Arch Enemy chat Deceivers & the best Montreal vegan restaurants

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If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that we need regular, jolting doses of heavy fucking metal to keep us on the right track. Over the last quarter of a century, no band has flown the flag for balls-out, melody-stuffed heaviness with more vigour or dedication than Arch Enemy. This week, the band’s brand new album, Deceivers, is destined to be one of this year’s most lethally effective cure for all ills.

Montreal Rocks caught up with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz & guitarist Michael Amott to chat about the album and find out how the band is feeling in the time between finishing the record and having it out in the world.

“I mean, it’s kind of a long time between finishing and releasing,” says Alissa, “but actually, the way we have it set up this time, it’s quite full of excitement in a way because we’ve had individual releases for singles all based around their music videos, which are all really strong songs and have been received very well. And then we also were able to actually even do a tour before the album came out, but still play those songs. So we were playing three songs on the last tour that had not yet been released on an album, which is pretty exciting. So even though it might seem like a long time, it’s going really quickly.”

“And we made a bunch of stuff late summer,” adds Michael. “Last year, we met up in Europe, and we shot a bunch of videos and took photos and did a lot of other sorts of stuff that we needed content for this. So, yeah, I’ve been living kind of busy actually. It took a while, but, you know, that was okay.”

The pandemic affected most artists and meant many bands couldn’t get together to rehearse or write together. For Arch Enemy, they had the added complication of having members spread across the globe. Michael explains how much that affected the album process.

“Initially, it was kind of easy, and we have kind of a little bit of a unique story in a way because we were supposed to take 2020 off anyway to write or just, you know, to take some time off and then to begin writing and maybe record start recording mid-2020. And that’s when a lot of our colleagues ran into a lot of problems that year across all the cancellations and postponed tours and stuff like that. So, we got off easy that first year. And then you know, both me and Danny were in Sweden at the time, and you know, Daniel plays drums and also does a lot of our demos, you know, engineering demos and even some of the album engineering as well and co-writing and stuff like that. So you know, that just kind of flowed in a normal way, really. Once we realized that this is going to go on for a while, it’s not going to be over in three months, then we thought, well, might as well just get stuck into this then and have something to focus on. So I think we actually started working on this a bit earlier than we had anticipated, really, cause we just came off like a really long touring cycle; I’m talking like over 500 shows or something. I think we were initially thinking of taking more time off there, but then, you know, it was nice to have something to focus on and just have the feeling that there was something that we might be able to release someday.”

“We achieved so much with those first two albums with Alissa,” Michael notes. “Both Will To Power and War Eternal did so well for us. We just kept building and building and we didn’t expect that. When Angela [Gossow, Arch Enemy’s iconic former vocalist] left the band initially, I thought the band would go down to some extent, and we could slowly build it back up to where we were when she left. But instead, with Alissa, it just took off and became a whole new thing.” 

Listen to the full interview below:

Despite not being denied the chance to write new music, Arch Enemy would soon face some significant obstacles when it came to getting the whole band together in the same room. With Alissa and guitarist Jeff Loomis both residing on the other side of the Atlantic, the creation of a new album became rather more challenging than expected. 

“It did turn out to be the worst time ever to have an international line-up!” laughs Michael. “That part of it sucked. It was like, ‘Now we want Alissa to come in and do the vocals, and Jeff to come in and do his solos, both from North America….’ Well, that wasn’t going to happen, but in the end, we made it work. It was just more complicated, the logistics were shit, and everything was a lot more expensive! [Laughs] But we got it done in the end. I think we really wanted to get it done.” 

Alissa says she’s best on her own when it comes to her initial contribution too. “When it comes to the lyric writing part that I do and arranging the vocals, I kind of have to be alone to do that anyways, because otherwise, I would just be sitting there in silence in deep thought for like six hours with the rest of the guys just kind of staring at me, waiting for me to do something. Cause you know, that’s kind of what the writing process is. It’s just a lot of silence and then like some awkward tapping on a beat and then scribbling on paper. It’s probably not how people picture it with some hallelujah moment; it’s a process, you know, there’s a lot of making something, going back, making something, going back. So for that, I like to be alone anyways. And that usually gets the songs, I would say like 90% of where they’re going to be. And then by the time it came to finish it up, like polish it all up, then I was able to meet up with Michael actually. So then we spent some time together in Germany and adjusted some words and some arrangements and, you know, really went through the ideas very carefully before I went into the studio.”

From the belligerent fury of recent single Deceiver, Deceiver and the dramatic, viciously melodic House Of Mirrors to epic and brutal deep cuts like In The Eye Of The Storm and Spreading Black Wings, the new Arch Enemy album feels like a celebratory encapsulation of everything that has made the band such a vital force. All of their cherished trademarks are present and correct, from majestic, heart-rending guitar hooks and harmonies through to an unremitting barrage of catchy but crushing riffs, but this is a sharper and more ferocious Arch Enemy than we have heard before. Deceivers could not have been created by any other band, but somehow this one feels like a bold reaffirming of musical values. 

“I feel a responsibility there to carry that heavy metal tradition to our best ability,” says Michael. “Some people might say it’s a formula, but I just think it’s songwriting! I’ve been at it for a long time now; I’ve seen so many things come and go. People have said that guitar solos are out, or it’s all about industrial metal or rap-metal or it’s deathcore… there have been so many trends, but my focus has always been on the roots of heavy metal and hard rock songwriting, with quality guitar parts and stuff like that! You’ve just got to tweak it and find little things that you haven’t done before, and we always find something new to do.” 

One of the new album’s most startling moments arrives during opening track and ready-made crowd pleaser Handshake With Hell. A classic, exhilarating slab of prime Arch Enemy perfection, it boasts a jaw-dropping vocal performance from the ever-versatile Alissa White-Gluz, with both clean and harsh vocals woven through the pristine riff-powered assault. As an album opener, it’s an audacious one. 

“Yeah, it was just to shove it in people’s faces, really! [Laughs] Make people talk, you know? We need that 25 years into our history. We’ve been treading that line carefully because when we brought Alissa into the fold, we knew that, okay, she can do this and this, she can do what Angela did, and she can do what Johan [Liiva, original AE vocalist] did, but she can also do this other thing. We have our sound, and all the melody has really come from the guitars up to that point, but Alissa is amazing, and it really works. Anyway, after 25 years and when it’s your 11th studio album, are you not allowed one song that’s a bit different? [Laughs]” 

As a Montrealer, what does Alissa miss most about the city when she’s on tour?

“The vegan restaurants,” she says without hesitation. “Montreal has an amazing alternative scene and amazing art and culture scene and an amazing vegan scene actually. So that’s what I miss the most.”

Does she want to shout out any vegan restaurants in particular?

Are they going to give me free food for the rest of my life? Cause I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve paid for all of their renovations for the past 10 years with the amount that I ordered from them. I mean, Hello 123, there was a really good one named Bonny’s that’s gone now. They’re all cool. You know, like they’re all different. They’re all great. Sushi Momo. The chef there is a genius. I think he’s among the best chefs in the world, and I have had food all over the world, so I like actually having something to compare to. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a good city for food, for sure.

Deceivers is out August 12 on Century Media Records.

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