I had started listening to the four songs that have already been released for Arch Enemy’s album, Deceivers for a little while now. When I got the chance to listen to the whole album and offer my thoughts on it I was instantly excited. My brief summary of this collection of these eleven songs is… brutally melodic! From the beginning to the end, this album kept me hanging on and waiting for the next song to begin. Overall I feel that the songs are all strong (including one short instrumental) and Deceivers starts and ends perfectly. It is definitely an album to be listened to loud in the car on a road trip (which I did) or with a great pair of headphones to get the full sonic experience and feel for all of the layers of great production that went into this creation. I did not have access to the lyrics so I can’t speak to those so I concentrated more on the musical structure of the album instead.
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I want to start off with a bit of background on Arch Enemy singer, Alissa White-Gluz and a couple of opportunities that I had to photograph her and get to meet her. Alissa was part of a couple of shows with the all-star metal group, Metal Allegiance a few years ago. One was in Anaheim and one in New York City. I had the opportunity to be the photographer for both shows including the sound checks and rehearsals. Alissa was nothing but kind to me and very enjoyable to talk to. I do appreciate that. At the time I was somewhat familiar with her work with Arch Enemy and I expected to hear her harsh vocal style but what she did sing was done in her very impressive clean vocal styling for those two shows. I was truly amazed at how talented she is and the versatility that she has when it comes to delivering a great vocal performance. And, she is a great front-woman and here is one of my favorite images that I shot of her. She was recently on the Charismatic Voice podcast. It is a really good interview.
When you think of Arch Enemy, first and foremost is Alissa’s harsh vocal style. If you are new to this type of singing it may be an acquired taste like the first time you taste some strong coffee. But, after a few cups you start to get used to it and then you start to find enjoyment in it. The ability to deliver a harsh vocals with great control and enunciation is pretty incredible when you really listen to it. It becomes part of the overall rhythm of the song and becomes its own riff to an extent. It completes the sonic brutality that makes up Arch Enemy. But, this album brought in a new surprise and that is in the first song on the album.
Before I dive into each track I want to point out that I read some notes about how the album was created in 2020 during the pandemic and the songs were primarily written by Michael Amott (guitar) and Daniel Erlandsson (Drums). After watching four videos from the songs on this album I can see who is playing what between Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis in each of the songs. This gives me a good idea of who is playing particular parts in the rest of the songs but I may be guessing at times since both players are incredible at rhythm and soloing. So, if I get either mixed up I apologize ahead of time. But, I think I can pick out their parts!
1.) Handshake With Hell
What a great way to kick off this album. The cool guitar tapping riff at the beginning instantly grabs you and then breaks into a wall of sound that keeps dragging you in. Then… pure METAL riffing! Enter Alissa and her incredible harsh vocals. But, wait… she instantly changes to a clean vocal sound with incredible range and control. I understand this is a bit of a departure for her in an Arch Enemy song and it may take some die hard fans by surprise. I welcome the change and am excited for what the future holds for more songs like this.
The glue that holds this track together for me is the melodic guitars underneath when all Hell is breaking loose on the top. This is a common songwriting theme throughout the album.
Then there is the middle section breakdown in the song where Alissa really shows her tender vocal side. This section really gets you to understand her versatility and talent. Not only is she gently singing great melody lines but she adds some really great harmonies in there and then brings it back up full-throttle. The bass and drums are insane as well and I’ll get to these two great musicians in another song. This opening track really sets the album into full speed ahead.
2.) Deceiver, Deceiver
I believe this was the first release off the album that I heard. Another full frontal assault with what I feel is the most intricate rhythm work on the whole album. The entire band is so tight but delivering some hard to count riffs making it a very mind boggling song to listen to. As I mentioned earlier about Alissa’s vocal cadence being its own riff, in a sense, really shows in this song. The band is offering up an off-time feel in the verses and her vocals are actually over the top with a more straight forward beat. Then the two come together for the chorus which gives your brain a break… only to start all over again!
One of my favorite parts of this song is the drumming by Daniel Erlandsson and what he does right at the beginning of the song with the main guitar riff and then breaking into some really incredible double kick drum parts. This song is one of the drumming highlights on the album for me. Just awesome.
3.) In The Eye Of The Storm
A more straight forward beat and solid guitar riff is a great transition from Deceiver, Deceiver. This is one of my favorite tunes on the album. More of a mid-tempo head banging song with some great melodic guitars in the chorus. Then a cool dual guitar solo part with Michael and Jeff showing some great musicianship and control. I liked the series of guitar arpeggios before the last chorus. Then ending with a really nice and tasteful solo by Michael Amott. He could have let loose here but I could sense some restraint in there which was a welcome change and really enjoyable.
4.) The Watcher
This may just be my favorite song on the whole album. It has a bit of everything in it and it made me think of something I just have to explain. So far, as I listened to these first four songs I realized that the songwriting dynamic reminded me of another band and two very awesome guitarists. The opening riff to this song kind of reminded me of something Rudolf Schenker from the Scorpions would have played. That got me thinking about the team of Rudolf and Matthias Jabs and a fun comparison to Micheal Amott and Jeff Loomis. I think that Michael is more like Rudolf with the songwriting and more melodic playing and Jeff is more like Matthias with the fiery solos and over the top playing. Of course after the opening riff of the song when it launches into another crazy double bass beat it is nothing like the Scorpions, but that riff got me thinking of the relationship that these two guitarist have together. Who better to compare them to? Just a killer song and killer playing!
5.) Poisoned Arrow
As this song begins it is connected to the previous tune with some cool sounding keyboards which I thought was a nice touch and made me think… I wonder if Arch Enemy would consider a concept album like The Wall (Pink Floyd) or Operation Mindcrime (Queensryche) someday? I think they could pull off a good one!
The clean guitar riff is a really nice one with a cool melody to it but I love how the simple guitar riff with the sliding notes comes in over the top. That simple melodic theme continues throughout the whole song and is great to enjoy with headphones. As I was listening to the second half of the second chorus just before the really easy going, melodic guitar solo I was hoping for a bit more of Alissa’s clean vocal styling to go more with how melodic that guitar solo is. I think it could have made a great transition. Just an idea in case the band reads this.
One other cool part is the bass line that I can hear after the guitar solo just before the last chorus. I believe I hear more of that great Sharlee D’Angelo bass line in the very last chorus as well. I didn’t hear that in the car but I sure did with headphones. Very cool…
6.) Sunset Over The Empire
Okay… speaking of great bass lines, this song starts with a killer bass line. I love the sound of this bass as it really cuts through and completely grabs your attention. Love this beginning! This song also has some of my favorite Alissa vocals on it. Again, it’s more of a rhythmic quality to how she delivers this performance. It just works with great enunciation. Then I like the vocal melody of the pre-chorus which I can just imaging 100,000 Wacken fans all singing along to! Add in the killer breakdown with pounding drums and the underlying guitar riff leading into a great Michael Amott solo and then a fiery Jeff Loomis assault of whammy bar harmonics and a barrage of fast notes. Like I said earlier… Rudolf and Matthias! There you go!
7.) House of Mirrors
Another great opening riff by Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis followed by an absolute killer scream by Alissa. It really kicks this tune off perfectly. Then a short and sweet solos by (I’m guessing) Michael Amott. The opening riff continues through the chorus adding that great familiar melody. Then the killer double bass drum and crazy vocals in the middle that lead into (I’m guessing) a blazing Jeff Loomis solos really round out this tune. One of the simpler songs on the album but it has so many change ups in it I just really like this track!
8.) Spreading Black Wings
This would be a great song to open a concert with. It has that type of opening to it if you know what I mean. Very epic type of intro then leading into what I think is one of the most basic, straight forward beats on the whole album. Then it kicks into a double time deal when the chorus starts and then back to the epic sounding intro part again. With the “hey, hey, hey” in there it could be another Wacken crowd pleaser sing-along-song for sure! Then it ends with some very interesting orchestration which brings me back to the point of Arch Enemy should make a concept album. Then it leads into…
9.) Mourning Star
This is the only instrumental on the album and it ties in perfectly with the orchestral ending of the previous track. I believe this is a Michael Amott piece and I like his tasteful guitar work. It’s short sweet and to the point.
10.) One Last Time
This is an interesting song as it has more of an upbeat and not-so-dark riff to it and it stays in more of a major sounding key than a darker minor sounding musical key. It’s more straightforward and features some nice melodic guitar work in the chorus under the vocals and also features some more kills double bass drum. Then you get a great solo trade off section between Michael and Jeff. I almost wish both of those solos were twice as long in this song and I also feel that the song didn’t need to end so quickly. I would love to have heard that opening guitar riff close out the song in a way.
11.) Exiled From Earth
The last song on the album and it has a cool, steady build at the beginning with some great drums and guitar rhythm. As the theme continues with the melodic guitar under the vocals in the chorus it makes me really enjoy listening to Arch Enemy’s music. Enter a couple of cool guitar solos that I’m guessing are Michael since I’m getting more used to his guitar style. It’s amazing how low Alissa can get her vocals so low before the song starts its slow fade to an end. As the band fades out you get some great loud floor tom drums in there with a triumphant end. I did say that this album starts and end perfectly.
How do I rate this album?
9.5 out of 10
Why did I give it a 9.5? I’d love to hear a bit more of the awesome, clean vocal abilities by Alissa White-Gluz. Die hard Arch Enemy fans may not agree with me but I felt there were places that it could have been added in to enhance certain parts. This album really is killer and I have really enjoyed listening to it in great detail and giving my thoughts on it. I hope you enjoy what I have offered you here.
Now, to get to photograph Arch Enemy and review a show? I’d love the opportunity! Cheers!
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Scott Diussa is a photographer, guitarist, bassist, videographer and audio engineer based in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Scott has been photographing concerts since 1994 and has a degree in commercial photography. You can follow Scott on Instagram at @sdiussa. www.scottdiussa.com