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Arch Enemy: The Root Of All Evil (2009)

Arch Enemy The Root of All Evil cover

–ARCH ENEMY: The Root Of All Evil (2009)

I’m not sure if Swedish melodic death metal legends Arch Enemy really are at the root of all things evil. But they sure sound like they’ve met the darkest lords of Hades head on and have emerged triumphant with horns raised and exuberant fists-a-flying. Arch Enemy’s music is simultaneously violent, hyper-melodic, aggressive, harmonious, and–ultimately–triumphant. Listening to an Arch Enemy album is like undergoing an exorcism of all things dark and painful, with the listener emerging from the sonic therapy session reinvigorated and reborn. This is musical catharsis at its best.

Arch Enemy has been crushing/illuminating fans since the late 1990s, though most American fans have been sadly unaware of the pre-Angela (Gossow, vocalist) era. Until now, that is. Motivated by the fact that most North American audiences have not had the chance to hear material from their first three albums with original vocalist Johan Liiva, the band decided to re-record select tracks from those albums so they could play them for the younger fans in their concerts. That’s what this new The Root Of All Evil CD is: the best of Arch Enemy’s first three albums re-recorded with a fresh twist. At once faithful to the original versions and a modern re-imagining, the album is sheer joy incarnate and a total triumph!

Now, my little brother and I were among the relatively few lucky Americans who knew Arch Enemy’s music back in their early years. Back in 1998, Century Media Records sent me a promo copy of Arch Enemy’s second album Stigmata to review in my Kollnot Music fanzine. At first spin we were immediately taken in, and headbanging, to the band’s unique blend of thrashy-speed and aggression, technical dual-guitar interplay and extremely melodic songwriting. Liiva’s strident growl/shout was a bit of an acquired taste for a couple of (then) traditional metal elitists like ourselves, but the music was eons more inspired and exciting than the hordes of ubiquitous melodic power metal bands brewing in Europe. Century Media sent me their third album Burning Bridges a year later, and it was an even more melodic platter of the band’s extreme brand of musicality. We later picked up their excellent 1996 debut Black Earth, and by the end of the decade the quintet of the guitarist brothers Amott (Michael, ex-Carcass, and Chris) bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, drummer-extraordinaire Daniel Erlandsson and Liiva had well-earned their position as one of our favorite bands.

Fast forward to 2001. German-born-and-bred Angela Gossow had replaced Liiva as vocalist, and Arch Enemy’s road to heavy metal success had been paved with the Wages Of Sin album. The attractive blond was not only a fiery frontwoman, but she possessed an infernal, raspy scream that was as captivating as it was unnerving. As a pre-Angela fan, it’s been personally fulfilling to see Arch Enemy rise to top of the international metal scene with each successive album and tour. But it was also a bit disappointing to know that those first three incendiary albums remained locked away in security, and so the band rarely performed any of those old songs live in America. That’s what makes The Root Of All Evil so especially fun and refreshing.

Produced by the band and mixed by audio engineer guru Andy Sneap (also ex-Sabbat guitarist, WAY back in the late 1980s), the album provides a welcome preview of how these songs will sound live with Angela at the helm. The production job is powerful but not overwhelmingly-mastered, which is a nice contrast with some of these overly-loud modern recordings (Death Magnetic anyone?). I do not feel qualified to dissect these new versions on a track-by-track basis, since it’s been quite awhile since I’ve regularly spun those original albums. But the changes here are subtle: a lusher or altogether new guitar harmony here, a slightly heavier or modified riff there, and a positively commanding vocal performance everywhere. Angela’s higher-pitched, black metallish/Carcass snarl has always been more palatable to my ears than Liiva, and she absolutely crushes these old songs with her intensity and passion. Certainly, longtime fans shouldn’t get bent out of shape over any major changes. Songs such as “Beast of Man,” “The Immortal,” “Pilgrim,” and “Silverwing” still are as infectiously melodic as they are exhilaratingly speedy. Others, like “Diva Satanica,” “Dead Inside” and “Transmigration Macabre” still will grind you into a bloody, bulbous pulp. And the epic closer, originally the finale of Stigmata, still delivers the ultimate juxtaposition of controlled-chaos and aggression with orgasmically- sweet guitar harmony.

It’s all real, it’s all life-affirming emotion and it’s all Arch Enemy. And that’s all one could ask for.

–Tracklisting: 1.) The Root Of All Evil (Intro) 2.) Beast Of Man (Stigmata) 3. The Immortal (Burning Bridges) 4.) Diva Satanica (previously unreleased on album) 5.) Demonic Science (Burning Bridges) 6.) Bury Me An Angel (Black Earth) 7. Dead Inside (Burning Bridges) 8. Dark Insanity (Black Earth) 9.) Pilgrim (Burning Bridges) 10.) Demoniality (instrumental) 11.) Transmigration Macabre (Black Earth) 12. Silverwing (Burning Bridges) 13.) Bridge Of Destiny (Stigmata)

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on October 22, 2009.

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