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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.