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I've never denied that Johan Liiva's vocals put me off of Arch Enemy's old stuff. In fact, I've claimed many, many times that his vocals (I'm not sure there's another word to describe them) are shit. They always sound like he can't be bothered and half the time it sounds like he's just speaking angrily. Many people will disagree, but I for one am of the opinion that he is far outclassed by his successor Angela Gossow. And that's just why this album seems like such a great idea - it makes songs that were previously degraded by Johan's awful vocals actually enjoyable without having to wonder how much better they'd be as instrumentals.
Something that I noticed immediately is that the music is recorded in a different note and the production is much cleaner. I actually prefer it like this, but the fans of old AE stuff will probably complain that it isn't as heavy as the original version. Not that we care about what they think, because most of them only listened to this so they could proclaim how much better the band was before Johan was so rudely kicked out. Times change guys, get over it already.
For the most part it's refreshing to hear the classic songs played in a different tune and produced in a manner that is far cleaner (slightly odd considering that most of their work is only between ten and fifteen years old), but sometimes it doesn't work. Songs like Beast of Man are kind of odd to listen to, because on one hand they're nicely produced but on the other that's not what they were meant to be like. I still prefer the newer version of most songs (there is one exception that we will come to in a minute), but I actually liked that song before they released this record. Bridge of Destiny is far better on The Root of all Evil than on Stigmata, but Beast of Man is kind of equal on both sides. It just sounds a little bit too clean for what the song intends to be, even with Angela's demonic growls. The only thing stopping the older version being better are Johan's vocals.
Now, the one exception I said I'd come to: Diva Satanica. Originally I heard that song on the second CD of Wages of Sin and it was one of the most crunching tracks I'd heard at the time. Johan's vocals aren't great (as you may have guessed), but at least they're bearable on that track due to the fact that they fit in far better than with some other AE releases. This new version isn't anywhere near as heavy and suddenly it loses its edge. I don't particularly like Angela's growls on that song either, high screeches that don't belong with this band and the deeper growls don't really do too much for me either for some unknown reason. This is the only exception where the original really outclasses the rerecording.
I can see why a lot of people would take a disliking to the band for releasing this, whether it be because they feel Johan's work has been done a major injustice or that Arch Enemy are just trying to make some easy money or some other reason. Personally though, I do quite enjoy listening to this, although there are maybe a few songs on here that could have done with being replaced with others. I don't view this as an attempt to steal the public's money, and actually I think it's a good idea to introduce the newer fans to the old material in a more accessible way.
Now I've made it pretty clear that I don't consider myself much of a melodeath fan, and long time readers probably remember that I gave Rise of the Tyrant a pretty harsh review when it was new, and alluded within the review that I really didn't like Anthems of Rebellion either. Now, that's all true, but I have to make one thing clear: I do actually like Arch Enemy. Perhaps there's a nostalgic quality for me considering, despite what I always say, they were the first band with harsh vocals I'd ever liked. I always claim that Children of Bodom was the band that warmed me up to the style, and that's mostly true because I was/am a MUCH bigger fan of Bodom than I am Arch Enemy and have listened to Bodom's good albums waaaaay more than the good AE albums. But really and truly Arch Enemy beat them by about a month. Because of this, I'm one of the few weird people who really, really likes Doomsday Machine, but in all honesty it's the only Gossgow era album that I find holds any worth. It's got some crappy tracks like "My Apocalypse" and "Skeleton Dance", but tracks like "Out for Blood", "Taking Back My Soul", "Nemesis" (which could possibly be their fastest song), and even the instrumental "Hybrids of Steel" really make up for the shortcomings in my mind. Now this is going to sound strange, but despite considering myself a fan of the band, I don't really like more than one Gossgow era album, and I have a huge issue with the Liiva era stuff as well.
And that, my friends, is why I think The Root of All Evil is actually a brilliant idea. See, I agree with pretty much everybody in the universe who doesn't suck at music on this subject, but the songs on the first three albums were leagues ahead of the mostly uninspired crap that the band has been putting out lately. There was a much more prevalent aggression present and the melodies, while predictable, yes, were infinitely more infectious and memorable than turds like "Leader of the Rats" or "Revolution Begins". I'll go on record saying that "Silverwing" from Burning Bridges could well be my favorite melodeath song. But there is one glaring, unavoidable flaw with the early albums that makes me rarely want to spin them: the vocals were atrocious. I'm sorry, but Johan Liiva was a fucking terrible vocalist. He always sounded like he was lazily grunting out the words or just yelling like a wrestler instead of putting forth any fire or effort. It really brings down the soaring melodies and fast paced energy of the songs. When Liiva was given the boot and Angela Gossgow was brought in, the problems flip flopped. Yeah it's annoying how she layers her screams something like ten quadrillion times (which is one of my main problems with certain Behemoth albums, I'm looking at you, Demigod), but she has a legitimately good raspy scream that is just worlds better than Liiva's passionless bark. And therein lies the problem with the band as a whole, once they got a decent vocalist, they seemed to completely stop giving a fuck about their music, pushing out mostly lame, lazy plodfests. Which brings us full circle to why I not only like The Root of All Evil, but why I actually consider it to be Arch Enemy's best album. It is the only record where they managed to get a decent blend of good vocals and good music.
When it comes to the real music, there are virtually no changes from the original cuts. I notice it seems like the instruments are tuned a half step higher, but that doesn't detract at all for me. Yes, it makes the songs less dark, but more exuberant. While I dig the aggression on the earlier albums, that was never Arch Enemy's strength. Their strength lies in the huge melodies and searing leads, not the deep crunch or pounding rhythms. This is a band that is all about the flash and the style, and less about the base itself. This can be a problem for most people, as the old "Iron Maiden with growls" criticism is no less true here than it is with In Flames or pretty much any other Swedish melodeath band ever, but there's a sense that there's something larger at work in these older tracks. Post-Liiva, they've been more about being catchy, but pre-Gossgow they were more about dark splendor. With the new, highly polished production, it does cheapen the idea slightly. The songs are now presented more like big, dumb anthems like the band has been trying to do ever since Wages of Sin, instead of the darker, more mysterious and strange songs they used to be. Perhaps this is because Painkiller is my favorite Judas Priest album, but I love big, dumb anthems. So this new gloss and presentation only adds to what were otherwise good to decent songs in the first place. In fact, I love the new production, as I don't feel like it saps any aggression out of the recordings, instead beefing them up with a more pronounced drum sound and tighter performances. It is indeed less organic and more manufactured, and I acknowledge the problem with that, but it works really well for the style that Arch Enemy plays so I have no real criticism in that decision.
The track selection is a bit wonky, with Burning Bridges being overrepresented and Stigmata getting the shaft, but apart from maybe "Demonality" they didn't choose any straight up bad or boring tracks for this compilation. The inclusion of both "Bury Me an Angel" and "Silverwing" alone make the album worthwhile though, as they're the two best tracks from the band's early era. Honestly, listen to those two tracks alone and tell me you didn't spend the rest of the day humming the chorus melodies to yourself. Some of the straightfoward burners like "The Immortal" and "Demonic Science" are improved with the new, thicker production as well, and "Bridge of Destiny" is just epic as all get out as a closer.
But really, I have to address the elephant in the room, the question on nearly every old fan's mind; why was this album made? The general consensus seems to be making a quick buck with little effort by rerecording old material, cashing in on their newfound fame that they didn't revel in quite as much when the band started off as little more than "the new band by that Carcass dude". But in all honesty, my belief (and apparently the belief of the band as well) is that this was done because they loved the older songs, and a majority of the newer fans had no idea they existed. I saw them live about five or six years ago, and the crowd (consisting mostly of teenage mallgoth kids and grrrl pwr! type drones) stood around looking confused when they played "Dark Insanity". Let's face it, this isn't Gossgow's fault. She was a fan of the early albums, that's why she tried out for the band when Liiva was kicked out, she loves singing these songs. Michael and Christopher obviously want these songs they wrote in the 90s to continue being a part of the band's legacy, as evidenced by the fact that they keep playing them in the face of moronic fans who didn't know they existed before their current vocalist. This was an album that the fans demanded simply by not knowing these songs were ever written. I see it as the band throwing up their hands and saying "You know what? Fuck you guys. If you don't know these goddamn songs by now, we're going to make you know them". This gives the band the satisfaction of being able to see a real response when they play early era classics, and gives new fans the pleasure of being given a selection of their best songs from the time before they had the vocalist that made them so visible in the first place. In a way, it shows that the band was always legit, and they're not just trying to exploit the fact that they have a female vocalist and apparently no angsty teenager had ever seen that prior to 2001. Plus they make that easy money and people like me who hated Liiva get to hear those great old songs with better vocals. Everybody wins.
So at the end of the day, what we're left with is a fun and melodic album from a band who has been fervently boring the crap out of me for years. This is a welcome change, even if they didn't actually write anything new. New fans were introduced to the old classics, the band earned the ability to play the songs they love live again, and old fans either get a beefy reimagining of the songs they already enjoyed (like me) or a pointless cash-in (like idiots). The detractors have been pretty vocal about this album and for once, I have to side with the band making all the money. The Root of All Evil is a killer album, and you should be ashamed for writing it off as a pointless cash-in.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
What's worse than cash-grabbing remasters? Cash-grabbing re-recordings! Remember the relentless thrashing days of Liiva? Well, here come the Amotts and Century Media to ass-rape those memories!
Some would probably want to blame Gossow for this ass-hattery, but my instincts say it's the Amott brothers and wholly corrupt Century Media trying to steal money from the parents of the majority of Arch Enemy's current fanbase. You remember how disgusted and appalled you probably were when you heard John Bush shitting on the legacy of Joey Belladonna in Nuclear Blast's cash-grab known as "The Greater of Two Evils"? This is the Arch Enemy equivalent. While Angela is a competent vocalist, her voice does not work AT ALL in the Liiva-era material. Johan had an incredibly percussive and heavy punch that fits right in with the traditional death metal paradigm, while Angela has a high growl that fits more with the Gothenburg sound.
Another aspect here that ruins the listening experience is the overly polished production and higher tuning. Back when Liiva was behind the mic, the Amotts stuck with B-tuned guitars with a very thick, crunchy tone that's caught somewhere between the Gothenburg and Stockholm standards. With Angela, we get a very sleek, clean, and modern tone that's tuned to C standard. While one might think "Oh, it's just a half step, what's the big deal?", but that is a very critical half step. Just look at their rehashing of "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" - big difference, isn't it? Now imagine that applied to tracks from their first three albums with really thin and hollow production and Angela's demon snarls. Not a pretty picture, is it? The polishing of the rhythm section is also equally aggravating, the bass being buried underneath every other instrument and the drums embracing that annoying, modern, trigger-happy sound that now pervades every metal genre.
The only tracks that work are "Beast of Man" and "Dark Insanity", so if you want to check those out, go ahead, but you won't really get much from the experience, trust me. I haven't heard the bonus tracks that people in Japan and Europe have the displeasure of hearing, but however good they are, they're still probably just put here for the same reason the rest of this atrocity is here, to piss off old fans and steal the money of newer fans. Don't buy any hype people, buy the first three albums if you want to hear this material done the right way.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the news that Arch Enemy were to re-record a mixture of tracks from their Johan Liiva-era albums, so as to have the unnatural vocals of Angela Gossow for newer fans (every time I hear her ‘sing’ I can’t help but think that there’s some poor guy out there somewhere with a woman’s singing voice in some sort of cruel mix up of nature), as well as boosted production duties.
The reason for my uncertain thoughts were mainly because I actually became a fan of Arch Enemy upon the release of Burning Bridges (after hearing “Demonic Science” on a Terrorizer magazine compilation CD), thus worked my way backwards from there. I did enjoy Angela’s first Arch Enemy album Wages of Sin (which I had to have imported from Japan at the time, as it didn’t have a European release back then). However, I felt they lost it big time with Anthems of Rebellion and Doomsday Machine, only to slightly redeem themselves with Rise of the Tyrant.
Thus, to curb my ramblings, I was quite happy with the original versions and actually quite liked Liiva’s vocals. Overall, I just didn’t feel the need for any re-recordings – quite like many a Destruction and Anthrax fan would’ve felt when they decided to re-record classic material too. Anyhow, having heard The Root of All Evil a good few times now, I can say it isn’t actually too bad at all. The songs are all re-created pretty much identically to the originals, albeit to my ears, with a looser more organic sound to the guitars (the originals sounded like they’d had the guitars overdubbed about a thousand times). One thing that has been overdubbed over and over in places are Angela’s vocals, with varied screams overlapping each other to make her sound not only unhinged, but really quite inhuman at times too. There’s a few little blink and you’ll miss it changes to solos here and there, but nothing that really stands out as being incredibly different or outlandish when held up in comparison to the originals.
Apart from the vocals and slightly better production (c’mon, lets face it – the original albums are only 10-15 years old anyway, their production wasn’t exactly horrific in the first place), there’s nothing more to mention really (bar a throwaway newly recorded intro track). As a bigger fan of older Arch Enemy material, I still prefer the originals and can’t see what the big deal is with people disliking Liiva’s original vocal work. But, Arch Enemy obviously saw it as a big enough deal to warrant this (or a big enough dollar sign/contractual obligation – one of the three).
Thus, if you really hated Liiva’s vocal work, and can’t live without Angela’s manly vocal cords being massaged into every inch of Arch Enemy’s catalogue, this will be mana from heaven for you – simply because the material IS that much better than the majority of Angela-era albums. The Root of All Evil is undoubtedly packed with the most excellent of Arch Enemy material, it just seems rather unnecessary. The material is more worthy than 56%, but this release is not.
Originally written for www.metalteamuk.net
I only just recently started getting into the whole melodic death metal thing, and this was actually the first Arch Enemy album I listened to. At the time, I had no idea it was re-recorded versions of older material, since I had never heard anything else by the band. Without the knowledge of this being re-recorded, I ignorantly listened and liked almost every minute of it. That in my opinion makes this a good album.
Although I like the album, I can see how this album could disappoint a hardcore Arch Enemy fan. Instead of recording an album of new material they just recorded old stuff over again and if I were a huge Arch Enemy fan eagerly awaiting the next release of brand new songs and found out it was this I’d be disappointed. Quite honestly, the album has no point beside a little extra easy money in the pockets of the band.
The re-recorded songs sound almost the same just with Angela Gossow on vocals instead of Johan and the newer sounding production. Both these things to me are a good thing. I prefer Angela’s vocals to Johan’s because when I listen to Johan he sounds very monotone and Angela has a lot of variety to her voice, even if it still isn’t the greatest. The other difference is the new production, which doesn’t bother me at all. Good production can never be a bad thing to my ears and I feel they did a good job producing this album. The biggest problem the album has is that the vocal are pushed really far forward in the mix and the other instruments sound muffled under them. This problem with the production is a pretty big one considering when the guitars and drums are standing alone without the vocal I think they sound great.
If you’ve been listening to Arch Enemy since the beginning I doubt you’ll enjoy this album. It will seem pointless and boring since you have already heard all these songs before, but if you are new to Arch Enemy like I was I would recommend giving this album a listen. While bands like Testament and Exodus completely changed the sound of their original releases with the re-recordings by down tuning the guitars and slowing the tempo, Arch Enemy does none of that here. The songs are exactly the same with Angela’s vocals instead of Johan’s and some different production, which makes the album a pointless addition to the Arch Enemy discography but still not a bad one.
If you want to hear the true Arch Enemy, buy the first 3 albums. Johan is so much better than Angela ever was. It seems like now all they care about is making money off they’re putrid re-recording of songs from the first 3 albums. The vibe is just not them, Angela totally ruins the melodic riffs. I can’t see why people envy her so much with her putrid vocals. The music lacks the energy it did of the first 3 albums.
The solos are not as good, the overall playing of the re-recording is just average. The melodic riffs are still there, but when Johan was with them, he seemed to make the music flow more. Maybe I’m just biased about them having a female vocalist. I don’t think so though. But the music and energy just isn’t there. The vocal effects from Angela are an example of how too much technology went into the playing of this compilation.
What I want to know is what ever happened to Christopher shining on his leads? The band as a whole just put on a sub-par release to eat away at your bank account. The riffs still have the feel of the old, just too much use of the technology into the recordings. Back in the day when technology was sub-par, it showed the bands having talent or not. This one seems to fade in the dust as the music is overusing the technological effects which makes it stale to me.
I’m really saddened by this decline in their ability to perform to where they were on the first 3 albums. Like I said before, maybe they’re just after your money and the music is secondary. I think that the reason Christopher left was because of this happening to the band and no longer wanting to play extreme metal anymore. It could be the decline on the whole efforts by the band themselves.
There really isn’t anything good to say about this release. Buy the first 3 albums and compare them to where they are now as a band. A lot of people dislike Johan and think that he’s just an average vocalist but hell, he made his voice fit the music the most. I’ll always feel this way about his time with the band. They made a mistake of kicking him out of the band. If he stayed with them, I’m sure that fans would be able to appreciate them more.
When I first read the news that Arch Enemy was going to follow in the steps of bands like Testament, Twisted Sister, and Sodom, I wasn't really surprised. Despite being the minority of AE fans, there is still a lot of support for the songs on their first three albums. Consequently, since these fans are in the minority, those songs constitute the minority of your typical AE live set, or in some cases are absent altogether. So now we have The Root Of All Evil, the band's attempt to bring those older songs to a new audience so they can be more widely known and therefore played live to the pleasure of all fans, old and new. (Though I'm sure we all know the real reason why this was done. Hint: $) How does it fare compared to the original recordings? Not well.
The song selection is largely unsurprising. From Black Earth (1996): "Bury Me An Angel", "Dark Insanity", "Demoniality", "Transmigration Macabre". From Stigmata (1998): "Beast Of Man" and "Bridge Of Destiny". From Burning Bridges (1999): "The Immortal", "Dead Inside", "Pilgrim", "Demonic Science" and "Silverwing". Also included is "Diva Satanica", which has been a bonus track on a few albums in a few different countries. While I could sit here and really nit-pick, I'll just say that a few of my favorites are missing and the inclusion of Demoniality is puzzling, considering it's the worst of AE's instrumental tracks.
The music here is almost identical to the original compositions. Since some of the songs here were written and recorded before bassist Sharlee D'Angelo was a part of the band some of the bass lines are reworked but this is largely unnoticeable on the final product. The guitar work here is a tragedy. The aggression and emotion that was on the original recordings has been erased with a squeaky clean production job, leaving the guitars flat and unappealing. Sections of some songs, such as The Immortal and Dead Inside, sound as if they have been slowed down compared to the originals. The drumming is mostly identical to the original recordings, and is solid throughout the album. Angela Gossow's vocals are the biggest detriment to this release. I enjoyed a lot of the material on Wages Of Sin and Rise Of The Tyrant, but here I just can't hear past them. They are weak and over-produced and frankly sound like shit. She also enunciates the lyrics differently in some areas which really disrupts the flow of the music and is very distracting to hear. They don't add anything new to the songs here.
Overall this release is a waste of resources that could have been used in recording a new album of original material. It lacks emotion, sounds lifeless, and sucks the life out of the songs. If you haven't heard the early albums then just listen to those and not this pathetic cash grab. If this does result in more of the old stuff being played live then great, but I still say that this was unnecessary.
If you are a fan of Arch Enemy then I am sure you are fully aware that metal queen Angela Gossow has not always been the one vocally expressing the bands music. For their first three albums, Black Earth, Stigmata and Burning Bridges it was Johan Liiva that carried the vocal responsibilities. And now, with The Root Of All Evil, Angela burns up the microphone with re-recorded tunes from those three starter albums.
So if you are not too familiar with the bands first albums then you may wind up being just a bit confused and think the songs sound a bit heavier and not so much the sing along songs we have come to know and love. The guitar work is just as impressive as before and the drumming just as great. It's hard to review re-recorded albums as one of the only things you end up doing is comparing the two. So there are going to be the fans that prefer Johan's vocals more and those of us who like Angela's added spice. I am one of the fans that like Angela's pipes but still can appreciate Liiva's previous contributions to the band.
There are 2 songs from Stigmata, that being Beast of man and Bridge of destiny. The immortal, Dead Inside, Pilgrim and Demonic Science all come from Burning Bridges while Transmigration Macabre, Dark Insanity and Burn Me An Angel, spawning from Black Earth. On this cd you will find some new bass lines by D'Angelo and you will notice just how much tighter the Amott brothers sounds. The overall production on this cd is what makes it a hit for me. I enjoyed the albums when they were first recorded and enjoy the songs just as much having been re-recorded.
In conclusion, if you are a hardcore fan of Swedish Death Metal band Arch Enemy's first three cd's and not up for change then steer clear of this release. Otherwise I would say it is enjoyable.
Originally written for www.xplosivemetal.com
Well here we go, another album from Arch Enemy and another instance of a band re-recording old songs and marketing them as a new album. I guess we can give them credit for releasing albums at such a consistent pace, but much of their previous work has been really disappointing, despite a lot of potential.
Arch Enemy was formed in 1995 as a Michael Amott project after leaving Carcass. This is their 10th full-length album, including live releases (they have also released a few EPs), and sixth featuring female vocalist Angela Gossow.
Remember the days when a Death Metal band with a female growler was something new and different? Now it seems like every band lacking in talent is using a female growler as a gimmick. That’s not to say that Arch Enemy isn’t talented, in fact when Gossow was first added, very few bands had anything like it. However, now that this publicity stunt is wearing thin, it’s becoming painfully obvious how much she detracts from the band’s music. If you are lonely enough that seeing a moderately attractive, yet undeniably masculine, woman fronting a band makes your day, then I’m happy for you.
For those with more objective tastes, one has to wonder just whose idea it was to release this as an album. I was never crazy about Johan Liiva, but hearing these soulless re-recordings makes me appreciate what he gave to the band. Sure, he sounded exactly like Barney Greenway of Napalm Death, but at least he growled and yelled with intensity. These re-recordings had me looking at my watch so I could see just how much longer I would have to hear songs that I really liked being destroyed.
The only positive aspect is that the recording sounds a bit better than the originals, thanks to Andy Sneap, but if your only desire is to hear these songs with better sound, just pick up the remasters that have been released of each of the three Liiva albums over the past few years.
Back when these albums were originally released, the music sounded aggressive; two hotshot guitarists showing the world what they have to offer. Now the music sounds like a stale retread, with accomplished musicians going through the motions. The sound is good, everything else sucks. Save your money and avoid.
(Originally Published at www.metal-temple.com)
This is my first review of an album. It's The Root of All Evil, the newest release from the Swedish melodic death metal act, Arch Enemy. For those that don't know, Root of All Evil is a rehashing of 12 of Arch Enemy's most well known songs from when Johan Liiva was still the vocalist for the band. That was my favorite era of the band, and since I'm one of the few who prefer the early years to the more recent ones, I think I should give my opinion on whether or not these rehashings live up to the standards of the originals.
Like I said, I'm personally more a fan of Arch Enemy's Johan Liiva era than the Angela Gossow era, although not just for the preference of vocals. The riffs were more powerful, catchier, more melodic and emotional (especially Stigmata) and, most importantly, Anthems of Rebellion is not part of the Liiva discography. However, I did somewhat like Wages of Sin and I thought Rise of the Tyrant was okay. Anyway, when I first heard this album was coming out, I thought that the album would only have 3 or 4 songs from that era as well as some original material to tide the fans over for a new album. That would've been nice, but I guess, like Mike Amott said, this album was made to give "new life" to the old material.
My first thought was that the songs were plenty good as they were and didn't need to be changed, but I admit that I was still somewhat interested. The first thing I noticed was how the guitars were tuned. During the Liiva era, the guitars were tuned in Drop D for a dark feel, a more interesting sound with the guitar solos and they complimented Liiva's voice. In this album, the guitars sound like they've been tuned up half a step. I know that Gossow has a considerably higher pitched voice, but I would've been happy if they'd left the guitars at standard tuning. They also sound watered down by the too-clear production to a point where they don't bring the original emotions or feelings that came with songs like Pilgrim, Demonic Science, or Bridge of Destiny. The solos are decent but are merely reflections of the original solo work that made you want to go nuts. Another thing are the drums. A disappointment that came with Rise of the Tyrant was that the drums were pushed back and quiet, and even when you could here them they were a little boring. In this album, they are louder, and they are faster, but there are times when you feel like you're hearing the same thing over the course of this album. And then Angela's vocals come in.
Almost every Arch Enemy album review has a section dedicated to talking about the vocals. Now, I've heard a lot about how fans think Liiva's voice sounds boring and lifeless, but the fans that disagree with that statement can use this album to back up their retorts. Just like in Anthems of Rebellion, Angela Gossow's vocals seem very underutilized and sometimes could be called monotonous. On top of that, they're way too distorted. If they like showcasing their female vocalist so much, then why would they distort them so much? For those of you who think Johan Liiva's voice is worse, listen to the Root of All Evil version of "Dead Inside" next to the original Burning Bridges version. In the Root of All Evil, the vocals seem incredibly watered down and are a definite step backwards from the more-than-decent vocals Angela was using in Rise of the Tyrant. I have nothing against Gossow, but her voice has been so hit-and-miss over the years that I'm getting impatient. This album fails to breathe any kind of new life into the songs. On the contrary, it only seems to suck the life out of them. The biggest fault with the vocals is that they seem to not flow at all, and every syllable for certain songs (Transmigration Macabre is a good example) is just emphasized and sometimes doesn't even match the music following them. And Transmigration Macabre was one of my favorite Liiva era songs. There is one song here that was written for this album, and that's the intro track, titled "Root of all Evil". And do you know what I noticed? The song is just "Demoniality" done with high-pitched keyboards! And "Demoniality" is on this album already! I get that it makes the listener anticipate the album more but why would they put Demoniality TWICE in one album? Demoniality was never even that good to begin with!
There is one genuinely good thing about this album is the improved sound quality. I've heard it time and time again from fans that tell me about this album. The quality is definitely better, I'll agree, but I never considered that the old material's sound quality was even that bad to begin with. And even if you do need the best quality there is, Arch Enemy recently released digitally remastered versions of Johan Liiva's old albums. Outside the good sound quality, there was nothing that really caught my attention here. Everything else people say is good about this album is stuff like how the riffs are good or catchy, but they were the same in the original songs, so I can't give this album credit for that.
In short, this album ended up being disappointing and dissatisfying. This album was a waste of my time.
It is with no great shame that I will admit to enjoying this album. However, that’s still no excuse for making it. For those of you who don’t know, Arch Enemy have become extremely popular with the mall-ish crowd in the last few years for their more recent material, which stars the resident lass of the lacerated lungs, Angela Gossow. Now, most of those kids are Neanderthals, who don’t know anything about music, and as such, didn’t even know the old songs when the band played them live. I mean really, what kind of fan do you have to be to not know a band’s full discography, at least in passing? It’s positively maddening, but of course Arch Enemy pandered and remastered their older material so these Neanderthals could know what songs they were playing live. What’s going to happen when they play an old song that wasn’t on this compilation? Who knows? I don’t care, though; this compilation just smokes, and I’m here to review it, so let’s get started.
It’s amazing how one man can make a stale metal formula sound good. I’m of course talking about Chris Amott, who is the only reason I even checked this out, after enjoying his side band Armageddon so much. His guitar playing, as on Embrace the Mystery, is classic-metal oriented, with a lot of biting, gnashing riffs and melodious, searing leads for anyone’s consumption. It’s really hard to dislike this music; it’s just too un-pretentious and earnest. Everything about this is just bare-bones classic metal glory, with the only deviation being Gossow’s vitriolic barking, which actually doesn’t even sound that bad a lot of the time, being layered and polished to something suitably demonic. The riffs just keep coming at you, polished but not weakened or sterile in any way, and the leads are always entertaining and passionate, bursting with a dazzling flare that will no doubt be wasted on the kids who are only into this music for the “fucking brutal shit, dude.” But I digress.
And no, I haven’t heard the original versions of any of these songs. I know some people will bitch about how they’re too polished compared to the rawer original versions, but to that I say, don’t you think this band would have made these songs sound like this if they had the proper money and materials to, even back then? I highly doubt that 90% of extreme metal bands intended for their works to be as raw as they were – hell, most of them probably would’ve liked a louder, fuller sound if that would have been possible. I’m not going to claim that most of the extreme metal classics were only accidental in their atmosphere and unique feel, but I will say that there is definitely no conspiracy to ruin the classics here, or anywhere where old bands try to update their classic material. We don’t know what they originally intended when they wrote their music, and I find it pretty presumptuous for anyone to try and decry the band just for updating the sound alone, especially if it sounds this good.
And I have heard something about the band editing the songwriting itself, but like I said, it sounds good. They are always on top of things here. I do think this whole thing runs on a bit long, and that kind of hurts the material, but the songs are just solid as hell. It’s really quite bare-bones material: just play the riffs, let the solos rip out and have a fucking good time, no strings attached. And the best part about it? This has turned me onto the band and made me want to hear more of their material, and that is the best compliment I can give it. They crafted a good synthesis of their early works and featured kick-ass songs like “The Immortal,” the diabolical “Demonic Science,” the slower burn “Bury Me an Angel” and the exquisitely good “Bridge of Destiny,” and overall, I’m impressed. Check this out if you’ve never heard the band before. It’s good stuff.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com