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Behind the front lines of 'War Eternal': Interview with Nick of Arch Enemy

The "war" has just begun...
The "war" has just begun...
Courtesy of Century Media

Swedish melodic metal mavens Arch Enemy recently released their tenth studio album, War Eternal with all the classic AE nuances, but more technical emphasis and one other small change: a new vocalist. Former The Agonist vocalist Alissa White-Gluz joined Arch Enemy in early 2014 in replacement of longtime vocal dominatrix Angela Gossow. While Gossow merely took a backseat to strictly manage the business of AE, White-Gluz and company took to handling business in the recording and development of War Eternal. On June 10 fans were finally able to get their paws on the long awaited debut of White-Gluz to judge the product of this new marriage. The results were staggeringly good. recently got a chance to pick the brain of former new kid on the block, guitarist Nick Cordle who joined AE in 2012, about War Eternal, the new band dynamic and the mind-blowing fretwork on the album.

What was your favorite part of recording War Eternal?

NC: Being finished and releasing it! (laughs) Recording isn't really a fun process for me at least. It's tons of work and it seems to go on forever, and it's really not until the very end that you actually get a sense of what you have. So the first round of tracking mixes I made after we had bass and some melodies in there … that was nice. After that, getting the real mixes from Jens Bogren was great fun. That's the point at which you can objectively hear what you have. That's important to me because I don't really have fun with this unless I feel like I'm doing it well.

How do you feel you’ve evolved as an artist since making the jump to AE in 2012?

NC: When I jumped to AE, I went from being a guitarist / tour manager / driver / merch guy / accountant to being just a guitarist, and then later to a guitarist / writer. So the first thing that happened was my guitar playing got a lot better! More generally it was a move to a band where I'm musically much more at home anyway and where people actually work together and collaborate. So it really got things moving … I've made tons more music since joining AE than I had ever made before. Better stuff too, and more natural to my own ears.

How much of the writing were you involved in for this album?

NC: I was around for most of it. A few things came out of very early rehearsal room jams, and then the first round of demos came from a few weeks of writing with Michael in early 2013. That was really intense work; a lot of the songs came out of that: “War Eternal”, “No More Regrets,” basically half the album got mapped out at that point. Michael and Daniel did some more demos in Sweden and then we all got together for a couple months to finish it up. So all told I wound up a co-writer on most of the songs.

What, if any, adjustments were needed when Alissa came on board?

NC: We kind of threw her straight into the fire. She had some time with the demos and then it was straight into a studio to record some demo vocals, just to see what we had. They turned out pretty well and we even released them on a limited edition, crummy demo guitar playing and all! It was more of an adjustment for Michael to collaborate with someone new as a lyricist but thinking structurally, musically, she fit right into our glorious mess.

The string work on War Eternal comes across as a controlled frenzy. It’s manic, yet really beautiful at the same time. Did you all have a vision in mind when you started or did you and Michael kind of wing it?

NC: We had an idea from the very beginning that this album should be a bit more intense than the last! The meaning of “intense” though … sometimes that means we go really fast, sometimes it means there are layers upon layers of melody, 18 tracks of rhythm guitars (laughs) … it can mean a lot of things. What it always means is that we wanted to keep the handle on the arrangements and the flow of the songs. We went back over them time and again hunting down any weak spots. That's the most salient thing about the vision we had … nothing slips past the quality filter this time. I like that you said “controlled frenzy” … that “controlled” part is important! I like intentionality. A frenzy is more interesting if you know that we really meant it.

What has been the biggest difference for you between playing AE material from when you were playing in Arsis?

NC: I had to re-learn how to breathe as a guitar player. In Arsis, I had kind of contorted my guitar playing into that particular kind of thing that works in that music … tightly controlled, totally dry note clarity above all else. The Arch Enemy material is a lot more difficult because you have to figure out what to do with a bit of space sometimes, and if you get that wrong, you sound really stupid! (laughs) It reaches the same technical level, if not further, but with a lot more dynamics to consider as well.

How hands on are you all as a band when it comes to composition and post-production?

NC: It's over the top. Extremely meticulous. Every idea gets ripped to pieces from all directions, regardless of who it came from. I love it because it feels more objective, you know? Musical ideas have to succeed on their own merits. It's brutal to sit around a rehearsal room murdering each other's children and throwing coffee cups but it makes the songs better, and that's the part that actually matters. That's the part I will still care about years later.

What is it that you’re most looking forward to now that Alissa’s on board and the album is out?

NC: I'm in a pretty good state right now, looking forward to all the gigs! We've had a few weeks of shows and it's come together very quickly. We're a machine again! I'm especially looking forward to Loud Park in Japan and the US/Canada tour this fall, but really all of it appeals. We have to go out and win one battle at a time, but that's really the perfect scenario. That's what we know how to do.

If you haven’t picked up War Eternal, do it now! It’s definitely a contender for 2014 metal album of the year and gives a refreshing reset to the old preconceptions about the AE institution. You can check out what we thought here. Arch Enemy will be hitting the road this fall with Huntress, Kreator and Starkill, so keep an eye out for dates near you and join the ever-growing AE army!

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