New Arch Enemy Singer Talks Authenticity and Being a Woman in Metal

Archy Enemy's new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz has big shoes to fill.
Archy Enemy's new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz has big shoes to fill.
Century Media

The members of Arch Enemy have always set the bar high for themselves and their genre. Then again, let's be honest: any band labeled Swedish melodic death metal provokes high expectations. It combines the strongest elements of heavy metal, like super heavy riffs and refined melodies, set in an environment where some of the most influential -- and deadly -- metal bands were founded.

After originating almost two decades as a proclaimed "super group," with members from bands like Carcass, Mercyful Fate and Eucharist, Arch Enemy brought on German vocalist Angela Gossow in 2000. In turn, Gossow quickly became known as one of the few heavy metal female vocalists that became successful off of a primary singer style of harsh growling and virulent screams. She influenced many future female heavy metal vocalists -- including her recent replacement, Canadian Alissa White-Gluz.

See also: Top 10 Metro Phoenix Metal Vocalists

After Gossow stepped down in early 2014 to focus on other projects and become full-time manager of the band, she chose her friend White-Gluz, lead vocalist of The Agonist, to take over. Immediately the blue-haired bombshell jumped right in to help write and record the band's 10th album, War Eternal, which was released in June.

Gossow left big shoes to fill. However, becoming the new face of such an iconic, established metal band was a challenge that White-Gluz took on with vengeance, grace, and humility.

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The new album has lit a fire within the band. Whether it's from an influx of fresh blood, as guitarist Chris Amott also left and was replaced by Nick Cordle in 2012, or because War Eternal is being hailed as the band's strongest album in years. Either way, it has prompted the five members of Arch Enemy to do their first tour on American soil in three years.

In honor of their album's success and the new tour, the band also just released a cover of the Judas Priest track "Breaking The Law," putting their own unique twist on the jam. Coincidentally, the band will be in Phoenix just two days after Judas Priest's concert.

Up on the Sun talked to White-Gluz about her transition into Arch Enemy, her proudest moment from the new record, and being a woman in heavy metal.

So how are the band's expectations for this U.S. tour?

It's exciting. I've been looking forward to this tour for a long time.

After Angela asked you to take over, what sort of preparation did you do before jamming with the band for the first time?

You know, I asked Michael for a list of maybe 11 songs from their back catalog that they would want to play. A lot of them were songs I was already familiar with as a fan, from listening to them, but had never attempted performed them. I went into a studio in Montreal and sang along with the album to practice the vocals and learn all the lyrics by heart, and then I flew to Sweden to jam with the band.

So when it comes to your departure from The Agonist, you had said that you had even started recording that album with the band before leaving. Will some of that work be on their November album Eye of Providence, or did you bring all your material to War Eternal?

Well I hadn't started recording with The Agonist. I had started writing songs for that album. But when they kicked me out, obviously I wasn't going to hand over my work. And I didn't put it on Arch Enemy's album either actually, because it wasn't written for Arch Enemy, it was written for something else. I didn't want to slap it on an Arch Enemy album. So I still had those lyrics I was writing and some song structure so I just decided to save them for the future.

How do you feel about the fact that it's been called Arch Enemy's strongest album in years?

You know what? I think I agree. I love all of Arch Enemy's albums, you know, I've been a huge fan of all their work. Angela always kills it and they are fantastic musicians. War Eternal feels really special, I mean, also because I'm on it (laughter) but also because I think it shows a new spark in the band on this album. And I'm glad people are feeling it to when they listen to it.

What do you feel is your proudest moment from the record?

It's hard to say actually, because the recording process went really smoothly. I really enjoyed working on the lyrics and the songs with Michael [Amott, founding member/guitarist], recording them and demoing them. But I think the song "Avalanche" really stands out for me. I wrote the lyrics to it, but it really almost wrote itself. I just got this idea, I sat down for like 20 minutes, and it all poured out of my head on the paper. I was stoked to record it so I went and pre-recorded it at a studio in Montreal because I was so stoked about the idea. Even before going into the studio in Sweden I recorded it so I could listen to it.  

As an original fan of Arch Enemy, what songs were you most anxious to play live off the band's catalog?

All the songs are great. You know, we play a show and we finish one song and I'm announcing the next song like, 'oh cool we're playing that one next?!' They are all fun to play and listen to. But I think probably "Ravenous" and "Dead Bury Their Dead" are some of my favorites.

Is that because of the instrumentals, or the lyrically content?

There's just really good energy in those songs. They are really fast! I tend to like really fast songs. For example, "As The Pages Burn" from War Eternal is one of the songs I wrote the lyrics to and it has that fast paced vocal style. Those songs always get a great reaction from the crowd, too.

What, if any, was one of the best tips Angela Gossow offered you during the transition to Arch Enemy?

She didn't really get tips really. I mean she'll give pointers along the way and we'll just discuss things. Sometimes we will find that we like doing things the same way through discussion, but it's all very constructive regardless. She really made the decision to step away from the music side of things when she asked me to step into her place. So she wasn't really involved at all actually. She really cleared the station there, which I think is great, because then there is no confusion about where I stand or she stands.

Speaking of that, as a woman in heavy metal, what's one of the most challenging things you've encountered?

You know, there's things you face every day as a woman, even if you aren't a singer or entertainer. Women in general have to think about certain things that men don't -- like being safe in the street at night or something. But I think particularly being a woman in metal... maybe there is a tendency to doubt our authenticity, you know? Like no one would really question the reason for a guy to be in a band, but I think, starting out anyways, there was always that usual question 'why are you doing metal?' and I'm like, 'why are you asking that question?' I think that is probably one of the tough ones.

It's clear that you and Doyle [Wolfgang von Frankenstein, former Misfits guitarist and White-Gluz's boyfriend] support each other immensely; as two extremely busy musicians, what's one of your favorite ways to relax and spend time together?

Honestly we never get time off and we never really get to relax. But whenever I do have time off in Montreal, Doyle will come there and we will get to go work out together and be really boring. (Laughter.) Not do anything at all. Like, work out, sleep, eat repeat. Just having that down time together, because there's so little downtime, we really need to take advantage of each other's company.

Arch Enemy is scheduled to play Marquee Theatre on Friday, November 14.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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