Arch Enemy returns! Time has come to discuss their new record Deceivers (2022) with Michael Amott and Alissa White-Gluz.
So first, how are you? How did you feel going back on tour after this long break? Taking back the habits, travelling from a city to another etc…
Michael Amott (guitar) & Alissa White-Gluz (vocals): Good!
Michael: What? Did that happen?
Michael: That was really cool. We just completed our first tour back in a long time, two and a half years, right? And then we were suddenly back playing shows again for the fans. The fans showed up as well. We showed up. It was great. Yeah, we did that for about a month. And the United States and Canada, excellent shows. It’s like a big… I could feel that great energy.
Were you a little bit anxious going back on stage after a long break?
Michael: I mean, I didn’t for me personally, I had sort of built it up into something in my mind. Assume that it’s going to be so difficult to get back to this. I had like built up all these ideas in my head, but then when we hit the stage there in Arizona on that first show, it was kind of like, yeah, just pretty normal, really. I was a little bit exhausted afterwards because I wasn’t used to standing up and running around playing guitar, I’d been sitting downplaying guitar for about two and a half years, so that was a bit of difference. But just yeah, I mean, the effort and the adrenaline, that goes into an Arch Enemy live performance was of course, a little bit shocking to the system initially. But other than those, it was just kind of like it’s like riding a bike, right? You don’t really forget.
Alissa did you also feel the same energy like said Michael?
Alissa: Yeah, I wasn’t anxious in the sense of like being nervous. I was just excited to go do it again.
So for this record, you started writing and demoing abroad and then got back to Sweden. Did this sudden change affect your whole creative process at the beginning? Apart from the weather difference with Mexico.
Michael: Not really. It was more just to just get away and write, write and record a little bit, I think that’s healthy. Break away from your normal surroundings sometimes. Just do it somewhere. Yeah. I mean, those are still very happy days, right before the the world went on this big thing that we just went through. So it’s just writing and recording. And I think we got six, seven songs out of that, really good developed into pretty much what you hear on the album instrumentally. So that was great.
Many bands worked remotely but it looks like you prefer to work ‘in person’. Like, for example, with you or with Jeff if there happened to be any issue for example. Despite having Jeff record from the US, how challenging was it for all? We mean discussing the songs, the process. Did you set up Zoom calls during that time?
Michael: I mean, I was sending songs over to Alissa, instrumental songs in 2020 already. And then she came over, she actually made it over into Europe. And she could work with us there. We worked together in the studio. And so that worked out very well, so we could communicate very well, thankfully! That would have been pretty tough. But it was a shame about Jeff. You know, he tried to get on, I think two or three flights. That was very challenging times, and that was a shame because I do like to work face to face. It’s much better yeah.
What about this title Deceivers? Who are they? Is there any parallel with today’s world?
Alissa: There’s always something relatable about an album title when it’s just one word like that. It’s just a noun, right? So, I think people can relate to that in a lot of different ways, and I’d like to let them do that.
Michael: You can see it a bit in the album cover as well. It shows two characters holding faces that don’t reflect what their true selves are and there’s a lot of dualities in the music as well. There’s a lot of beauty and ugliness that this really heavy, ugly stuff. And then there’s some really beautiful, soaring melodies and wonderful chord progressions and things like that. Musical moments that’s natural beauty. So there’s a lot going on and I think it all works very well.
Does it in some way sum up the whole record or is there maybe a link with the track “Deceiver, Deceiver”?
Alissa: “Deceiver, Deceiver” is in a way kind of like the title track. It was the first single that we released as a music video and we have four like that now and I think it just kind of struck a chord with us and we started kind of diving into that idea a little bit more and kind of basically album artwork on that. Even before we knew what we were going to call the album, we just were already discussing that. So I think it’s not like a concept album, but I think that the idea of deception can find its way into most of the songs.
Going through the lyrics, some themes got our attention like betrayal, treason, lies or conformism (with “One Last Time”). Are we near those themes or is it just our vision and interpretation of the lyrics?
Michael: No, I think you’re right. I think you’re pretty near. I mean, all those things are there. Good. Yes. (laughs)
Music wise, it’s the third album with Alissa on vocals. And we often say that the third album of a band is kind of a turning point. Even if it’s not exactly Arch Enemy’s third record, since War Eternal (2014), does Deceivers reflect the best of this current version of the band? Through the years, do you feel the difference? Its evolution, as a band but also as a human being.
Michael: Oh, there’s definitely an evolution in the collaboration. But I didn’t feel any pressure like a make-or-break album or so. I didn’t feel that at all. Maybe if I ever felt it was more like on the Will To Power (2017): the second one, because I was like, shit, the first one worked out so well and War Eternal became so great. Like, how do we do that again? How does this work? But we did. This time I didn’t think about that at all. And yeah, I think that kind of pressure, those are more like things that maybe other people are thinking about. We’re not thinking. I mean, we’re very serious. I mean, it takes a lot out of you to create something out of nothing which essentially, we’re doing when you’re creating art. And it’s just like a book of empty pages and you’ve just got to fill them with an interesting story. Of course, that’s a little bit daunting in the beginning but then you get into it and then you like you write the first song, the first chapter, and then you like suddenly you have six or seven songs and then you just, it’s a lot of fun actually along the way as well.
But of course we take the process very serious. But we also had a good time making this music. It’s a lot of fun. It’s inspiring, it’s energizing. It’s a lot of positive things as well. I think we don’t really think about I mean, in theory, I could sit there and think about we’ve got to raise the bar one more time. We charted this high on the last one, but I never think about that stuff. It really is taunting, and sales and you can’t let that get into your head. I don’t let it get into my head because we have other people that are thinking about that stuff that I think we did our job is just make be creative and make nice music.
But I guess that you push yourselves like each album is a new challenge. Reaching a new level, doing a better work comparing to the previous one etc.
Michael: Of course, yeah, that kind of stuff. But that’s not an outside pressure. That’s a pressure that we put on ourselves. Maybe it’s something that we want to do. We push ourselves to play better, sing better, write better.
Alissa: But I think you have to, because otherwise why are you even doing it? If you’re going to just make something and you don’t care if it’s not as good as the last thing you made, then you might as well just stop at the last thing, I think everyone who’s passionate about their job wants to always improve. So we did it.
So after “Deceiver, Deceiver”, you shared “House Of Mirrors”. Simple question: what’s the message behind those mirrors? We felt that it could reflect different things depending on each and one of us. Is it meant to be appropriated and to project ourselves through the lyrics and the music? Maybe more than before?
Alissa: I wrote the lyrics to that one. So, I definitely wanted to write lyrics that people could relate to. Of course. “House Of Mirrors”, I mean, I kind of, I’m a little bit fascinated by the idea of a home and humans are not really nomadic animals, but musicians are. So we’re always moving around. We’re always constantly going from one place to the next. So it’s a little bit confusing as to where home is because we spend most of our time everywhere else. So people will ask me all the time, like: “where do you live?” And I’m like: “I don’t know“. (laughs) But there is like this kind of association with “home sweet home”, “welcome home”, like this warm kind of environment. But what is that? Is that the four walls? Is that the geographic location on the map? Is that the people you’re with? Is that the experience that you’re having? Like what makes it a home, what makes it positive? And so I wanted to explore that a little bit because we were all experiencing these stay at home orders. So suddenly home was a bad thing. It was like a prison, we had to stay there and the world was so dystopian that I was also I was also honestly just picturing this like Alice in Wonderland, like Alice through the looking glass type of thing, just what’s on the other side of the mirror type of thing.
This alternate reality where because in 2019, if somebody would have told you that that was going to happen in a few months, nobody would have believed them. Like we could never have believed that. But here we are. So yeah, I just thought that the “House Of Mirrors” was a really strong image and the kind of in my head at least represented like, well, what if each one of these is like an alternate reality? Like, okay, don’t go down that one or maybe that one or maybe that one and the different paths that you can choose to take or accidentally take. And I think that maybe that song is pretty relatable because we were all feeling that isolation by being forced to stay alone or at least stay confined to one spot. So I think those lyrics, people seem to like this. There’s a lot.
We guess that you can understand that we can interpret it for another topic.
Alissa: Of course. That’s why I write lyrics with a lot of allegory, metaphor or, you know I’m never really direct. Because I try to create images with the lyrics. So I actually use a lot of nouns and adjectives more than verbs because I’m just basically laying out, “the walls that we watch you“, you know, like, “see the choice that lies before“, I’m just sort of laying out I’m constructing a little house around you in that song so that you can just interpret it how you walk it. Yeah.
And even with other tracks like “Poison Arrow”, “Sunset Over The Empire”, “Eye Of The Storm”. We felt that there’s a common basis, which is the state of today’s world, but on different topics. We read some words or elements relating maybe to control, pressure, politics, media. Is it just our interpretation again? Or it might relate to some of those subjects also.
Michael: Sure I think so, yeah. But I don’t really have anything more to say. The music is there, the lyrics are there. Now they’re for other people to enjoy and interpret it in their own way. I don’t really want and need to explain everything to expect people to enjoy it. But I mean, I think you’re on the right.
Like for “House Of Mirrors”, you’re letting us space to interpret/envision the songs as we want maybe?
Alissa: Of course. Yeah. Absolutely, we encourage that.
Michael: “Sunset Over The Empire”. I wrote that the lyrics for that before the war in Europe and that’s going on right now. But I mean, a lot of people are connecting it to that now. And I wish it wasn’t, we wish it wasn’t such a thing that’s actually happening right now, but it’s always current. Those kinds of topics always kind of… they just seem to hit a little bit harder depending on what’s going on in the world.
What are you the proudest of with this new album? Musically and lyrically.
Michael: I hate to be boring, but I’m kind of just proud of the whole process that we actually made this album under somewhat difficult circumstances, maybe. And I’m really proud of how it sounds and how it all came together that we did it once again. Every album is like a big sense of achievement. Like I said, it’s a lot of work that goes into it. And not just the lyrics and music, but also the artwork and the layouts and everything. And then launching all these singles, it’s like a huge project. And the reactions have been so great. I’m really proud of that.
And once you went through recorded and mixed, mastered the record, did you postpone the record or?
Michael: I mean, internally, maybe, yeah. But we never announced the date and then said we moved it. We did. But I think that might have been a plan to release it a little bit earlier initially. But that changed.
Alissa: It’s like everything else with the pandemic, it’s complicated actually. Like things that you wouldn’t think about. Like paper for the cover, is there’s a shortage of vinyl? Vinyl, there’s a shortage. Merch also. So it’s we’re basically coping with all that kind of stuff and trying to get the album out but now it’s on track.
Top 3 tracks.
Alissa: Three songs from the album, I would say “Deceiver, Deceiver”, “Handshake With Hell”, which we have played both of those now on tour, which is cool and “Spreading Black Wings”, which we have not played. But I would like to. “Deceiver, Deceiver” is just like really brutal high energy. So it’s fun. I also just really like it. “Handshake With Hell”, pretty diverse in the sound, so it’s really fun to perform and “Spreading Black Wings” is my favorite song on the album.
Michael: I’m kind of excited to play “Sunset Over The Empire”. I’d like to put that in there. It’s our latest single, that’s going to be very demanding to play on the guitar. So I’m a little bit scared of it, but it’s going to be super fun and we need to rehearse it a little bit before. I think that’s just got that kind of like, I imagine like two mosh pits, maybe three going of big circle pits going on at the same time. That’s what I’m imagining. So I hope that happens. “In the Eye Of the Storm” got this little sort of marching groove to it. I’m also excited to play “Spreading Black Wings” live. It’s also one of my favorites. Yeah, different atmosphere in that one. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes down to life.
We’re almost at the end of the interview and we’d like to ask you a different question to both of you on your other projects. First Alissa, what about your solo album? Any news?
Alissa: Yeah I have a ton of songs written and recorded, so I’m just constantly working on it. But it’s not like I can just carve out a chunk of time to work on it because since I basically decided to do this, we’ve been constantly on tour or in studio and then in 2020 or 2021, even then we were writing and recording an album and then shooting these videos and… (laughs) So I did get a lot done over the past couple of years. So yeah, it’ll be very soon.
And for you Michael: can we expect more Spiritual Beggars music in the near future?
Michael: Probably not. We put out a lot of last album in 2016 and I have not written or really thought about any music in that style since then. So I don’t really force anything. It’s really I play with guitar every day, maybe 2 hours every day. That’s my routine at home. And then the ideas that are coming to me the last few years have all been more like Arch Enemy ideas.
So we never know right?
Michael: Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to say no. I’ve never said never before. I might just get suddenly very inspired to make a record in that style, but I kind of doubt it. I don’t know. But you never know then. But there’s no plans at the moment.
This is it, thank you very much!
Michael & Alissa: Thank you!