Purveyors of pure fucking metal since 1995, Arch Enemy have navigated the rocky terrain between underground acclaim and mainstream acceptance like no one else. Despite changing vocalists three times over the years, the band’s irresistible blend of death metal brutality and sumptuous, melodic bombast has only grown in stature over time. The recruitment of frontwoman Alyssa White-Gluz, who replaced the talismanic Angela Gossow in 2014, was a particular masterstroke, and the band have looked even more unstoppable ever since. With their 11th album, Deceivers, twitching in the starting blocks, this seems an excellent time to give Arch Enemy’s album catalogue so far a robust going-over
10. Stigmata (1998)
Something has to come last, and Stigmata is arguably the only credible candidate. Arch Enemy’s second album is actually pretty great, and fulfils the band’s immaculate savagery brief as convincingly as any other. Its high points – the anthemic Let The Killing Begin, closing epic Bridge Of Destiny – are as grandiose and crushing as anything in the band’s discography, but Stigmata contains just slightly fewer jaw-dropping moments than the other records on this list. Unlucky.
9. Burning Bridges (1999)
Arch Enemy’s third album seemed to mark the moment when guitarist Michael Amott’s vision was brought into sharp focus. Original vocalist Johan Liiva was still gamely bellowing away in true death metal fashion, but the music underpinning his growls had become increasingly sophisticated and much closer to the punishing, classic metal majesty that we expect from the band today. Songs like Silverwing, The Immortal and Angelclaw confirmed that Arch Enemy were slipping into a higher gear.
8. Khaos Legions (2011)
A solid contender for Arch Enemy’s heaviest album to date, Khaos Legions was full of nasty riffs and moments of pitch-black grandeur. Angela Gossow was firmly in her element on the brutish likes of Bloodstained Cross and Cult Of Chaos, while the gothic overtones and mid-paced might of Under Black Flags We March and City Of The Dead added new depths to the band’s trademark sound. Slightly lacking in obvious anthems, the stirring Yesterday Is Dead And Gone aside, Khaos Legions turned out to be Gossow’s deeply gnarly swansong.
7. Black Earth (1996)
Previously known as a member of both the UK’s Carcass and his own death metal crew Carnage, Michael Amott opted for a technical upgrade for his next project. Arch Enemy’s debut album reworked the melodic sensibilities and ferocity of the Gothenburg death metal scene into something far heavier and catchier. Black Earth will still take your scalp today: songs like Bury Me An Angel and Fields Of Desolation were undeniably born in the underground, but Arch Enemy were already displaying plenty of ambition and class too.
6. War Eternal (2014)
Replacing the charismatic and beloved Angela Gossow was always going to be a challenge, but Alyssa White-Gluz absolutely smashed her golden opportunity when she was unveiled as Arch Enemy’s new frontwoman in 2014. War Eternal bristles with renewed intent, with Alyssa front and centre, and some of the most destructive and memorable songs their creators’ have ever written. A grand showcase for their new singer’s extraordinary versatility, razor-sharp rippers like Never Forgive, Never Forget and As The Pages Burn confirmed that Arch Enemy were back with a bloody, virtuoso vengeance.
5. Rise Of The Tyrant (2007)
The dark horse in the Arch Enemy catalogue, Rise Of The Tyrant may lack a stone cold banger like Nemesis or We Will Rise, but co-producers Michael Amott and Fredrik Nordström gave these songs a uniquely untamed, vicious edge. From the gleaming gloom of opener Blood On Your Hands and the marauding The Last Enemy, to the neoclassical assault of dramatic closer Vultures, …Tyrant remains a slow-burner, but one capable of inflicting a massive amount of damage.
4. Will To Power (2017)
Alyssa White-Gluz’s second album with the veteran Swedes (and, by this point, one American: guitarist Jeff Loomis) took everything that was great about its predecessor War Eternal and injected with a choking dose of supreme confidence. Will To Power rages from start to finish, with songs like The Race and Murder Scene I delving skilfully into Arch Enemy’s dark, death metal past, and anthems like The World Is Yours and The Eagle Flies Alone making themselves quickly known as obvious, instant classics.
3. Wages Of Sin (2001)
After three albums with frontman Johan Liiva, Arch Enemy took the (then) bold step of switching to a female vocalist. Fortunately, Angela Gossow was an unquestionable star, with a voice that could strip paint from the walls and instigate a bloody uprising simultaneously. It also helped that Michael Amott and his colleagues had written their sharpest set of songs yet. Burning Angel, Heart Of Darkness, Ravenous… Wages Of Sin is a relentless bombardment of great songs and precise metal violence, with Gossow leading the charge like a goddamn boss.
2. Anthems Of Rebellion (2003)
After blowing everybody away with her vocals and presence on Wages Of Sin, Angela Gossow led Arch Enemy to even greater heights on the follow-up. Anthems Of Rebellion lived up to its title, delivering a focused and ferocious dose of undiluted heavy metal that went firmly against the prevailing metalcore grain. With songs like We Will Rise, Dead Eyes See No Future and the short ‘n’ gnarly Despicable Heroes, Amott’s crew were audibly ready to conquer all-comers.
1. Doomsday Machine 2005
Arch Enemy have such a consistent catalogue that several albums could conceivably be justified for the number one position. Doomsday Machine just about edges it. Brimming with confidence after the success of Anthems Of Rebellion, the triumphant five-piece threw everything at their sixth album, and everything worked. By this point, the rabble-rousing, hyper-melodic anthems were nearing perfection (Taking Back My Soul, Nemesis), the bruising, mid-paced songs were heavier than ever (My Apocalypse, Mechanic God Creation), and Arch Enemy were also dipping toes into more progressive and technical territory, via the likes of ingenious instrumental Hybrids Of Steel. With Gossow sounding imperious and ever-so-slightly terrifying (particularly on the magnificent Carry The Cross), this was a flawless and timeless show of metal strength.
New Arch Enemy album Deceivers is out August 12 via Century Media