Arch Enemy – Powerstation: February 12, 2023

Arch Enemy created their own metal music maelstrom for the packed Powerstation crowd. Miraculously, they kept at bay the fury of cyclone Gabrielle, at least for tonight.

The melodic death metal band are Swedish music royalty, having formed in 1996 after being cherry-picked from the likes of Carcass, Carnage, Armageddon, Mercyful (sic) Fate and Eucharist. That’s a spectacular future Netflix series just in the names.

Michael Arnott (Carcass) on flying-V guitar was there from birth. The heavy artillery is supplied by Sharlee D’Angelo on bass and Daniel Erlandsson on drums. Both long-standing and on-board for numerous tours of duty.

Albino guitarist Jeff Loomis has been there since 2014. Part of a very select membership of axe-wielders, like Johnny Winter and Duane Allman.

Completing the line-up is vocalist and visual focus Alissa White-Gluz, also since 2014.  

Wearing tightly-tailored black leather with long spikes along each arm, big hair that changes colour from green to blue like a chameleon, she looks like an Ice Queen from Game of Thrones crossed between version 2.0 of M3GAN.

Startling guttural vocal shreds, and athletic martial-arts high kicks throughout the set. A dynamo in a small package. The two guitarists have high-positioned Shure voice mikes, but the majority of the vocal assault is all hers.

Before the show, I received three civil emergency alerts on my phone, not to be on the road in Auckland. We were told to cancel the show because of a cyclone. But, fuck that! Says Alissa.

Their show starts with mist rolling and the vague cadences of Tubular Bells from The Exorcist. Equally it’s as witchy as the opening to MacBeth, but the banshee is leading.

Deceiver, Deceiver, title track off their new album starts with a military drum tattoo before the howling meshed guitars take off. The singer has a freakishly harsh shredded voice.

Ravenous, from Wages of Sin, has some incredibly fast drums which come over the top of the molten guitars.

War Eternal leads with a chant, with the well-primed metalheads participating. So many times, is a matter of degree/ From being down on your knees/ To being down on your luck/ It’s a hellish inferno. They come from a part of the world that has lived it for millennia.


Bulletbelt are a howling and screeching metal band from Wellington who slam out a well-honed thirty-minute set. The equivalent of high-pressure flame throwers.

Curiously, very few people in the audience know much about them, except they come from Wellington. They broke out in 2009 and have got four albums under their belt. Which indicates to me they do have a strong cult following among the aficionados.

We are fire! I think that’s what the singer is screaming on the opening song. He resembles a young Keanu Reeves.

They have fast-riffing and loud meshed guitars which create a massive wall of sound. At the same time their technique is impressive. It is not atonal noise. There is structure there from which melodies briefly arise before being subsumed in the dense energy field.

The drummer must be playing on two kick pedals as he has a rhythm barrage as fast as a machine gun.

The bass guitarist is a big, bearded beast. One guitarist looks like an original New York Doll. The other has an Afro and churns out high-toned screeching speed riffs.

The last song of their set is a tour-de-force of attack guitars penetrating like lasers directed from an overhead spy balloon. With a melodic slow passage towards the end. I think it’s called Cloak the Night.

Arch Enemy

The show tonight features a half dozen tracks from their new album Deceivers.

The most stunning is The Watcher. I notice that the big kick drums have erupted out the front. The two guitars have honed their fast riffing into pure elemental music energy. Adrenaline flows through the audience. You feel uplifted and alive. The opposite of rolling into a ball and covering yourself.

This is the energy and seduction of war expressed in an art form.

I have come to appreciate the metal audience more and more as a genial bunch who appreciate the rarefied finer aspects of this technically difficult music.

They may be surprised to know that present-day metal musicians would be analogous to the original be-bop jazz musicians who wanted to exclude all the other greats that came before them and smash through the musical forms into greater realms of consciousness. That led to a Miles Davis or a John Coltrane. And further out.

Black is the preferred sartorial style. They have the Goth look. Several hobbit-like creatures bend and swivel/rotate their heads to toss their manes. It remains a cerebral music more than a visceral one. It does not have a funk or body beat. More Hendrix than James Brown.

Handshake With Hell from Deceivers is the sole song where the singer sounds closer to a conventional female voice.

Some of the tunes have heavy bass lead riffs which conjure up the early days of Led Zeppelin. A nod to the Ancient Gods.

The closing trio of songs is Snowbound, Nemesis and Fields. Loomis starts with some Middle Eastern melodies progressing to Gypsy jazz. The flying-V guitar of Arnott joins in with a complementary melody line, then abruptly shreds it. The lights go out and then the band smashes back in with an all-out attack as Alissa flies around the stage with karate kicks.

All for one, and one for All! That is Arch Enemy triumphant.

Rev Orange Peel

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