Album Review: Arch Enemy - Deceivers

Album Review: Arch Enemy - Deceivers

I almost feel sorry for Arch Enemy. They’ve been a band for nearly 30 years, they helped define the sound of melodic death metal and, despite many line-up changes, have remained consistently very good for ten albums now. There’s a temptation, when another is released, to just think “yep, another great Arch Enemy album!” and overlook it in favour of other, newer bands. Like, you know what it’ll sound like, you know it’ll rock, so why bother getting excited?

It’s easy for fans and critics to fawn over something new and shiny. Few things beat the feeling of being there at the beginning, grabbing onto a band when they’re young and hungry, and there’s a mutual rush of discovery. The band are discovering their own abilities and you’re discovering an amazing new band. It’s exciting, and it’s pure because it comes with no expectations. There’s simply not so much fun to be had when you’re just saying what everyone else already knows. In this case, that Arch Enemy deliver first class melodic death metal. We all already know.

And sure, Deceivers is indeed another Arch Enemy album that doesn’t stray massively from the formula but their subtle evolution over time is another thing that’s too easy to take for granted. It’s like when you see someone every day of your life, you scarcely notice them growing older, but when you run into a long-lost buddy from 20 years ago, suddenly you realise how much has changed. Comparing 2017’s Will To Power with their 1995 debut Black Earth or even a fan fave like 2003’s Anthems of Rebellion and you’ll see the difference. Yes, they’ve always had their feet firmly in melodic death metal but they’ve added little innovations and experiments with every release. Some of these worked better than others but ultimately, they never strayed too far from their path and every little diversion is a marking on the map that leads to Deceivers

From the opening thunder of Handshake With Hell, it’s clear that Arch Enemy’s five years away have been spent wisely. The focus here is on pure, classic metal songwriting. Handshake With Hell, with its insane vocals and a set of riffs that’ll rip your head off, feels like a song that can traverse generations of metal fans and leave them all spellbound. You like NWOBHM? We got your twin guitar harmonies covered. You like death metal? Well, this is gonna be brutal. You like modern extreme metal? This has a ton of flashy production and slips between clean symphonic vocals, Halford-esque power screams and death growls like the best of today’s genre-bending crop. And that’s just the first song.

The rest of Deceivers never lets up and goes hard for 10 tracks of blistering metal (and one brief instrumental interlude). Every song is loaded with hooks, every song has face-melting solos (from the legends that are Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis), every song has a chorus you can scream along to before you’ve even finished your first listen. From the hyperspeed death-thrash of Deceiver, Deceiver to the epic (almost symphonic) Sunset Over The Empire and the wonderfully sinister House Of Mirrors, the album never misses a beat. The quality never drops and the songs never feel repetitive. With so many big, attention-grabbing songs (they released five singles before the album even got released!) it would be easy to pad them out with filler but even the less obvious tracks here are fantastic, with One Last Time standing out as an almost faultless 3 1/2 minute gothed-up thrasher par excellence buried near the end of the album.

Lyrically, the album has a loose concept of lies with each track a kind of warning to the deceitful about the consequences of their actions, culminating with the ultimate consequence of absolute and complete destruction, in the crushingly heavy closer Exiled From Earth. Alissa White-Gluz really comes into her own with this, her vocals feeling more powerful, varied and heartfelt than ever before – this role as a herald of the apocalypse suits her style and gives the album a genuine emotional punch that so many melodeath albums lack.

If you listen to Deceivers and imagine it’s a brand new band, just think about how excited you’d be and how you’d want to tell all your friends to get on this straight away. Then snap back to reality and realise this is Arch Enemy, a band that’s been around since the 90s, and they are sounding like they have all the speed, heaviness and songwriting energy of a band just getting started. It’s phenomenally impressive. We shouldn’t take them for granted. We should build statues in their honour and secure them a place in the great death metal pantheon. All hail Arch Enemy! 9/10

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