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

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.

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.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise

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