It’s been a busy time recently for Swedish melodic metallers Arch Enemy. Alongside their return to the live arena for the North American Seige tour and a collaboration with metal legends Iron Maiden, the band just dropped their eleventh studio album, Deceivers, via Century Media Records. (Read our full album review here.)
The band make their return to the UK later this Autumn, and following the release of the record, we spoke to vocalist Alissa White-Gluz about the new music, her creativity and, of course, collaborating with one of her favourite bands.
I’d like to start off by talking about the really powerful video you just put out for “Sunset Over The Empire.” Where did the idea come from for the video?
Alissa White-Gluz: “It actually just came about through discussing back and forth with the video team that made the video with us. We filmed it in Poland actually, in this ancient monastery. The room that we were in was this crazy, big old cathedral. You can’t really see in the video, but under my feet on the ground, there were tombs on the ground. Daniel’s drum kit is actually set up on an altar. So yeah, it was really super metal. We had a few different concepts, and we ended up almost going with one concept, but then, when the war started, we decided to switch. You know, I’m glad we switched because I really liked the way it turned out.”
You mentioned the war. In terms of the themes on the new record, is it inspired by modern life?
“Yeah. I can’t speak for all of them because Michael wrote, like, half of the lyrics. He wrote the lyrics for ‘Sunset Over The Empire.’ I know what his inspiration was because I asked him before performing it on the album. I needed to know what I was screaming about. I feel like, with this, if I write a song on my own, sometimes I’ll start with the lyrics or with the vocals and then build a song around it. It could potentially spring from just really wanting to talk about a certain subject, but in Arch Enemy, I feel like when I’m presented with the instrumental songs, just the sound of the song already kind of dictates a little bit what it will be about.”
“We filmed the video in Poland actually, in this ancient monastery. The room that we were in was this crazy, big old cathedral. You can’t really see in the video, but under my feet on the ground, there were tombs on the ground.”
How challenging has it been to put together this record?
“Luckily, we live in an age where we can all speak to each other online, but I will say I don’t feel like that works very well for songwriting. I’ve tried it, and I feel like it’s so much easier to just be in the same room. Slowly, over the years, I have been building a home studio for myself. I taught myself how to record and engineer and how to use all the different microphones and hardware and software and all that stuff. I was able to actually lay down, like, very solid demos of my ideas and send them over rather than just logging them in my head or writing them down. I was actually able to present my ideas before entering the actual studio.”
We’ve already talked about the last video but looking at the videos for all the singles; they’re all stunning videos. There’s a strong visual aspect to each one. Picking up on what you said about the music almost dictating the way it goes with the lyrics. Does that work the same for the videos?
“I think so. Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, if you picture the ‘Deceiver, Deceiver’ music video and try to apply that to ‘Handshake with Hell,’ or vice versa. Like, I don’t feel like that would make sense, so, for me, it’s important that they all completely fit visually as well.”
“I think this album is actually very diverse, both in theme and also in musicality.”
Is there a single concept running through the record?
“I think this album is actually very diverse, both in theme and also in musicality. I feel like even if you just look at the four singles that we’ve released so far, each of them are very different from one another. Of course, they’re all Arch Enemy. They all sound like Arch Enemy, but I feel that they’re all pretty different. I feel like also because we have two lyricists, Michael and myself, you know, we’ll riff off each other when finalizing lyrics, but, otherwise, we’re both kind of writing from our own mindsets. So, there’s no concepts; it’s just however it felt for each song.”
Recently you did the collaboration with Iron Maiden for a game. First of all, how did that come about?
“They just wrote to us and asked if we would like to collaborate with them and who would say no? I was very hands-on with designing this Queen Beast character. They actually suggested the name, Queen Beast, as they were really inspired by a piece of merch; there was a merch design that I commissioned which was this art piece that I had in mind, where, you know, I wanted to figure that resembled me on a kind of throne with all sorts of fauna around her and all different kinds of animals. He did that but also incorporated some other things that I wanted. I wanted it to look kind of like a Queen of Hell kind of thing, so we included dragons and all sorts of fictional characters as well.
“That artwork actually really inspired the Legacy of the Beast team, so they wanted to base the character on that. So I worked very closely with them, even down to little tweaks on the character’s hair, and on her shoes, and on the outfit. I took detailed photos of my stage outfits and sent them to the designer who designed the character to make like all these little details. There’s a sidekick named Grey Claw, which is like this lion that you fight alongside, and that was inspired by my cat. It was really cool to be able to have so much input on the character, and fans seem to love it, too. That was really cool.”
Where did the Queen Beast concept come from?
“I don’t remember where it came from, but I’ve been referred to as Queen Beast for years now. I think maybe it was Doyle that started that because he gives a nickname to everybody, and I think he just gave me that nickname? I guess it caught on, you know? He has a tendency to give people nicknames that then end up really sticking. Like we have some people that we know in the industry who now they’ve changed their Instagram handles to be the nickname he gave. I think it might be something like that. It feels a little bit weird to refer to myself with that title. I don’t feel comfortable doing that, actually, but, in this case, in the Iron Maiden game, it wasn’t actually me. That was a character.”
As a music fan, I know you’ve talked in the past that you’re a huge Iron Maiden fan. What does it mean to you to work with somebody like that?
“It’s a huge honour to see that they like us and respect us and appreciate our music to the point where they’re happy to invite us into something that they’re doing. It’s a huge honour.”
If you could collaborate with Bruce Dickinson, which Maiden song would you want to collaborate on?
“I’ve seen a lot of neat covers with Metal Allegiance. That’s a tough question. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of covers, but I guess, ‘Aces High’ because actually, Arch Enemy covered ‘Aces High’ with Johan.”
In interviews you’ve done in the past, you’ve talked about your own personal creative passion. In terms of the visuals on the album and the Queen Beast character, it’s clearly something very important to you. Is there anything you do away from metal and Arch Enemy to keep the creative juices flowing?
“Obviously, Arch Enemy is very busy, and there’s so much that goes into it. People might think we’re this big machine rolling along, but, actually, it’s a very small family, and we’re very hands-on with it. Even our management is Angela, who used to be the singer, you know? We’re all creative people. We’re all artists. Everybody who’s in this is in this because we like creating things. I really appreciate the fact that I can have some input on many levels in Arch Enemy.
“Outside of that, I paint; I like writing poetry. I’ll write songs on my own, not for Arch Enemy but for other stuff. Yeah. I like to collaborate with friends a lot. If you look up guest appearances by me, there’s got to be dozens at this point because I really like collaborating with people too.”
Who would your ultimate collaboration be with?
“It would have to be David Bowie.”
Good call. I reviewed your sister’s band that you guested on, which is very different from Arch Enemy. Have you ever thought of doing something completely different to Arch Enemy?
“Yeah, I love a lot of different kinds of music. I love metal the most, but I do like a lot of different kinds of music. When I do write songs for fun, or to release or whatever, usually there’s a metal element. It’s not always purely metal, but there’s always a metal element to it.
“I really loved collaborating with my sister because that song is actually really heavy even though, technically, I guess shoegaze isn’t necessarily a super heavy genre, but I love what she does, and it’s completely different to what I do, which makes me love it even more.
“I love a lot of different kinds of music. I love metal the most, but I do like a lot of different kinds of music.”
She has opened my eyes to how subjective music is and how people value different things when they’re listening to music. For example, when she listens to music, she is focusing on production. When I listen to music, I’m focusing on vocals. It’s really cool to see someone who’s like equally hard-working and passionate, and although they’re doing technically the same job, it’s at totally different ends of the spectrum.”
Recently, you just wrapped up the “North American Siege” tour. How was it being back on stage?
“The tour was amazing. For a long time, we didn’t even know if there would be a tour. It kept being postponed and all that. Knowing that there would be a tour, I think, was something that kept us going because we all look forward to touring so much. All the bands on that tour were amazing; it was a super-diverse package. Really cool bands. I loved all the bands that played, which is also cool because it’s like, every night I’m actually getting to go see a show from a bunch of cool bands. We just wished it would have been longer.”
“We’re all creative people. We’re all artists. Everybody who’s in this is in this because we like creating things. I really appreciate the fact that I can have some input on many levels in Arch Enemy.”
Did you play any new songs?
“Yeah, we played all the new songs, actually.”
Oh great, I’m looking forward to hearing “Deceiver, Deceiver” live. That sounds like it would just be a constant circle pit…
“That’s exactly right. When we started the tour, we had ‘Deceiver, Deceiver’ somewhere in the set, but then, after a few shows, I talked to Daniel and Jeff, and I recommended we try opening with that because it’s just such a punch in the face to start the show. And yeah, so it’s actually our opener now.”
Really excited for the shows in October, especially if you bring the same amount of pyro you used in the “Handshake with Hell” video…
“I definitely want to, and then all the snow and smoke. Sometimes it’s not possible because of the circumstances, but I love having a huge production. We’re also a band who doesn’t rely on a production to deliver a killer show like we can fly in and play a festival, then fly out. You can’t always get the production you want, but I love being theatrical and having all that stuff. We’re going to have some elements of that in the tour in the fall and a lot of new songs in the set. It’s going to be very special to be part of that.”
“We’re also a band who doesn’t rely on a production to deliver a killer show like we can fly in and play a festival, then fly out.”
Fantastic. Thanks for your time Alissa and good luck with the album…
“Thank you. Please come and see us at our shows, because so far, all the shows have been packed. So get your tickets early because a lot of them sell out, and we don’t want you to miss it because this is like very exciting for us to be back to touring again, and we can’t wait to see you all.”