Words by Sam Wolstenholme
Arch Enemy really are a force to be reckoned with. The Swedish melodeath titans saw an impressive return to form last year with the release of their eleventh studio album ‘Deceivers’, widely hailed as one of their finest to date. They havenâ€™t toured down under since well before the pandemic, so it is with jittery excitement that the hordes of devoted fans are waiting outside the doors of The Tivoli on a Wednesday night for the Brisbane leg of Arch Enemyâ€™s Australia/New Zealand tour. And with the addition of Brisbaneâ€™s very own folk metal luminaries Valhalore as national support, tonight is shaping up to be an epic celebration of circle pits, guitar shreds and unbridled rebellious spirit.
Soon enough, the lights are dimmed and an atmospheric intro track resounds through the room, building the tension. Suddenly, we are transported back to another place in another time, a time of brutality, endless voyages and fearless conquest – the age of Vikings. Cheers erupt from the crowd as the first drum beats kick in, then Valhalore burst onto the stage, launching straight into their signature driving riffs and tin whistle shreds. Their uplifting, catchy melodies really convey the joy of adventure and the ecstasy of victory in battle. At first, the band seems a tad reserved, but after circle pits break out in the third number without much effort, the six-piece settle in and hit their stride.
This being a hometown show, many longtime fans in the mosh happily sing along to older bangers like Malice of Illusion and Across the Frozen Ocean in particular, with the latter inspiring the customary jig pit. Technically, the band is in fine form – Lachlanâ€™s vocals (both clean and harsh) are more powerful than ever, Morganâ€™s double kicks are impeccable, the dual guitar shredders are flawless, and Sophieâ€™s sweet, mournful whistle/flute solos are always a welcome breath of fresh air. Not to mention the ferocious harsh vocals added by bassist Joseph. Add to all that a floor-wide shield wall of death, and itâ€™s a wild ride for only a 30 minute set. Valhalore have delivered a tight and polished set tonight, easily holding their own before the legendary act to come.
Now itâ€™s time for the masters to work their magic. Double kicks sharper than knives from the incomparable Daniel Erlandsson carve through the thick layer of hype in the room, then strobe lights land like bullets as Arch Enemy begin their sonic assault with Deceiver, Deceiver. A mosh breaks out immediately, and the captivating force that is Alissa White-Gluz takes effortless command of the crowd as she unleashes the hellish growls for which she is so renowned. The deadly duo of Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis raise the roof with blistering guitar shreds that are intricate and rapid beyond belief. This absolute banger of an opener is followed by The World Is Yours, and this is where the crowd goes off chops, with the circle pit expanding further during the crushing breakdown. The frenzied lighting really enhances the sense of feral rebellion that Arch Enemy are so skilled at creating, particularly in a live setting.
Diehard Arch Enemy fans rejoice, because next up they launch into crowd favourite Ravenous. This is old-school, punishing death metal, and with the force of the thunderous kicks and riffs, it feels like the walls are going to cave in around us. The relentless barrage of aggression continues with War Eternal, which lands like a bomb going off. Thereâ€™s such an abundance of lightning guitar solos, yet each of them is executed with perfect precision, and honestly itâ€™s always such a treat to watch the virtuosic Jeff Loomis at work – itâ€™s like youâ€™re witnessing genius as it unfolds. Powering through a couple more tracks from ‘Deceivers’, including the martial In The Eye of the Storm, Alissa briefly disappears off stage then marches back on, brandishing the huge Arch Enemy flag to slow claps and chants from the crowd. It really feels like we, the crowd, are poised to join in the uprising.
After the ominous and mesmerising My Apocalypse, The Watcher instantly gets a huge circle pit going as the sound crashes through the room like a cataclysm. Alissaâ€™s stage presence is particularly powerful and intense during rousing anthem The Eagle Flies Alone, but itâ€™s during recent single Handshake From Hell that she truly gets her chance to shine. Her vocals have been a little low in the live mix overall tonight, but not so for this track. Iâ€™ve long wished for Alissaâ€™s clean vocals to be given centre stage much more than they previously have in Arch Enemy, and in Handshake From Hell, thatâ€™s exactly what we get. Her crystal clear cleans have a beautiful vibrato which resonates and washes over us, in a rare moment of peace amidst this sonic chaos. Then itâ€™s back to anarchy with belter after belter leading up to the ferocious As The Pages Burn, which elevates the already heightened mood in the room, judging by the insane circle pit that instantly breaks.
After what seems like no time at all, the band has reached the end of their standard set, returning back for several encores featuring some of the longest question-and-answer dual guitar solo sections Iâ€™ve ever heard, and Iâ€™m here for it – you have to marvel at the level of skill and musicianship. This culminates in a final surge of feral energy as the band closes with the mighty Nemesis, giving it everything theyâ€™ve got as the mosh goes completely wild. The calibre of craft and talent on display tonight has been pretty phenomenal all round. Itâ€™s bands and performances like this that cement my lifelong love of heavy fucking metal, and I couldnâ€™t be more gratified to see them return in such full force.
With thanks to Metropolis Touring + David Roy Williams Entertainment