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Arch Enemy's Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis Talk New Album, 'Will to Power'

Arch Enemy's Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis Talk New Album, 'Will to Power' Arch Enemy's Michael Amott (left) with his signature Dean Guitars Tyrant Battle Axe and Je Loomis with his signature Schecter Cygnus

“Well, there’s a first time for everything, right?” says founding guitarist Michael Amott from his home near Gothenburg, Sweden, where he’s taking a few days to decompress before Arch Enemy meet up at their rehearsal space in Frankfurt, Germany.

There, they’ll practice their summer festival set, which includes “The World Is Yours,” the first single from their new album Will to Power.

“You know, sometimes things don’t work out,” Amott says. “I don’t really want to elaborate on that. At the time, it was, of course, surprising. But I called my brother, [band co-founder] Christopher [Amott, who has been in and out throughout the group’s history] and he finished the tour with us. What’s really surprising is that we didn’t miss a show.”

When asked about the incident, Cordle had no comment. “Not interested in anything to do with them,” he texted.

Putting out fires and overcoming challenges has become a regular task for Arch Enemy. The band is currently on its third vocalist; 14-year screamer Angela Gossow quit in 2014 before Cordle left; she currently manages Arch Enemy from her home in Germany. When Christopher Amott wasn’t in the band, Fredrik Åkesson and Cordle played for two years each, the former from 2005 to 2007 before leaving to joining Opeth, and the latter from 2012 to 2014 before joining Sanctuary.

But with every lineup shift came change and, frequently, growth. Gossow’s replacement, Alissa White-Gluz, the 32-year-old former vocalist for the Canadian metalcore band The Agonist, is a personable, charismatic growler with a ferocious death metal roar and a surprisingly pleasant singing voice. As difficult as it is to replace a vocalist, Arch Enemy fans have taken to White-Gluz, partially because Gossow introduced her to the band, and in part because her exuberance and blue hair appealed to the Hot Topic crowd.

The most recent band recruit, ex-Nevermore cofounder and ace lead guitarist Jeff Loomis (who replaced Cordle in 2014) might be the most technically gifted player to join the AE ranks. And he’s stepped in at a great time. Twenty-one years into their career, Arch Enemy could be at the top of their game.

Will to Power is a striking, musically diverse album that combines elements of thrash, Gothenburg-style melodic death metal and stomping traditional metal with progressive touches. The tracks are highlighted by Amott and Loomis’ abundant guitar harmonies and fiery leads.

The video for the fiercely melodic “The World Is Yours” had accumulated nearly 4.5 million views less than a month after it was posted, and Arch Enemy just announced a co-headline U.S. tour with Trivium that runs through December 6 in Houston and could expose Arch Enemy to a younger, more mainstream following.

“I never considered Arch Enemy to be a death metal band, and I didn’t start Arch Enemy with the intention of being death metal,” stresses Amott. “I’ve already done that type of stuff [as a member of Carnage and Carcass], so I wanted to focus more on melody, while still keeping the music heavy. And I think this record does that.”

(from left) Arch Enemy's Daniel Erlandsson, Michael Amott, Jeff Loomis, Alissa White-Gluz and Sharlee D'Angelo

While Loomis was Amott’s first choice to fill in for Cordle, Arch Enemy’s architect was afraid Loomis wouldn’t accept the offer. “I always tell Jeff he’s overqualified for the gig,” Amott says, then laughs. “But having a high-profile guitar player join was really great for us. He plays amazing stuff almost without effort, and I’m still sitting here struggling to figure out how to hold a guitar pick.”

Loomis first met Amott in 1999 when Arch Enemy and Nevermore were playing some of the same festivals. The two bands toured Europe together in 2003, though Arch Enemy had to pull out of the last few shows after their bus was infested with blood-sucking insects and some of the members became ill. Impressed by Loomis’ playing, Amott asked him to join Arch Enemy in 2005, when Christopher quit for the first time, but Loomis was committed to Nevermore and turned down the offer.

When Loomis broke up Nevermore in 2011, largely because he was having problems with alcohol and needed to dry out (“Moderation definitely wasn’t in the dictionary next to the Nevermore name”), he went cold turkey until he was sober, then started looking for another gig. Come November, he will have been sober for five years. Staying sober was easier for Loomis than finding the right project. He staged clinics and put out the solo album Plains of Oblivion in 2012, but it didn’t connect with Nevermore audiences the way he had hoped it would. Besides, he wanted to play in a band again, so when Amott called him for the second time, Loomis leaped at the opportunity.

“Being a big fan of Arch Enemy and knowing most of their catalog already, and all their songs, I was really blown away when Michael asked me to be in the band again,” says Loomis. “It was definitely a no-brainer. I said yes immediately because I loved their music and they seemed to be getting bigger. I was like, ‘Yeah, man. Let’s do it!’ ”

There was no time for Loomis to celebrate, even with non-alcoholic beverages. Arch Enemy had a European tour booked with Kreator in two weeks and Loomis had to learn numerous guitar parts. “Everything happened so fast, it was crazy,” he says. “By the time I felt somewhat confident with the material, I was already on a plane to France.”

Before he learned the solos note-for-note from the band’s past albums, he sometimes had to improvise the middle part of a lead. Even so, he fit right in, his virtuosic playing style complimenting Amott’s cutting, bluesy Michael Schenker–esque approach.

“Once Jeff came into the band you could definitely feel a shift from gray clouds to blue sky,” White-Gluz says from her home in Montreal, Quebec. “He’s so chill and polite and he’s such a nice dude. And he’s so humble, even though he’s crazy-talented.”

For Loomis, the greatest challenge was playing six-string guitars instead of the seven-strings that have been his go-to instruments since 2000. So Loomis, who practiced for 16 hours a day as a teenager to learn his craft, applied some of that discipline to breaking in his Schecter JL6, the six-string model of his signature JL7. In no time, he was as adept on a six-string as he is on a seven.

“The only thing that was a little weird was that when I played six-string guitar in the past I was used to A440 tuning, and the tuning for Arch Enemy goes down to C standard, which is two whole steps down,” he says.

He thought finding the right string gauge would do the trick. He tried out extra heavy Ernie Ball strings and it felt “like playing piano wire.” So he switched to lighter strings—.060 to .01—which were just substantial enough so he could use a tremolo on his leads and bend the strings without breaking them very often. He replaced his light picks with a heavy, pointed plectrum to give his playing a more aggressive attack.


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