Arch Enemy – Deceivers (Album Review)

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Deception has never been so honest.

A discussion of the melodic death metal craze that swept northern Europe during the 90s and flourished into the new millennium cannot be had without the name of Swedish mainstays Arch Enemy receiving a mention. Originally founded by virtuoso guitarist and then recently former member of Carcass Michael Amott and his brother Christopher, they originally cut their teeth as an unofficial 4th member of the famed Gothenburg 3 despite not hailing from said city, combining elements of In Flames’ hook-driven melodic guitar assault and the darker, riff-driven aggression of At The Gates to pave a unique niche within the then nascent sub-genre. But following their first trilogy of LPs, they’d become of a focal point of popular fascination with the entry of vocalist Angela Gossow, whose lioness-like roars played perfectly to their signature sound. Following her exodus in 2014, and that of Christopher Amott a couple years prior, this stalwart of the art of melodeath would continue to build on their legacy with a heightened sense of technical flair and nuance following the arrival of ex-The Agonist vocalist Alissa White-Gluz and former Nevermore shredder Jeff Loomis.

Following two impressive albums that quelled any fears that this band’s core audience had of these two newcomers drastically altering the signature sound they’ve come to expect, this quintet has unleashed their most formidable and expansive studio offering in recent memory in 2022’s “Deceivers.” Though by no means a stylistic departure from the typical mixture of infectious melodies, mad thrashing riff work and guttural shouts that boil over with sheer intensity, it marks a more expansive approach to things that mirrors much of what has taken shape in the broader death metal movement in recent years. Atmosphere and peripheral additions to the standard arrangement of guitars, bass and drums take a prominent role in turning a collection of symmetrically structured and moderate length anthems into a near cinematic affair, with quasi-symphonic keyboard passages and occasional studio effects providing some contrast to the blood, guts and glory approach that is this band’s trademark. Likewise, this album functions as the most ambitious demonstration of technical flair carrying the Arch Enemy moniker in quite a while, with each member bringing their A game.

“Deceivers” Album Artwork

Naturally it’s been impossible for even a casual follower of this fold to not have noticed the flood of promotional videos making the rounds online, underscoring their seriousness about coming back with a vengeance following 2 years of forced house arrest, and what’s been unleashed so far proves to be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Kicking off the sonic kill session is the upbeat banger and extravaganza of guitar-driven majesty “Handshake With Hell”, which in addition to seeing Amott and Loomis cut heads with the best of them, also sees Alissa utilizing her highly capable natural singing voice, something not heard since her days with The Agonist. Nipping right on its heels is the high-octane thrasher and de facto title song “Deceiver, Deceiver”, which batters with the intensity of a thousand war-hammers and showcases how long-time drummer Daniel Erlandsson can bring down the fury while allowing for the riffs to do plenty of the talking. The menacing war anthem and mid-paced banger “In The Eye Of The Storm” and the frenzied punch of “Sunset Over The Empire” also prove to be no slouches in the aggression department and also bring a slight symphonic flavor into the equation.

For those who have encountered the veritable EP’s worth of singles that have been making waves for the past several months, the rest of the picture here proves to be a consistent continuation of the same winning formula, and also offers up a few nice surprises to boot. Taking some occasional cues from the more dreamy and dense approach to the melodic death sound that has been a staple several Finnish outfits, the slower paced “Spreading Black Wings” provides an interesting semi-atmospheric counterpoint to the more thrashing material that dominates most of the LP while still hitting hard, and the brief instrumental that follows in “Mourning Star” and its densely arranged and keyboard-tinged successor “One Last Time” take the aforementioned melancholy factor and amplify it further. But the biggest surprise that ties this whole thing together is the brilliant, almost overt nod to “The Exorcist” with a towering Amon Amarth-like stomp and album closer “Exiled From Earth,” which also manages to fit itself neatly into Arch Enemy’s established sound and sports some truly epic guitar work out of Amott and Loomis.

In a sense, it could be argued that the resulting sound that takes shape here is a call back to the more stylistically free and novel character that typified this band’s work in the 90s, save for the fact that the massive sound realized by production and engineering mastermind Jacob Hansen would have been impossible even in the early 2010s. It’s a mixture of old and new that parallels the recent work of other big names in the melodic death metal world, along with the adjacent metalcore scene that is seeing resurgence of late and largely owes its existence to the early strides made by this outfit and others from the original Swedish melodeath wave. It is a cut above most of what has been put forth by this band since the mid-2000s and rivals the earliest entries with Angela Gossow at the helm, if not that widely heralded previous works that many purists of the style tend to prefer. There has been some pretty stiff competition across the board since the inception of the current year, but it’s more than safe to say that Arch Enemy stands tall in the veritable battle royal of modern melodic death metal that has come to be, and “Deceivers” checks every box on the essential listening checklist.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: August 12th, 2022
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

“Deceivers” will be available in the following formats:

  • Digital Album
    • Ltd. Deluxe 2LP+CD Artbook
    • hand-numbered limited edition with noble hot foil stamping
    • LP1: multi-colored vinyl (each design is unique)
    • LP2: picture vinyl with two bonus tracks & zoetrope effect
    • CD: album + two bonus tracks
    • 12” Artbook with 36-pages booklet incl. liner-notes and art print
  • Ltd. Deluxe CD Box Set
    • DVD-sized clamshell box with noble hot foil stamping
    • CD in eco-friendly packaging with two bonus tracks
    • 32-page DIN A5 booklet incl. liner-notes
    • Tote Bag
    • Metal Pin
  • Ltd. Black & colored 180g LP incl. 8-page booklet + Obi-Strip
  • Special Edition CD (eco-friendly packaging incl. 16-page booklet)

“Deceivers” track listing:

 1. Handshake With Hell
 2. Deceiver, Deceiver
 3. In The Eye Of The Storm
 4. The Watcher
 5. Poisoned Arrow
 6. Sunset Over The Empire
 7. House Of Mirrors
 8. Spreading Black Wings
 9. Mourning Star
10. One Last Time
11. Exiled From Earth
Arch Enemy online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

8.8 Excellent

Emerging after 5 years of studio silence, old-school Swedish melodic death metal stalwarts Arch Enemy deliver a torrent of unfettered rage with some auspicious moments of versatility on their latest and most polished work to date

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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