Receiving Payment For Crimes Against God
CoC chats with Mike Amott and Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy
by: Paul Schwarz
Whatever you think about Arch Enemy, forget it. Even if you thought 1999's _Burning Bridges_ [CoC #41] was a fantastic melding of Carcass chop and 'Maiden-esque melodic excess -- even if it was among your twenty favourite records of that year; even if _Black Earth_ was, for you, one of the most significant moments in late-Nineties Swedish death metal; or even if you never got what all the fuss with Arch Enemy was about in the first place. Forget it all, because _Wages of Sin_ [CoC #55] makes any previous opinion on Arch Enemy as close to irrelevant as makes no odds. Now, before you even think it: no, I am -not- making all this fuss just because Angela Gossow -- a woman, as I'm sure you've noticed... -- has taken over vocal duties from founding member and former Furbowl frontman Johan Liiva. Arch Enemy's newly-blossomed level of excellence is not simply down to the subtraction of _Burning Bridges_'s (retrospectively) rather weak-sounding, Fredrik Nordstrom-mixed sonic sheen; nor the corresponding addition of _Wages of Sin_'s steroid-injected Andy Sneap special; nor even the replacement of Liiva's powerful-yet-relatively-faceless death howl with Gossow's more personal, more versatile, and, most importantly, more -powerful- demonic vocal tirade. The fact is, Arch Enemy are "on fire", "in the zone", "at the top of their game"; in that space where everything just seems to come together and work. At least, that's how it seems from the outside. Despite the strong impression that, once Angela Gossow had joined, Arch Enemy began an inexorable march towards making the greatest album of their career -- and, for my money, the most significant aggressive Swedish metal album in the fine tradition of _Slaughter of the Soul_ since -at least- The Haunted's self-titled debut [CoC #34] -- there's no doubt in my mind that a lot of hard work must have gone into making _Wages of Sin_. And yet, I just can't stop drawing crude, hyperbolic, but yet illustrative comparisons in my mind between the "vibe" in the studio that brought Arch Enemy's five minds into the brutal harmony you can hear on their fourth album, and the "collective mind" sensation the Fremen experience during the "Water of Life" ritual in Frank Herbert's "Dune" novel.[:(1)] Arch Enemy -- as a -whole- -- have reached a new level of cohesion. I arranged phoners with both Mike Amott and Angela Gossow to find out as much as I could about Arch Enemy's fantastic fourth album, and the newly-reborn band who made it.

Dodsmetal Dropouts?

Opinions on the present state of Swedish metal vary. However, though many would doubtless hold up the success, popularity, and even recent output of the likes of In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork and HammerFall as evidence that it has never been healthier, I at least must beg to differ. There are still an inordinate amount of Swedish bands doing amazing things with metal, but for my money the country's trademark melodic death style is only being pumped out in vibrant, perfected form by a meagre few in the country of its origin. Arch Enemy are one of the greatest exceptions that prove the rule that most of the -past- leaders of the "NWOSMDM"[:(2)], are leaders no more in musical terms. Opinions are divided on whether the Swedish melodic death metal scene is indeed "healthy", or in desperate need of a shot in the arm -- perhaps like the one _Slaughter of the Soul_ provided ten years ago. The Swedish scene isn't dying, but -- as Mike Amott points out when I qualify the negativity expressed above with this fact -- it is "getting pretty fucking boring"; In Flames have lost the unpredictable, exciting vibrancy which their earliest releases teemed full of; newer bands like Soilwork, though very proficient, sound overly processed, lacking essential immediacy.

"You're putting words into my mouth", confesses Mike. "That's how we feel, because we -live- and -breathe- this stuff. It's not thought out, we're not cynical in our songwriting approach. We play what we love and we love what we play. And we're still huge fans of metal. We just love it so much: I think you can probably hear that. I think we've managed to escape going into a formulated way of writing; there is no set formula for writing Arch Enemy songs. It is frustrating at times because it'll take us some time to work over arrangements over and over again. Our arrangements don't really stray too far from normal rock arrangements, but we're always experimenting with harmonies and different moods and different ways of attacking, trying to get the whole aspect which I started with in Carcass, really."

Mike's years in Carcass involved him in the seminal British death metal band's two greatest albums, _Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious_ and _Heartwork_. He learnt much from the experience, and Carcass gained much from his involvement: 40% of _Heartwork_ was Amott-authored.

"Bill Steer was my mentor at that time: they taught me new ways of trying to get something interesting, some hooks and melodies, into the death metal", remembers the then-only-ex-Carnage guitarist. "And that's really what intrigues me about this kind of music: the contrast. We'll never have a power metal vocalist in Arch Enemy: it wouldn't be that interesting. There's enough of that crap out there anyway, I think."

Well, I prefer Death's _Symbolic_ over the Control Denied album...

"Oh yeah! Any day, any time. The contrast has always been the fascination for me: new ways of just trying to get a little bit more melody in there, somehow -- without breaking out into some kind of power metal vocals in the chorus."

The Leaving of Liiva and the Gaining of Gossow - Part 1: The Purging

Despite how pleased everyone -- myself very much included -- seems to be with Angela Gossow's performance on _Wages of Sin_, there are no doubt many who bemoan the loss of Johan Liiva -- and I expect many more who'd at least like to know the circumstances surrounding his departure from the band.

"It was a band decision: we relieved him of his services", says Mike unevasively. "Why? It was a few things, one being that we felt we'd taken things as far as we could with him really, musically -- and somehow he wasn't developing at the same rate as the rest of the band. He also didn't have what you'd call a natural drive to be the -front- -man-", Mike playfully exploits the contextual irony of the final word, "which isn't his fault. We took it as far as we could with him and we got to play bigger and bigger stages in some places and he just wasn't up for the job somehow. That was from our point of view. From the fans' point of view, and from the media's: if somebody complained about the old Arch Enemy line-up, it was always the vocals. People weren't really into the way he was fronting the band and people weren't that much into his vocals on the albums either. Sure, he had his fans, but they were easily outnumbered by the people that thought he sucked. After three studio albums and countless amounts of touring, the coin finally dropped, I guess. When we were writing for _Wages of Sin_ we felt we were coming up with stuff that was so much better than anything we had done before, musically speaking. And our manager threw a question into the mix: "Is Johan the right guy to sing these songs?" When he said that, our reaction was "Yeah, of course he is: he's our singer." But then when we started thinking about it we figured maybe it was time to start the next chapter of the band. That's when our -world- -wide- search for a new singer began." Mike chuckles as he finishes, the dry but endearing sarcasm which is characteristic of him (in interviews, at least) disguising the hints of truth his statement contained.

The Leaving of Liiva and the Gaining of Gossow - Part 2: Premonitive Promotion

I'm guessing the question you want answered is -why- did Arch Enemy come to choose a German female as their new vocalist, am I right?

"That was such a surprise to us, and to me: it turned out to be someone who's German, for Christ's sake!" Mike laughs liberally. "And also someone of the female gender. We are happy about that now -- obviously -- but at the time it was not something that we went out looking for."

One issue some (silly) people might have with Angela taking over from Johan is whether she could sing in as low a register as the Swede noted by some for the low-end virtues of his voice.

"Actually, in her old band in Germany she sang -deeper- than Johan does", returns Mike. "It was more the Cannibal Corpse type of stuff. I'm not so much into the super-deep growling", he continues, shifting focus, "so we told her what we were looking for and she went more for the higher screams and stuff like that. It sounded a bit more fresh and a bit more brutal somehow."

Comparisons can certainly be drawn between Angela's voice as heard on _WoS_, and Jeff Walker in his Carcass days...

"Yeah," agrees Mike. "When we first met Angela she said her vocal influences were David Vincent in Morbid Angel, Jeff Walker from Carcass, and also Chuck Schuldiner. At that point -- the first time I spoke to her -- she was actually interviewing -me-, when I was doing the _Burning Bridges_ promotion in Germany in '99. At the end of the interview she said she was in a band too; the usual small-talk after an interview, waiting for the next one to happen. So she said, "My vocal influences are so and so", and I was like, "OK, I'd like to hear that!" Later, she sent us a video tape of a show with her band at the time in Germany, and I just called my brother and said, "Hey, I got this video-tape from a girl who's singing in a brutal death metal band, d'you wanna come over and check it out?" So we stuck it in and put it on and it just totally floored us. We were flabbergasted, we were like, "Wow! Pretty intense." 'Cause there were like fifty people in the crowd -- like a small underground show -- and the band had the real underground death metal-type sound, but she was totally going for it and the charisma that she had on stage in front of these fifty people was like she was standing in front of a 2000-seater full of raging metalheads. She really had a lot of charisma and the voice was extremely brutal and intense. So I wrote her an e-mail back and said it was pretty cool: we weren't looking for a singer at that point. We just continued touring with Johan for the _Burning Bridges_ album, and when we came back the last bit of touring we did was with Nevermore in the States. That was a really, really cool tour and everything and, you know, they're one of our favourite bands. Great guys as well. So we came back and -- like I said -- we started writing for the _Wages of Sin_ album and had discussions... you know, about the singer issue."

Mike's euphemistic final words are delivered in a guarded, diplomatic tone, but the shift from open, cheery dialogue to political-style statements was only momentary.

"At that point we just kind of made a -dream- list; once we'd got rid of Johan we made a list of things that we were interested in. We put everybody's name on there, just off the top of our head anybody that we thought would be cool. We had Jeff Walker and David Vincent. We even put Rob Halford's name on there! We were just having fun with it, just making a list, getting drunk, but throwing anybody's name on there that we thought would be cool, that we really like and respect. But obviously, when we were more sober, I looked at the list and the list of people that we had were people that we know already in the Swedish scene -- that front and sing in bands here and are well into their careers of fronting other bands. It just felt a little bit boring, somehow."

The Leaving of Liiva and the Gaining of Gossow - Part 3: The Search for a Shock

Now, some of you may wonder why Mike Amott didn't just go straight to former bandmate Jeff Walker when Arch Enemy were short a singer. The reason is simple.

"He's out of the music scene totally", reveals Mike. "He quit years ago. He's doing something completely different now."

In any case, Arch Enemy were looking for more than a safe option: they were searching for someone who'd be a revelation to their fans -and- to them.

"What we were looking for was obviously this one singer, out there, in the shadows, who nobody knows about, who's just going to step into the light and kick everybody's ass and totally impress everybody -- -and- is gonna be a great front-person on stage. And also have like a really, really killer voice that's gonna take this band to the next level, and have that full-on, metal attitude. And then we were like, "Ummmm, yeeaah... right... where we gonna find that?!""

Certainly not in Sweden, it seems.

"I mean, say what you want about Swedish musicians", begins Mike, a playful challenge offered by a split-second pause, "but Swedish singers? The quality of musicianship is very high in Sweden, but there are no real, great front-fighters that are really cool live stage personalities. I have yet to see one, really. You hear the CD, and you wanna check it out live, but they just don't have what... Hey, I love some of these people, but they're not like natural fucking -stars- on stage, you know?"

Perhaps they're just a bit shy?

"Yeah, shy and stuff like that. Even if somebody walks into a room, either they're a fucking star or they're not, you know? We called Angela. We decided to put her name on the list. Chris -- the guitar in Arch Enemy, my brother, he put her name on the list and he was really pushing for her 'cause he really liked her angle: the beast -in- the beauty. You know what I mean? She's got this demon voice and she looks really great and everything. My first reaction was kind of sceptical and kind of negative. I'm probably just a small minded metal moron, but I thought it was probably too off-the-wall -- just a little bit -too- different -- people are gonna think it's some kind of gimmick or something. But you know, once we started discussing her we just couldn't stop talking about it. We thought it would really separate us from a lot of the other bands out there. I mean, it's not a Swedish guy with a beard with greasy hair and a beer-gut. It's something special -- from a visual point of view, plus she had a really cool voice as well. We wanted to try her so we gave her a call and she was obviously quite surprised -- it came out of the blue, really. She came up and played with us and auditioned with us and we ran through a list of old songs we'd given her to try out on. She came and sang on that and it was pretty mind-blowing, because she was twice as loud, twice as aggressive and tighter than our previous singer. So we knew she had the voice -- it didn't take a brain surgeon to work that one out."

The Leaving of Liiva and the Gaining of Gossow - Part 4: A Question of Focus

"She eventually hung out with us a little bit", continues Mike. "It was important that there was good chemistry going on with everybody in the band. She's got a big personality, you know, a lot of charisma, and often that comes with the LSD syndrome: the Lead Singer Disease. We didn't want a fucking -prima donna-; we didn't want somebody in the band that we'd have to treat with kid-gloves all the time. But she's been playing extreme metal for coming up for ten years now, and she knows how guys work, and she's really funny; she's totally got both feet on the ground, so it's pretty solid."

Nonetheless, worries of some Spinal Tap-esque nightmare occurring, whereby Angela -- having become romantically entangled with one of her male bandmates -- begins interfering with the smooth running of the band are doubtless still prevalent in the minds of some.

"From my point of view, it's usually the wives of the musicians though, isn't it?", responds Mike, good-humouredly. "Angela's actually in the band as a creative force. I know what you mean -- that -was- obviously one of our concerns -- but it has worked out great: everybody is happy."

Personally, I didn't think it would be an issue, but I did feel that many rock/metal listeners might see it as one.

"Yeah", agrees Mike. "I mean, we get the odd e-mail, "Who is banging the chick?" and all this kind of stuff..." he stammers, momentarily incredulous and seemingly lost for words, "...which is funny."

Angela Gossow herself is similarly unconcerned with comments made by a few unenlightened individuals. I asked her if she felt any trepidation about becoming Arch Enemy's new singer.

"No", she replies. "Somebody wrote me a cruel mail. It said, "We think it's gonna be a hard job for you to actually step into Johan's boots." But obviously, you're wearing your own boots, you don't need his, you know?", she laughs without any sign of nervousness. "It's not like I have to try to catch up with him or whatever. It's not like when Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden. I mean, poor Blaze; he tried to be like Bruce and it didn't really work out. But I'm a woman, and nobody will expect that I'll try to look and sound like Johan. So I have the absolute freedom to build up my own image and have my own vocal style. Arch Enemy gave me the freedom too: that's what they wanted for the new album. I am building up my own image now. Johan never had a strong image, anyway. He wasn't this super-strong frontman with lots of charisma and people knew a lot about him; he's a shy guy. So it wasn't like I have to lift up to a huge personality, really: I guess mine is bigger than his, anyway. My ego, anyway", Angela laughs again.

With all this talk of images and egos, I expect doubts and fears are brewing in many scenesters minds. Will Angela Gossow become the focus of Arch Enemy? Will the shifting of focus involve tedious life-style-type spreads in popular music magazines who insist on adorning such "stories" with scantily-clad, genital-tickling pics? Angela is adamant that this will not happen.

"I don't wanna be like Rock Bitch or the Genitorturers -- that SM domination thing, or naked stuff", returns Angela. "But I wanna still look good and have clothes with rock 'n' roll attitude. We were really thinking about this. I will not look like the guys on stage. I'm gonna wear different colours and sort of tight clothes, but I'm not gonna just wear a bra and a slip! I will not have a whip! And not like Rachael from Sinister: she looks like a guy. She's a beautiful woman but she wears -huge-, black, Cannibal Corpse T-shirts, military boots and military trousers. That's not what I want either. I'm a fashion-type, anyway. I'm totally into fashion: I'm shopping all the time. I've got lots of clothes. I'm a bit orientated like the normal -pop- women are: just good-looking, sexy somehow, but I'm not gothic and I'm not SM."

"We will not build this pin-up in the front surrounded by some guys making music", Angela continues, countering one of rock's recently-much-rifled cash-cow cliches. "Arch Enemy is still writing really cool music and the good thing is that Michael, especially, has a very strong personality too. He always has something to say; he doesn't wanna get out of the media focus. It will always be split between us and we will check that there's gonna be a balanced sort of thing -- we pay attention to this -- so that in the end it's not someone just asking me what kind of food I'm eating and how I watch my weight and which kind of exercise I do in the gym, in a metal magazine. We're very conscious about this."

...For All the Right Reasons?

In the end, the only really important question left to answer about Angela Gossow becoming the new Arch Enemy singer is: can she cut it live? Whatever the prevailing opinions might be on whether Johan was any good or not, they'll doubtless be many to whom Angela will have to prove herself 'worthy'.

"They're gonna check me out very, very particularly, because if they've seen the band with Johan they'll wanna find out the difference", agrees the singer. "To some people, this band will be new anyway, when we tour now. I think for every band, as soon as there's a woman around -- it's a male dominated business -- it's like some kind of freak somehow. Still. So people are gonna concentrate on me a bit more than they did before on the vocalist. But I can put up with this: I'm not afraid, really."

Angela may not be afraid of Arch Enemy's crowds, but one wonders whether Mike Amott is afraid of her influence on the focus of the band's press coverage. Is there a worry in Mike's mind that a -wider- interest in _WoS_ might be produced largely because Angela, a woman, is Arch Enemy's new singer?

"It's too early to say, but with this album it seems like there's more interest than ever. Maybe that's got something to do with the new singer and the fact that we jumped up a couple of notches in production and stuff like that and made a better album -- that's what we like to think, anyway."

The production of _Wages of Sin_ is, to my ears, faultless. Arch Enemy chose to record, as ever, with Fredrik Nordstrom at studio Fredman. But for the mixing of _Wages of Sin_ they went elsewhere: to Backstage Studios in the UK to work with ex-Sabbat man Andy Sneap.

"And God we are so happy that we did that!", says Mike Amott, letting out a cheery, contented wave of laughter. Andy Sneap's production has added crunch and impact to Arch Enemy's sound which can only properly be gauged when one subsequently replays _Burning Bridges_; _Wages of Sin' is in a new league of sonic excellence; that distinctive -punch- and -crunch- which is so distinctive of Sneap's productions for such bands Nevermore and Testament, has infused Arch Enemy's melodic metal with a new-found vitality.

"Actually, I kept nagging Nevermore to use Andy Sneap -- and they got 'round to using him before we did", reveals Mike. "They were being very, very skeptical, then the next thing I know, they're in the studio with him -- and they make a fucking awesome album! That just turned me on even more, because I love Nevermore. But it was when I heard _The Gathering_, the Testament album; I heard the first track off that, I was pinned against the wall! I was like, "Holy shit! Who mixed this fucking album?" It was on a sampler and it didn't really say anything else. I found out it was Andy Sneap, and I thought that was cool because I knew who he was -- from Sleep, Sabbat and onwards. I knew that he was working with studio stuff nowadays, but I had no -idea- that he was so fucking incredible. That was just an incredible album, _The Gathering_, and I just thought: when we do our next album, this is who's gonna mix it."

But why didn't you go the whole hog and -record- at Backstage studios? Why stick with Fredman at all?

"Well, I heard that Testament recorded elsewhere and then he came over and mixed it at Sneap's facility. We just basically repeated that trick of recording in a setting which is like a second home -- you go in and it's really relaxed, and it's sort of close-to-home, you know? -- and then just go and beef it up in the mix. So me and the drummer, Daniel, we went over to England and mixed it with Andy and it was just incredible."

Daniel Erlandsson's presence at the mixing desk might explain why his drums are so prominent in _Wages of Sin_'s final mix -- or it could just be down to the fact that he hits them so fucking hard. But perhaps the reasons are more general...

"We wanted a harder sound because _Burning Bridges_ was about as soft as we're ever going to get", says Mike of the reasons Arch Enemy spurned the Fredman mixing desk. "I think _Burning Bridges_ has got a softer, rounder, hard rock-type edge to the guitars and drums. We just wanna get fucking harder and more extreme now; we don't see any reason to be overly poppy or anything."

It seems initially strange that a band should -avoid- Fredman studios because they want a hard production; _Slaughter of the Soul_ had an exclusively Fredman sound.

"Yeah, but he hasn't really made an album like that since", counters Mike. "I mean, the first album we did, _Black Earth_, was pretty fucking in-your-face as well and that's probably the one that Fredrik's done that I'm most happy with. The second one, _Stigmata_, sucked big-time I think, and that was a really big disappointment, at the time, for us. The chemistry just wasn't right within the band and we strayed into territories where we pretty quickly found out we weren't happy with being in: the more progressive-type stuff, which was a big fucking yawn for me. _Burning Bridges_ we were back on track, more into playing raw metal the way we should be, and there was a lot of melody in there, obviously. And now, with this album, it's kind of like -- I mean, I get asked all the time, "Do you see this as a logical progression from _Burning Bridges_ or is it like the next chapter?" Somehow, I think you can still hear it's Arch Enemy..."

My two cents? Most definitely.

"...but somehow it feels -- Angela's just been a kick in the arse for us as well."

Arch Enemy haven't held back on _Wages of Sin_. They haven't held back on their class-A, delicately frantic pure-melody solos; they haven't held back on making the album sound and -feel- as heavy as it possibly could.

"Basically they became harder", says Angela, summing things up. "Me and Daniel have the most extreme metal tastes in this band; Chris and Michael are totally into all this Seventies stuff -- all sorts of -weird- music -- and I'm basically a death metal bastard! I guess I brought in freshness and aggression somehow -- and the arrangements changed a bit."

"Angela came in at the end of the writing and actually helped us with the arrangements -- in some ways because she came from a fan point of view", explains Mike. "It was kind of interesting because she was saying like, "This is a typical -boring- Arch Enemy part: you should get rid of it." And we were like, "Okay...". She is pretty opinionated and wasn't holding back at all. And we thought maybe she was right. That was interesting, actually, because I think the level of musicianship is incredibly high in Arch Enemy, and sometimes our heads get stuck up in places where they probably shouldn't be... You know: we can just noodle away forever on little instrumental parts and stuff. Yeah, it's a lot of fun to play, but is it fun to listen to? That's more Angela's point of view. It strikes a good balance."

"We just wanna be in-your-face, basically", Mike adds. "We put a lot of thought into the arrangements and putting it all together, but this kind of music -flows- naturally out of us; it's not very preconceived or cynical. We didn't spent too much time thinking about what kind of music we were gonna play. We might say an album has to be 'extreme' or 'heavy' -- and its gotta be exciting to listen to."

But exciting for whom? Arch Enemy have many fans, but it is unlikely that the band are demographically microcosmic of their fanbase. Who needs to enjoy an Arch Enemy album for it to be a good one, ultimately?

"We try to please ourselves but we also think about what our fans want, because I think the fans are a part of the band, somehow", muses Mike. "That's the people we're playing for. If you don't think that the fans are a part of the whole thing, then why don't you just not sign a record deal -- and please, just burn CDs for you and your mates. The fans are a part of the whole deal really, and we do think about them when we write music. We tried to turn down on the whole guitar-shredding aspect of the band a little bit because it was just getting a little bit out of control. Everybody knows now that we are the best: enough of that! We just play for the song now, and what works in the song. We were quite confident, and a little bit cocky, about our band. We'd go to bed every night -truly- believing that Arch Enemy is the best metal band in the world. If we didn't think that, there would be no point; I've always thought that about everything I'm involved with", he laughs good-humouredly at his own self-conviction. "Even if I hear somebody that's pretty good I'll always find ways to justify that we're number one."

"Sin, Sin With a Range!"

_Wages of Sin_ is not only the most powerful Arch Enemy album to date, it is also the most complete one. When I first put it on, it hooked me with "Enemy Within"'s pounding, classic-Swedish-melodic-death-riffing opening licks, and held me in its grasp until -- forty-five minutes later -- it faded away into "Shadows and Dust". Usually when that happens, repeated spins of the album in question produce progressively diminishing returns. But such was not the case with _Wages of Sin_: it just got better. Now, six months later, it already feels like a classic. One of the album's true virtues is that its songwriting is consistent in quality while being impressively varied in approach, and yet -always- retains the feeling that there is a single, defined-entity -- a -band- in the truest sense -- behind it all.

"Even though you can hear it's the same band all the way through, a song like "Savage Messiah" is very different from "Burning Angel"; "The First Deadly Sin" is very different from "Behind the Smile", or "Shadows and Dust"", affirms Mike. "It goes into different areas a little bit; we don't break out in a big funky sort of rap thing!"

Neither do Arch Enemy reprise the total-contrast trick they utilised on their debut with the song "Cosmic Retribution" -- which suddenly broke storming Swedish death metal character to go all jazzy and acoustic-guitar laden: a very Atheist-esque move...

"Yeah, I loved those guys back then", says Mike. "We still get off on that stuff. We still like any death metal stuff, really. I'd rather listen to _Altars of Madness_ than the latest in melodic Swedish death metal. I just like more evil-sounding stuff -- though I'm not that big on black metal. I'm sure there's stuff out there that's really, really cool, but in '96 I went out looking and I bought a lot of black metal stuff because I'd loved the image. The image factor is amazing. I love all the make-up, all the spikes and leather. I think that's so cool! I love all that, but it seemed like the guys that were not good enough to play death metal. I don't know why that is; it's just sloppy drumming and not very good guitar playing, and it just didn't do it for me. Some of these classic black metal releases that people rave about, it's like, "Yeah. But fuck, listen to _Altars of Madness_, or the first _Deicide_: you've got fucking evil shit going on because the musicianship is fucking incredible at the same time.""

Angela's tastes lie primarily in the death metal genre.

"Mostly English bands, really", she comments. "When I first started listening it was just Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror. I was always listening to Morbid Angel, Testament, Slayer, that kind of stuff. I like the old Cannibal Corpse stuff; _Eaten Back to Life_ is my favourite. But the new really brutal death metal -- like the new Cannibal Corpse stuff for example, I can't listen to more than two songs. I miss the groove. I can't really get into it; my foot doesn't start tapping."

_Wages of Sin_ certainly prompts foot tapping; furious headbanging too, if I'm to be honest. Though it is of course the music itself which rightfully takes primary responsibility for such effects, Angela's varied and charismatic vocals supply a vital part of the puzzle. Indeed, one of the reasons that Arch Enemy's identity as a band is assured throughout _Wages of Sin_, despite the varied platter of music on offer, is the defined-yet-varied character of Angela's charismatic tirade.

"This album I discovered -- somehow -- a bit more vocal range for me", comments the woman herself. "My old bands were quite limited: we were just trying to do Bolt Thrower-meets-Unleashed; early stuff, death metal. Then you're kind of limited with your vocals anyway; everything's just deep and low and slow, somehow. There aren't really melodies and whatever. When I joined Arch Enemy there were lots of melodies and lines I had to follow, somehow: I can't ignore these melodies. We worked this out in the studio. They didn't want to have deep growling, because they had that already with Johan. So I had to change a bit -- and I'm quite happy about this now because I never had the chance before to work on more screaming and more aggressiveness. We've been working together for one-and-a-half years now and I've changed my style already a bit. I had vocal coaching anyway the last six months because I had a vocal-chord problem. Things changed there too, you know: my pronunciation's gonna be totally different. We were working a lot. I have never been so many times in rehearsal rooms before, and they're working so seriously on the lyrics and how the vocalisation is actually gonna be. So we'll see how it turns out when we record a new album later this year, but I guess it's gonna be even better."

Who wrote the lyrics for this record?

"I wrote four", answers Angela. "Two alone, and two together with Michael. I had three weeks to get into the Arch Enemy material before we went into the studio, so I was quite happy I didn't have to write any more! The next album's gonna be different too because, I mean, I already wrote all the lyrics. I don't mind singing other people's lyrics as long as I can understand them and relate to them. As long as it's not like "Seeds of Hate": "I'm not the man I used to be." These kind of lines I shouldn't sing, because I'm not a man!"

The Extra Incentive

While we're on the subject of pre-_WoS_ Arch Enemy material, I should mention that for the record's release in the West (via Century Media in March of this year; it was first released in South East Asia on Dream On records in August of 2001) the band (and label) have not only added the video for the track "Ravenous" and a bonus track ("Lament of a Mortal Soul") to make up for the time lag; a bonus CD of rare and unreleased material is included with the European / North American edition of _WoS_, and even includes the video for _Burning Bridges_' opener, "The Immortal". Despite totaling a mere 26 minutes and comprising only seven tracks, _A Collection of Rare and Unreleased Songs From the Arch Enemy Vault_ will doubtless be a welcome addition to all but the most dedicated Arch Enemy fan's collection -- although it's a mystery to me why other rare tracks like "Losing Faith" (from War Music's _Wardance_ compilation) have not been included. _ACoRaUSFtAEV_ offers four original "b-sides", a '99 re-recording of "Fields of Desolation" from Arch Enemy's 1996 debut _Black Earth_, and covers of two classic trad metal tracks: "Aces High" by Iron Maiden and "Starbreaker" by Judas Priest. It's interesting to hear Arch Enemy's rendition of Judas Priest's "Starbreaker" and realise that though Halford is certainly a more accomplished vocalist than Johan Liiva ever will be, the Amott brothers -do- surpass Tipton and Downing in terms of sheer technical ability. Any offended 'Priest-worshippers should check out the spectacular Swedish-axe-masturbation and Carcass-squeals the brothers Amott have inserted into 'Priest's classic: the Arch Enemy rendition may not be -better-, but I'd bet you 'Priest would need a good month of practice before they could play it. But I digress: you're probably more interested in knowing how this CD addition to _WoS_ came about than listening to my musings.

"As soon as we got wind of it, we decided to get involved in the second-CD project", states Mike. "I am really fan-orientated as a person -- even though I know that might sound cheesy. I'm a big fan of music myself and I really appreciate when a band gets involved in every aspect of their work, the presentation and everything. Instead of having the second CD be just a pure record company job where they just put a CD with whatever they can find, we actually got involved and dug out some stuff that wouldn't have been on there otherwise. If you're gonna do it, you should do it right -- we also put some additional packaging and liner notes in there."

Well Mike, that's about all I have: if there's anything I haven't touched on that you'd like to mention...

"I won't be doing any touching here, sorry", interrupts Mike, chuckling.

[:(1)] If you don't understand, do yourself a favour: read "Dune"! [:(2)] "New Wave of Swedish Melodic Death Metal"

(article submitted 1/9/2002)

3/30/2009 P Williams Arch Enemy: Die Walk├╝re
11/23/2003 J Smit Arch Enemy: The Rebellion Is Rising
7/7/1999 P Schwarz Arch Enemy: Arched Bridges Beware
9/1/1998 A Bromley Arch Enemy: Unearthing the Demons Within
11/21/2007 J Ulrey 7.5 Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant
10/17/2005 J Smit 8 Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine
11/29/2004 J Smit 5 Arch Enemy - Dead Eyes See No Future
8/22/2003 J Smit 8.5 Arch Enemy - Anthems of Rebellion
10/19/2001 C Flaaten 8.5 Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin
1/10/2001 P Schwarz 8.5 Arch Enemy - Burning Japan Live
7/7/1999 P Schwarz 9.5 Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges
7/8/1998 P Schwarz 8.5 Arch Enemy - Stigmata
5/8/2009 P Williams Motorhead / Arch Enemy / Opeth / Chimaira / August Burns Red / Nervecell / Hatred / Scarab Dubai Desert Rock Festival 2009
6/11/2008 A Lineker Opeth / Arch Enemy / Devildriver / 3 Inches of Blood Before the Watershed
2/16/2004 A Lineker Arch Enemy / Akercocke Sad Eyes Question Future.
10/13/2003 P Schwarz Arch Enemy / Nevermore I'm Dreaming of a Neon Black Earth...
3/16/2003 A Lineker Arch Enemy / Corporation 187 / Without Face King Tut's Burning Angel Hut
3/5/2000 P Schwarz Arch Enemy London's Bridges Are Burning
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