Century Media
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Handshake With Hell
02. Deceiver, Deceiver
03. In The Eye Of The Storm
04. The Watcher
05. Poisoned Arrow
06. Sunset Over The Empire
07. House Of Mirrors
08. Spreading Black Wings
09. Mourning Star
10. One Last Time
11. Exiled From Earth

ARCH ENEMY have become such an unassailable part of the heavy metal furniture that it would be easy to forget how utterly against-the-grain they seemed at the start. Eschewing the prevailing black metal winds of the day, and only paying slender regard to his past achievements in CARCASS and CARNAGE, Michael Amott boldly combined the soaring, classic melodies of old-school metal with the grit and aggression of death metal. It's a simple formula but it remains lethally effective, as "Deceivers" proves in no uncertain terms.

25 years on from the release of "Black Earth", Michael Amott's crew have little to prove in terms of commercial power, fan popularity or festival ubiquity. Meanwhile, vocalist Alissa White-Gluz has made light work of establishing herself as a worthy successor to the much-revered Angela Gossow; her obvious charisma and versatility ensuring that both 2014's "War Eternal" and 2017's "Will To Power" went down a storm with the faithful, arguably pushing ARCH ENEMY to new heights of success in the process. It's enough to make even the most ardent creatives a little complacent, but "Deceivers" suggests quite the opposite.

ARCH ENEMY's 11th studio album (or 12th if you include 2009's "The Root Of All Evil") is a seriously vehement, hungry record: the kind that bands of this vintage shouldn't really be capable of making at this point. The choice to release "Deceiver, Deceiver" as the first single said a lot about Amott's intent this time around: vicious, fueled by raging D-beat punk and easily the heaviest ARCH ENEMY song White-Gluz has sung on, it's a mean and destructive thing that belies its creators' reputation for virtuoso perfection (while also being precise and immaculate, as one might reasonably expect). Likewise, opener "Handshake With Hell" is an unstoppable torrent of hell-for-leather heaviness. Melodically lavish and blessed with a towering White-Gluz clean vocal, it combines several of ARCH ENEMY's most undeniable trademarks into a gleaming but grotesque new whole. Even better, "In The Eye Of The Storm" is a punishing, mid-paced affair that oozes menace and authority, echoing past triumphs like "My Apocalypse" and "You Will Know My Name" but still very much its own snarling beast.

Every ARCH ENEMY album to date has boasted a handful of obvious standouts: songs destined for inclusion in the live show, and sometimes for essential anthem status. The startling thing about "Deceiver, Deceiver" is how the thrills and spills continue from the start of "Handshake With Hell" to the bitter, bloody end of "Exiled From Earth". There is the irresistible singalong rush of "The Watcher", which also happens to boast the heaviest riff on the entire album. There is the dark and stirring "Poisoned Arrow", which bears a passing resemblance to PARADISE LOST at their most strident and gloomy. There is the wild, death metal grandeur of "Sunset Over The Empire", which is so outrageously overblown it should come with a free crash helmet, and the bellicose, melo-death perfection of "House Of Mirrors". "Spreading Black Wings" is a haunting mid-paced nightmare with a melancholy core, blackened edges and one particularly devastating occult doom riff. "Mourning Star" is a mesmerizing, twilit interlude; "One Last Time" is a succinct slap around the chops, with some of the finest soloing, from Amott and the great Jeff Loomis, on the whole record; "Exiled From Earth" is a gleefully dramatic finale, powered by epic, old-school thunder and lightning.

If ARCH ENEMY have lacked anything in recent times, it has been an album that truly nails the essence of this incarnation of the band. Cohesive, focused and seriously fucking brutal, "Deceiver, Deceiver" is easily the finest record the band have made with White-Gluz. It has charm, urgency and, most importantly, the strongest and most consistent set of songs they have put together in a long time. Onwards and upwards (again),  then.

Author: Dom Lawson
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