gossow (now the band’s manager). Replacing one of the most iconic vocalists of the modern age was never going to be easy, but in the shape of former The Agonist frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz, Arch Enemy found the perfect candidate. Unveiled on the ferocious, anthem-laden triumph of 2014’s War Eternal, Alissa’s powerful identity and extraordinary vocal talents proved a natural and instantly welcomed fit. Further extensive touring cemented the new line-up’s thrilling efficacy, before one final line-up change – the arrival of legendary guitarist Jeff Loomis, formerly of Nevermore – completed the musical puzzle that Amott had been tinkering with for the best part of 20 years.
“Switching singers in 2014 was a big change of course,” Amott agrees. “Alissa brings a lot the band as a singer and a very visually strong performer but also she writes great lyrics and vocal patterns that are very different to mine, which makes for more variation in the Arch Enemy sound. The twin-guitar attack has always been a big part of our sound and now we have Jeff Loomis who’s played some face-melting leads on the new album!”
Recorded in 2017, the tenth Arch Enemy album will be unleashed later in 2017 and promises to be the ultimate statement of heavy metal supremacy from a band that are still growing in stature as the years fall away. Will To Power will be the first album the band have recorded with their current line-up and as Michael Amott explains, diehard fans will be both thrilled to hear their favourite band on top form and somewhat surprised by their latest creative explorations.
“The goal is always to raise the bar yet again and create an epic masterpiece!” he laughs. “I think the album has a great balance between traditional Arch Enemy and some new influences that come through here and there. The most surprising thing on this album is that we’ve written our first ever ballad. It’s still a very metal song, but there’s no way around the fact that it is a ballad and that might be quite controversial for a band like us, I guess. I’m excited to hear what our fans will think of that one, but I do feel that we can afford to spread our wings a bit on our tenth studio album!”
Once Will To Power hits the streets, Arch Enemy will do what they do best, hitting the road and taking their latest batch of heroic metal anthems to the people. Achieving longevity is the toughest challenge that faces any band, but Arch Enemy have long since established themselves as a permanent fixture on the global metal scene and as standard bearers for upholding and celebrating of the heavy metal code. Right now, in 2017, no other band embodies the spirit of the genre with such flair and euphoric zeal. Long may their steel spirit prevail.
“It’s always been about creating the best songs we can make and whatever success we’ve had is the direct result of the music speaking to people and our relentless worldwide touring,” Michael grins. “We are happy with the fact that the band has had growth spurt these last couple of years and it’s exciting to put on a bigger and more complete live show for our fans. We obviously hope our fans will enjoy Will To Power and we’re looking forward to getting back out there and performing live again, with a whole bunch of killer new tunes up our sleeve!”