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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

Once Arch Enemy had played around 300 shows to support their 2014 album, War Eternal, their first to feature White-Gluz, the band’s label execs encouraged them to record a new album. In mid-2016, Amott presented the company with a demo of “The World Is Yours,” which he wrote in 2014. They loved it and asked to hear more, and he admitted he only had bits and pieces of other songs.

So, after playing a few shows in Mexico in late 2016, Amott and band co-founder and drummer Daniel Erlandsson rented an apartment in Cancun to write for 10 days. A winter party mecca south of the border might seem like a strange place for a couple of Swedes to work, yet Amott and Erlandsson were motivated, diligent and productive.

“We didn’t get drunk once!” Amott insists. “It was great because being away from home, there weren’t the usual distractions from making music. Every day we just went for a swim in the morning and had breakfast and then started writing metal.”

The two came up with some great passages, but no full songs. Then they put together the framework for the mid-paced, steady-riffing “The Eagle Flies Alone,” and the doors of creativity opened up.

“I came up with practically the whole thing completely on the spot and it turned the record around,” Amott says. “I have found that when you have that first song that you’re really happy with, you go, ‘Alright, now we can start making the record.’ ”

Amott wrote four other full songs in Mexico, then flew back to Sweden and, between gigs, continued writing in his home studio. At one point, he asked Loomis—who was the primary songwriter in Nevermore—if he had any songs to contribute and Loomis was almost ashamed to admit he hadn’t written anything.

“When they started writing, the album came together really fast,” Loomis says. “I did submit three songs, but I think I might have missed the deadline. I feel really bad about that, but at the same time, I didn’t want to be the new guy coming in saying, ‘Okay, here’s a bunch of new songs I wrote. Let’s go record them.’ So I only did those three and honestly, I don’t think they were in the Arch Enemy style.”

“I feel lucky just to have Jeff playing solos on the record,” says Amott. “I know he is such a high-profile guitar player and his role in Arch Enemy is not what people might expect. I’ve always written most of the music in this band and that’s what I do. Right now, he is more about playing guitar solos and he seems to really get that.”

While Amott fine-tuned the demos in Sweden, Loomis mapped out his solos at his home studio in Seattle. Since he had been playing every lead on tour exactly as it appeared on the albums, he looked forward to putting his own signature on the new tunes. “Michael sent me the demos and I really listened to the songs and tried to match them with my playing,” Loomis says. “It wasn’t like in Nevermore when I just went into the studio and improvised. I planned everything out. Like, ‘The World Is Yours’ is extremely aggressive, so I did the math in my head and utilized really fast picking and played in harmonic minor so it flowed with the song.”

Loomis recorded his solos using his Schecter signature JL6 and a Line 6 Helix modeled after an old Peavey 5150. Then he used effects to boost the gain and added reverb and chorus. “I want to achieve that sheer metal tone, so there’s a lot of distortion with a gate in front of it for double stops,” he says.

Amott unfurled his Dean Tyrant V. He recorded the rhythms over a three-week period at the Sweetspot Satellite Studio in Halstad, Sweden, using a Kemper Profiler. Once the rhythms were tight enough, the DI tracks were re-amped through Marshalls and Mesa/Boogies by mixing engineer Jens Bogren.

In April 2017, Loomis flew in to track his solos at the Sweetspot Studio in Harplinge 90 minutes south of Gothenburg. Amott blocked out a week for Loomis to track, and before he arrived he constructed a variety of different tones using live amps, including the JCM800, 2205, a JMP 100-watt head and a JVM 50-watt head. Once they started tracking, though, it took Loomis only two days to finish his solos. More than half of the leads he had pre-written worked perfectly, and the guitarists worked together to tweak and fine-tune the others.

“For some of the leads I wanted a slightly different flavor than what Jeff came up with,” Amott explains. “Making a record is kind of like directing a movie. When the vocals stop, the lead guitar takes over and it’s got to have a dramatic flow. It’s got to tell a story. So I had some ideas for parts for him to play to help keep the songs moving. And Jeff was super open-minded. He has zero ego. He just wants to play for the song and make everything work as well as it can.”

In addition to featuring a new caliber of guitar solos, Will to Power contains Amott’s first metal semi-ballad, “Reason to Believe.” The track features undistorted guitar arpeggios (the only part recorded with a Gibson SG), wispy keyboards and a slow beat before bursting into a chunky midsection and an anthemic chorus. The song provided White-Gluz the opportunity to balance her grizzly-bear growls with clean, melodic singing.

“I’ve always been fearless when it came to vocal techniques, but in the context of Arch Enemy I hadn’t really explored all these colors before,” White-Gluz says. “But I do think with Will to Power we had a natural evolution where I unleashed a little bit more. It’s so easy to go all-out all the time in metal, but having dynamics is what makes for a great album.”

Amott wrote “Reason to Believe” with his brother Christopher (who’s now living in New York) when the family got together last Christmas. Following some stilted conversation and awkward silences, the siblings excused themselves and picked up acoustic guitars.

“The only way we communicated was by playing guitars at my parents’ house,” Amott recalls. “We came up with that piece of music and the next day we recorded it at my place.”

Amott’s not about to let Arch Enemy turn into a mainstream, progressive or symphonic metal band, and Will to Power, while more concise, is just as heavy as War Eternal. At the same time the guitarist admits he had more fun writing the fragile parts of “Reason to Believe,” the emphatic guitar harmonies on the instrumental “Saturnine” and planning the sweeping orchestral section for “A Fight I Must Win” than he did writing and playing the thrash/death riffs on “Murder Scene” or the galloping, descending guitar passages on “First Day in Hell.”

“Having melody in the music is what interests me the most,” says Amott. “The heavy stuff is super-easy. It just flows naturally from my mind. Sometimes I get an idea for lyrics or a melody and I instantly hear all of the guitars and the rest of the song in my head. I don’t know if that makes me the Paul McCartney of death metal, but I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Listening back to Will to Power, Loomis is content with the thumbprint he made with his leads and is looking forward to busting out more of his original playing live. He also hopes to contribute more songwriting to the next record. At the same time, he’s planning to keep himself balanced creatively by experimenting with extreme instrumental music, both with his long-delayed solo album and the second record by his side project Conquering Dystopia, which features guitarist Keith Merrow, bassist Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) and drummer Alex Rüdinger (ex–the Faceless).

“I’m so lucky I’m able to play these shows in front of thousands of people with Arch Enemy and then go off into another side of myself guitar-wise and explore a different kind of music,” Loomis says. “It keeps me really busy, but I couldn’t ask for more. I feel right at home with Arch Enemy. They’re my metal family. I think it’s gonna last for a while—as long as we can do it, anyway.”

Amott, too, looks to the future with optimism. Arch Enemy plans to tour for Will to Power for at least the next 18 months, but during weeks off he hopes he and Loomis will be able to write together. And he’s not at all concerned that Loomis will be another member who leaves two years after playing on his first Arch Enemy album.

“It’s so easy to work with Jeff and he has such a great attitude that I can’t imagine having any problems,” he concludes. “And I can see him having a bigger part writing in the future. Of course, that won’t change the band. We have been around for a long time and we have a certain sound, so our direction is always pretty similar. It’s just evolving and becoming more refined, and I think Jeff will be able to be a big part of that.”

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