The struggle for power has been around since the beginning of time, be it the unsophisticated idea of the classic cavemen, or even the struggle for superiority in the animal kingdom. Power is simultaneously ambiguous yet unanimous, able to give to many yet often sadly given to few. At this current time the word power has sadly be dragged through the mud and relates to the corruption that occurs in the higher ends of politics. Manipulation, greed are just some of the key elements that this “power” is synonymous with. However the struggle that we all as human beings will undergo is the true test of power.
Understanding that our will to stay alive, the instinct for survival, this innate understanding of fight or flight is just one of the reasons that we have come to be the dominant species, ironically in the world. With a change in the ranks when lead singer Angela Gossow decided to depart, Arch Enemy had a paradigm shift in their career. Enlisting Alissa White-Gluz, the singer more than proved her worth with the follow up that was War Eternal. Shortly after its release, long time guitarist Nick Cordle also announced his departure. Paving the way for one of the most respected guitarists of the modern day and a seven string visionary, Jeff Loomis appeared. Now returning this September with their brand new album, Arch Enemy truly have had their struggle and emerged victorious in their Will To Power.
Often merely the tip of the iceberg, the title to an album can be paramount to its understanding. Created as a sort of amuse bouche, it prepares the listener for just what this world will entail. At times easy, others the hardest process of the album creation the album title can hold so much.
M : I was reading about Nietzsche, he had a book called Beyond Good and Evil and I thought that was really cool and then I checked that had been used a fair bit. I looked further down and saw Will To Power. I thought that I like how that looks and sounds but what is the actual concept behind it. I started reading into that and it was just like falling into a black hole. It was very complex. It was interesting though! It had a lot to do with human ambition. Human ambition is the main driving force for us as human beings to create things. I just thought it sounded really cool!
Taking Nietzche’s teachings as a platform to begin their thematic search it fast became something far more than just an album title. With many of the tracks ending up adapting to the idea, it became an organic assimilation of the idea of power. Similar to many of the concepts the band have spoken of, its ideas are far reaching not only to their audience but throughout history. Examples of the struggle for power are littered throughout our modern history, we just need to know where to look.
A : I think that a lot of the songs can tie into the concept of Will To Power. If you think about it from a psychological stand point, there’s a reason that books are written about this concept haha! Power in and of itself, whether it lies within the individual or within a group of individuals and whether or not that power is exerted over an individual or over the entire world. Thats something that I think is on a lot of peoples minds at this current moment. Be it political climates around the world or in a more introverted sense. A lot of people can relate to this kind of a subject on their own. As always its up to the listener to interpret the song and how it works for them.
There’s definitely a deeper meaning to every song and one of the things I like about the album so far, from listening to it over and over again is that I’m just connecting with it more and more with each listen. I hope that is something that the fans will interpret also.
A : Obviously I know the album inside and out but as I listen more I’m learning to appreciate different things. Maybe on the surface for the first listen I’ll be like, “wow I love that chorus” but then I’ll say “I really love that hi-hat hit on that second chorus that is panned to the left” or “I really like the vibrato on this part of the solo”. Of course lyrically I think that that is a way that most people can look to connect with and there is a lot of variety in the lyrics.
Joining the band just prior to the release of War Eternal, White-Gluz had the daunting task ahead of herself. Taking the bull by the horns, she was determined to become more than just the new face of Arch Enemy. With a commanding presence in the scene, its arguable that White-Gluz could well be one of the most integral cogs in the Arch Enemy machine. Carving her own niche out with the release of War Eternal, now established the singer was able to truly flex her creative muscles.
A : I’m the vocalist haha! Michael writes some lyrics, I write some lyrics. I performed all of the lyrics, it was interesting. It was little bit different from War Eternal in the sense that I came into the songs at an earlier stage whereas with War Eternal all the songs were I think a little more polish before came to them. This time I got there before they were totally polished, I got to evolve and grow with the songs. I also have a new tool in the tool kit. I have the ability to record alone with myself now. I built a studio and spent the last year building a studio and learning how to work a studio basically. Meaning I was able to go back and polish up things ever after my time in the studio was done. It was a cool thing to have, I was able to really, really analyse and think is everything exactly how I want it? If the answer was no I could fix it.
A : I feel like for my instrument I always have that mentality, Mike is with me in studio, he also takes part in produces the vocals and the engineer who is producing the vocals Steffen, I welcome his input. Its just interesting that we can all work together. I always go in pretty fearless into the studio “Lets just try this and if it sucks we don’t use it and if its great I’m glad I tried it!”
Ushering in the new era of Arch Enemy was the somewhat surprising departure of longtime guitarist Nick Cordle. Just as the band had taken their first steps towards a new future, the line up was changed once more. Known for his fretboard acrobatics, ownership of the seven string name and his truly inspired leads ex-Nevermore axe man, Jeff Loomis was an obvious choice. Adding yet another flavour to the mix, could the man have influenced Will To Power’s sound?
M : He plays lead guitar along with me on the album. He came to Sweden, it was cool actually, he demo’d some stuff at home and said if we like this we can keep this. Half of that was great already as it was and then there was somewhere where I had a different idea. I have written most of the music. When the lead comes on top of the music its the main focus. Sometimes I really want something that pushes the song forward, giving more energy, creating crescendo at some point. He was great in the studio.
He hasn’t written on the album but you can definitely hear that its him! Its a cool flavour.
Having been together for more than twenty five years, Arch Enemy remain to be determined in their experimentation. Creating for the first time ever their own “ballad” so to speak “Reason To Believe” is an arguable highlight of the record. Treading ground perhaps unfamiliar with the Arch Enemy make up, what could have been somewhat of a disaster has ended up being one of the set pieces that grounds Will To Power.
M : Thats something that I have been thinking about. I’ve had this in my mind for a few years that it would be cool to do a Melodic Death Metal ballad if you will. I didn’t really know how to do it. It was an idea. Then suddenly it happened! I wrote the song with my brother just jamming with him. He had this little part that was the intro to the song and I said “Whats that?” He said “Nothing really” I suggested that we record it. We had an instrumental demo that came together really quickly, in about half a day and the song hasn’t really changed since then! I didn’t know where to place it. Is this really for Arch Enemy? What do you do vocally? Then I thought Alissa has got a wide range. I think we had the attitude recording it that it’ll either be a complete disaster and we won’t put it on the record but finish it but then I think that we quickly realised that its an exciting song to have for us. We’ve never had a song like that. There was a certain line that we didn’t want to cross but I really like it. When you’re ten albums into your career but I think that we have earned the right to do something different!
A : Ten albums in, if its not going to happen now, when is it going to happen? Haha! Its still Arch Enemy and its still very heavy. I think its interesting because its pushing the definition of the word heavy. Arch Enemy is a band that has a very unique sound. That sound is a result of five world class musicians coming together and creating songs together. I think it would be silly to lock ourselves in a box. I think this ballad “Reason To Believe” is really everything that an Arch Enemy ballad should be!
In keeping with the thematic ties of the album, often I found when listening to the record that the band have captured this air of the grandiose that they have flirted with before. Creating music that would be seen as more cinematic than what the band have put forward previously, there are elements of Will To Power that are simply sublime.
A : I think it paints a picture. I think the songs are pretty diverse actually, the overall dynamics of the album itself put you into this other world.
M : “The Eagle Flies Alone” has that and also “Dreams of Retribution” has a kind of journey. The album ends with “A Fight I Must Win” that has an orchestra as well, a string orchestra.
Despite its ever changing line up, Arch Enemy have proven their resilience more than enough. Going through line up changes with various members, lesser bands could well have crumbled under the strain. Particularly with the biggest change of Gossow’s departure. Nevertheless Arch Enemy are well and truly embedded into the Metal scene here. Like other genres of music though of course there are trends within Metal, appearing sometimes in the most unlikely of circumstances some impact the way we listen to music forever, whilst others are more throwaway.
M : There are trends that happen in Metal. A lot of people say that Metal is a static thing which is always there. Actually there are a lot of things that are happening in the scene. From Death Metal to Folk Metal to Industrial Metal to Rap Metal haha! I’ve seen it all. In America in the United States, the cycle of the trend is much faster. We’ll be on one album and people will say “You need these kind of support acts and this kind of tour, this is what’s happening right now” then we come back two years later and ask “What happened to that band that was on the tour with us? Oh that whole scene is gone. Now its all about THIS”. Its all about the new shiny toy. Arch Enemy is a band, well I don’t know if we’re below that or above that. We’re just doing our own thing! We’ve always stayed true musically. Its just a sound that we have which is our own. We just stay true to that!
A : I think its about being timeless in a way. There are certain songs that anyone of any age right now will know and love. It doesn’t even really matter what genre you want to call it and I think that when it comes to Metal Arch Enemy has a sound that is pretty timeless. We don’t follow trends and I don’t even know if we really set trends. We just do our own thing. Its music we love and lots of people love it to and hopefully they’ll all love Will To Power. We don’t set a goal saying we have to sound like this, we have to sound like that.
M : I don’t look around and think “Ok, its been three years since we released War Eternal. Whats happening right now? What can we do to fit in.” You see a lot of bands that are moving around like that but I just think that its just a little bit too late when you try to do that. Its either cheesy or its too late. We’ve had some down periods with Arch Enemy as well where our brand of music hasn’t been that hot or people haven’t been that interested in that particular album or couple of albums. We’ve just kept going but at least we have just stayed true to what we want to do.
Understanding the importance of an album, artwork is a key player to representing not only its thematic ideas but perhaps its exploratory qualities put before the listener. Conceived to be the face of an amalgamation of ideas, Arch Enemy weren’t content with the idea of something lack lustre. Instead contact artist Alex Reisfar the band came up with a symbol that not only represents their brand new album but could well be a perfect emblem for the band themselves.
A : Mike and I were looking at different artists when we were still in the studio recording the album. Mike was into the idea of having a central focus in the composition and a solid sort of emblem for the album. Whereas I tend to go a little bit more painterly. I like to have very complex images. We sort of have a good balance of both now with the artwork for Will To Power because obviously there is a central focus and there is a very strong emblem. When you get closer and you start to zoom in, you start to notice all the sort of details that are in there to represent different things. Even if you look closely, you have a sort of spinal column that leads into a chain. Even in the image itself, being a circle or the three points of a triangle. That sort plays into the concept of Will To Power itself. Also the colours, I wanted to have it as something very mature. It almost looks like its an old wood carving. The cover of a grimier. We wanted to have this presence. You can keep looking at it for a long time which I love, the painterly aspect in which its created. A human hand made this.
M : We sent the artist Alex, it wasn’t even mixed, with the help of the record label we created some kind of watermarked stream where he could listen to unfinished pieces. We finally found this guy and he was listening to the record while he was painting. He had the lyrics as well and the music.
It could be argued that all music is somewhat relative. One string in the rather large bow of the band has always been their understand of the musical key change. Long time fans will no doubt be familiar with that signature lift often given to its final chorus section. Not only now a musical tagline of theirs but an iconic feature in some of the band’s most celebrated songs its an essential part of the Arch Enemy make up.
M : We’ve always had that since the first album. A lot of times, we’ll do a taster of the first. As you’re approaching the end it will be in a higher key than it was originally and then bring it back down. It can get really boring just repeating the same kind of melodies. Also change the chords underneath the melodies and similar to what you were saying about the cinematic elements. There’s been a lot of Extreme Metal albums made in the last thirty years, we’re trying to create a very emotional depth. I’m not really into the very bone dry, in your face, very monotonous riffing. I prefer to have a lot of texture and atmosphere. We’re good at doing that stuff.
A : I think as a listener too you want that. Then when it happens its so tasty and so satisfied you know? Whether you realise it or not you really want that haha! We really go with what we feel and thats what I think makes the song sound so honest and satisfying to listen to.
On the eve of releasing their biggest album to date, Arch Enemy have nothing more to prove to anyone. Fans alike will no doubt adore Will To Power whilst its reach will scoop up a whole heap of newer Metal fans. Understanding this compromise, the duality of light and dark, good and evil is the true wielding of power. Poised to take on the world and whatever else might be thrown at it, Arch Enemy are at the vanguard of the modern Metal battlefield championing the true power of Metal.
M : We like to have atmosphere. We’re just riding that balance between. We have a lot of ugly heavy stuff but there is also a lot of beauty. Darkness AND light. We use a lot of major keys as well, I guess as a band we like to paint with all the colours. Its not just black and white. Of course thats the main thing in Metal! There are some rainbows in there!