Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. Erickson is also a music artist herself and has a new single, “Last Love,” with Upon Wings. The latest edition of Beyond the Boys’ Club features an interview with Alissa White-Gluz of the band Arch Enemy.
Arch Enemy have built a strong name for themselves in the realm of extreme metal, and fans waited with great anticipation for the band’s latest full-length effort, Deceivers, the group’s first album in five years. The set dropped August 12th via Century Media Records, marking the 11th studio release from the veteran metal act.
Lead vocalist Alissa White-Gluz has been with Arch Enemy since 2014, and Deceivers marks her third album with the band, following War Eternal and Will to Power. While stepping into the lead singer role in any established band isn’t easy, White-Gluz has done it with strength, class and charisma, helping to add to the band’s fanbase over the past several years.
White-Gluz checked in with Heavy Consequence for the latest edition of “Beyond the Boys’ Club,” discussing the new album, their recent tour with Behemoth, her vegan lifestyle, what it’s like being a female in heavy metal and more. Read the full interview below.
Congratulations on your new album, Deceivers. One of the early singles off the release was the brutally fantastic “House of Mirrors.” Tell me about the story behind that song and why you wanted it to be the first taste of new music off the new album.
Thank you! It is always difficult to choose which songs to highlight as singles. “House of Mirrors” is a real head-banger, and the lyrics are some of my favorite. I tapped into the metaphor of “the home” — something everyone is quite familiar with. During the past couple years, I feel that the concept of “home” has shifted from something positive (home is where the heart is, home sweet home, etc.) to something negative (stay-at-home orders). Many people felt isolated and trapped during lockdowns. I wanted to explore the psychological effects of isolation and how a place that used to be synonymous with solace can quickly shift to a place of distress.
At this point, we have released four singles — namely “Deceiver, Deceiver,” “House of Mirrors,” “Handshake with Hell” and “Sunset Over the Empire.” I think it is quite clear that each of these songs stands on its own and is very different from the rest. I think the album has this kind of dynamic throughout and grows on you with every listen.
“Handshake with Hell” has such a classic metal vibe. Tell me about the story behind that song.
It is a fun song and great to play live. [Guitarist] Michael [Amott] is a big fan of classic metal and has a huge collection of vintage vinyls from around the world. I could feel that he was leaning into that vibe and having fun with it when I heard the instrumental version of this song, so I decided to do the same thing vocally. The pre-choruses were set up perfectly for some heavy metal clean singing with just the right mix of grit, power, melody and wide vibrato. The choruses felt like pure Arch Enemy to me, so I wrote lyrics and arranged the vocals accordingly for that. There are gang vocals in the chorus that were created by Michael, Jacob and myself surrounding a microphone. Those are always fun to do. I am so used to playing many voices and characters in songs, but there is a different flavor when you actually bring in different throats. As for the bridge, Michael initially wanted me to do some spoken word there, and I wanted to do some vocal acrobatics. We ended up meeting in the middle with this kind of haunting, repetitive chant. I think it was the right choice and that the visuals that Patric Ullaeus created in the music video highlight it perfectly.
Arch Enemy and Behemoth wrapped up a North American co-headlining tour in the spring that also featured Napalm Death and Unto Others. What made this bill a good fit for Arch Enemy?
It is a diverse tour package of great bands. I really love all the music on that tour. I was really impressed to see how enthused the fans are now — they have been wanting this for just as long as we have! It was a pleasure to see and hear these bands every night. I especially loved chatting with Barney of Napalm Death, as it isn’t super common for me to meet someone that I can just go full-on into sociopolitical conversations with, but he and I are both passionate about the same things. I really enjoyed spending time with all the people on this tour and can’t wait to see most of them again in the fall.
Tell me why it’s important for you to follow a vegan diet and how you feel it helps you health-wise.
I have been vegetarian since birth, vegan since the ’90s and that will never change. It is the most ethical, healthy, sustainable and selfless way to live. I am vegan for animal rights, not specifically for health, but choosing to eat the way I do comes with a slew of health benefits. It’s like a bonus. There are a ton of books and documentaries that highlight this, namely the book “How Not to Die” and the film “Game Changers.” I would recommend those to anyone curious about what the hell I am doing and why. I stress that veganism isn’t a “diet” in the sense that people think about diets as short-term trends to achieve certain body and health goals. That is not what it is about and has nothing to do with my choice to be vegan. I made the decision long ago to actually practice what we talk about in punk and metal. You want to really “f**k the system?” Well, boycott the biggest, most corrupt industries on Earth then — the animal agriculture industries.
You’ve been in the heavy music world for years now. Have you seen a growth in the number of women in metal music today verses when you started out?
There are more of us now, and that’s awesome to see! I always like to flip this question around and ask men what they think, though. Women are not walking around every second of the day contemplating our existence. It seems to be men doing that. I have never really seen a difference between musicians of any gender. I would be really curious to hear if there actually are any, other than a lower vocal range for men, obviously. Otherwise, listening to a guitarist shred or a drummer jam, I wouldn’t be able to judge the gender of the artist. Would you? And why does it matter? I just like people who rock, plain and simple.
Was there a point where fans and other musicians were looking beyond the fact you are a women in metal and just seeing you as a person in metal?
I really don’t know. What other people think of me is none of my business. I feel an enormous amount of camaraderie, respect and support from my peers in other bands and other fields in music, and I am thankful for that and reciprocate. I feel huge support and love from our fans. Our shows are getting bigger and bigger, and our new singles went over amazingly live on the tour we just wrapped up. I don’t know if humans will ever come to a point where we truly never judge one another based on outward appearance. That seems to be some sort of innate mechanism in the human brain. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing- there is a lot of beauty in diversity.
Do you think there’s more pressure on women in rock and metal to look a certain way to be appealing?
That is true of all aspects of popular culture, not just metal. There is a paradigm that women are forever the muse, never the artist. I love that we can actually be both. I am a painter, actually. I have been drawing and painting since I was very young, and I worked as a commissioned painter in my teen years and early 20s. Because of that, I observe quite a bit from a technical point of view. I see the play of light and shadow across every face I meet. I see the tangled fingers of someone carrying heavy bags. I see someone’s choice of clothing as a form of self-expression, and I contemplate that. It makes everyone beautiful and interesting to me, when I picture them as light entering my corneas and kissing my retinas. It is nice to step back and let people just be these images, sometimes, instead of the complex and troubled creatures we actually are.
What advice would you have for women looking to get into metal music?
Do what makes you happy. Be yourself. Practice a lot. Team up with people who respect you and share your vision. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for yourself. Keep a sharp focus on your goal.