by Hywel Davies
Melodic death metal is one of the most epic and crushing forms of art that humanity has ever crafted. Mammoth riffs with demonic guttural vocals that are built around expansive structures, rhythms and sophisticated melodies which sets metal apart from the knuckle dragging, beer-can crushing stereotype that is unfairly associated with this unique culture. Arch Enemy are the authority of this sub-genre. When it comes to anthemic belters that turn your spine to spaghetti, no one comes close to these Swedish juggernauts.
With little to no mainstream press, Arch Enemy still manage to pull some of the largest crowds from all over the world. With ten utterly devastating studio albums to get stuck into, their last two records War Eternal and the newly released Will To Power sees their latest vocalist Alissa White-Gluz taking the reins after the departure of long standing front-woman Angela Gossow back in 2014. Not only has she fully cemented herself as the new face of Arch Enemy, but in many respects as an ambassador for metal as a whole.
As metal remains a criminally underrated and misunderstood cultural force in the world, Vulture Hound’s Hywel Davies got talking to bassist Sharlee D’Angelo about the new album and the state of extreme metal in 2017…
Death metal is by no means an easy genre to listen to if you haven’t heard it before. How did you get into extreme metal in the first place?
When I started out with extreme music, I got into it through the hardcore punk scene. So, I was sort of already in there. Before that, the most extreme thing I had ever heard must have been Motörhead, then Venom came along which was followed by Metallica and Slayer. After a while it was the dawn of death metal. I’ve always been interested in that kind of power and that kind of artistic expression. In the beginning, it was a case of, the harder the better, especially when you’re young. But it gets to that point of, where can you go from here? You start getting back into rhythm and harmony; the basics. You still have that extreme edge and you want to incorporate that into more melodic stuff and more normal song structures. I think that’s what Arch Enemy is all about.
How have you seen extreme metal change over the years? Is it still evolving or is it growing stale in your opinion?
It’s defiantly evolving. If you listen to what young bands are doing these days, it’s basically a hybrid of everything. It’s the rhythmical aspect of nu metal, which ultimately comes from hip-hop, then it’s paired with extreme death metal, electronics and dance beats. With today’s bands, they just mix up everything that they like in a big bowl with no regard to any traditions whatsoever, which I think is great. I believe extreme metal today is alive and well, and is still evolving.
With Will To Power being Alissa’s second album, it seems like a huge step up for her. How has she settled into the role?
She’s come along in leaps and bounds. When you come into a new environment like she did, into a band that existed for more than 15 years as a principal member of all things, that’s not an easy task. I think she found her place pretty quickly actually. In terms of recording, she did all that extremely well. On the road, she just took it and ran with it; she did amazingly well. Looking back now, I recently watched the footage of the first show we did with Alissa in June 2014 in Bucharest and it looks like a completely different band. I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve really gone somewhere in the past three years.’ When it came to recording the new album, we all know each other better and it feels like she’s right at home. We feel extremely comfortable with her and we’ve had the time to solidify as a unit. It felt a lot more natural this time. There wasn’t so much hesitation or trepidation at all in recording this album. It was a much more relaxing environment than what it was three years ago.
What have been your favourite moments off the new album?
For me, it changes from day to day what my favourite songs are when we release a new album. I would say, some of the top moments for me would be from Dreams And Retribution. The album as a whole has a lot of contrast, a lot of hills and valleys and can be very intense at times. However, other parts go completely the other way; it’s very epic and melodic. My other one, though maybe a pretty obvious choice, would be Reason To Believe, just because it’s such a new thing for us.
What are some of the coolest riffs you like to play off Will to Power?
I don’t know really ha, ha! I haven’t really thought of it in terms like that. There are certain songs that I definitely like playing. I would say Blood In The Water and The Eagle Flies Alone. Both of those songs pretty much do the same thing. Michael [Amott, guitars] and Jeff [Loomis, guitars] are riffing along and I’m just pumping E all the way, ha ha!
Metal has been around for 50+ years or so and by the look of things, it still seems to be going strong. Where do you see the future heading?
Hopefully onwards and upwards. It’s really hard to say because all of a sudden something new comes up and everything takes a turn for better or for worse, depending on your mind set; you just never know. From what it looks like now, we’re seeing a new generation coming out. Our front row is different now, it’s a lot younger, which is great. There’s a whole new generation out there that are completely into metal, though they don’t have the same point of reference as we do. They might have their dad’s music as a starting point and for them that could be the Black Album [Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album]. That’s like really old stuff for them. Sometimes they ask you questions like, ‘That guitar riff or that melody is so cool, how did you come up with that?’ And I answer, ‘You know, that’s just a typical Destruction riff or an Accept style riff.’ It’s funny because they’re just like, ‘Huh?’ You have to start explain to them, ‘Ok, write this down; I’ll write you a list of bands even before your dad’s time,’ ha, ha!
Speaking as a metalhead, do you think extreme metal has a place in the mainstream these days?
Well, you see something as extreme as growling or screaming, and it’s made its way into the mainstream. You see people on Pop Idol doing it and it seems to be a piece of modern pop culture and it isn’t being looked down upon as it once was. If you look at it now, old-school bands like [Iron] Maiden, AC/DC or Guns ‘N Roses, they still fill stadiums wherever they go and Metallica is about as mainstream as you can go, even if the music isn’t.
What does the future hold for Arch Enemy now? Are you excited about the fans reaction to the new album?
The future is going to look like the immediate past. We ended the War Eternal Tour about two weeks ago at Bloodstock. So, now we have about a week and a half before starting the Will To Power Tour. That’s the start of the next three years of our lives. But the most exciting thing that’s going to happen now is playing these new songs live. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions first hand and see what they think about the album – that’s unbeatable.
Will To Power Is Out Now Via CENTURY MEDIA.
(All photos by Katja Kuhl).