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Arch Enemy    
Arch Enemy
Some older brothers quarterback the local high school football team. Some are captain of chess club. Some leave their small home town on the west coast of Sweden at an early age and move to England to play guitar for Carcass. Christopher Amott's brother Michael did exactly that. Now the 24 year old Christopher and the 32 year old Michael share guitar duties in the beautifully brutal melodic Swedish death metal act known as Arch Enemy. On the eve of Arch Enemy's triumphant debut performance with new vocalist Angela Gossgow, the Metal Update spoke with Christopher about the genesis of Arch Enemy, the band's prominence in the Japanese market and its plans to take over North America with the release of the long-delayed 'Wages of Sin'.

METAL UPDATE: Michael was playing in Carcass while you were in high school. Were you a big Carcass fan back then?

CHRISTOPHER AMOTT: Yeah. He was over in England recording and playing and stuff. He would come home and bring home tapes and stuff. I thought it was pretty cool.

MU: Where did you grow up?

CA: On the west coast of Sweden. It's a pretty small town.

MU: When Carcass was at its peak, were you really into it? Were you a big fan?

CA: Yeah. I mean, I liked it. I was into all kinds of metal then. But yeah, I liked it. I got into the whole guitar playing thing and stuff like that.

MU: Did you have opportunities to jam with your brother back then?

CA: Yeah. I got my guitar and he helped me out in the beginning. He taught me and gave me some tips and stuff. I just took it from there.

MU: Did you guys ever envision during those days that you'd ever be in a band together someday?

CA: Not really, no. But stuff happens, I guess.

MU: Was Arch Enemy your first band?

CA: No, I was in one band before. We recorded a demo, but. . .

Arch Enemy

MU: What was the name of that band?

CA: I can't remember. It was just an amateur band.

MU: What style of music were you playing?

CA: Kind of more 80's metal.

MU: What are your musical and guitar influences?

CA: To start out I was really into Yngwie and Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker - guys like that. The big lead tone and stuff.

MU: Did Carcass sound crude to you back then?

CA: No. I liked that kind of music as well. I've always liked a wide variety of music.

MU: Did you relate to the 'Heartwork' record more than some of the earlier material? Did that direction have anything to do with the direction that Arch Enemy headed with its early material?

CA: Arch Enemy - our style of songwriting is not at all comparable with Carcass. We have regular. . . we have verse, chorus. Carcass didn't have that.

MU: But Carcass had some melodic, intricate guitar work on the later albums. . .

CA: Yeah, I always liked the harmony parts and the leads and stuff like that.

MU: How did Arch Enemy come together?

CA: Michael got an offer from a record company, a guy he knew in Sweden, to make a Carnage album - his first band. He got a new vocalist, and he asked me if I wanted to play leads on that album. After a while we decided to call it Arch Enemy and we got to open up for Cathedral in Japan in 1997. We just found out we had a market there, and we took it from there.

MU: Is Japan the primary market for Arch Enemy?

CA: Yeah, of course. I mean we're gonna play in L.A. tomorrow at the Troubadour and then we're gonna go over for a seven day tour of Japan.

MU: Why do you think you are so much bigger in Japan?

CA: We've worked that market a lot. We've been there. This is the fourth time we've played there. I guess they like the whole mixture between. . . I think what we do is pretty original. Maybe we're not inventing anything new, but the way we mix it up between the melodic parts and the brutal parts its. . . yeah, its pretty different I think.

MU: What other bands have a similar sound to Arch Enemy?

CA: I guess In Flames are kind of similar, except we are more aggressive.

MU: Are they as big as you are in Japan?

CA: No, we're bigger. We're the biggest death metal act in Japan. It's cool now that Angela has joined the band. We have a real singer, a front-person. We didn't have that before.

MU: What size venues are you playing in Japan?

CA: The biggest one is 2,000. Sold out. That's the biggest size venue we're playing. That's in Tokyo. That's gonna be cool. We're playing two gigs in Osaka, Nagano, Nagoya and then three gigs in Tokyo.

MU: Anyone else playing with you?

CA: Just a local opener. A Japanese band.

MU: Why the gig in L.A. to start it off?

CA: Just to warm up, really.

MU: What size place is The Troubadour?

CA: 350.

MU: You've got all of your U.S. record company people in L.A. too.

CA: Yeah. It's gonna be a full house.

MU: Why the decision to get a female vocalist?

CA: It wasn't really a decision to get a female vocalist. We had this album written for a year, and we just felt that Johan wasn't really the guy to take us to the next level. He had a lot of criticism of his live performance. So, we just felt we had to get a new vocalist. We had a couple of names we were throwing around, a couple of guys, but they all had histories and stuff. They had all been in bands. We wanted a really great singer that was not famous. That was hard to find.

Arch Enemy

MU: Did you ever think of going all, 100% clean vocals?

CA: No, never. That would be like turning our backs on all of our fans.

MU: So what do you think of the newer directions of bands like Soilwork or In Flames? They have a lot of clean vocals.

CA: Oh, that kind of clean vocals! I thought you meant like power metal vocals.

MU: Either way, you know?

CA: Maybe in the future we'll use some clean vocals. You never know.

MU: Have you guys ever experimented with that stuff?

CA: No, but we're open to it. We want to change, we don't always want to stay in the same place.

MU: But if you were to have some kind of high-pitched, power metal type of vocalist, that wouldn't be what Arch Enemy is all about?

CA: No. That would be all wrong. That would be really weird I think. The market isn't really that big over in Japan anyway. It is not like we'd be going commercial - we'd be taking a step back.

MU: What kind of music is Arch Enemy?

CA: I don't know. Melodic death metal is the common term.

MU: Do you think that is a fair label to place on Arch Enemy?

CA: Yeah, but all of those kinds of labels don't really mean anything anyway.

MU: But it is always interesting to see what the artist themselves is willing to allow his or her music to be labeled if the issue is put to them.

CA: We are heavy metal. We are just beating the shit out of our instruments. (laughs) We are just metal, basically. And then we have this kind of vocals. But our songwriting - the way we arrange - is pretty traditional. Like I said, verse / chorus. It's not like the kind of death metal where you have like twenty riffs.

MU: It's not Cannibal Corpse.

CA: It's not Cannibal Corpse.

MU: And it's not In Flames either. Somewhere in between.

CA: Somewhere in between.

MU: Did you audition a bunch of other vocalists besides Angela?

CA: No, we didn't audition people. What happened was that Angela got in touch with Mike a while back. She works for an internet magazine and she did an interview with him. She told him she had a band in Germany and that she sang death metal. He thought that was interesting. A chick singing death metal isn't all that common. So she sends a demo, and I remember the day he got it. I went over to his place and we just listened to it. We were just like really shocked because it was really brutal, Cannibal Corpse style growling. It just sounded like this big guy.

MU: I've seen her in pictures but have never seen her live. Is she this petite, tiny woman?

CA: Yeah, she's pretty small. She sent this tape of her old band playing in Germany in this really small club. There was about twenty people standing around, and she is acting like she is in a big arena. She's got that real extrovert side. I think she can get the crowd going.

MU: Have you done any shows with her?

CA: No, tomorrow is going to be the first.

MU: Because she had some problems with her vocal chords or something?

CA: No, that was just unlucky. We were supposed to go to Japan in August, and we had to cancel. She's been singing like that for nine years now, so it's just unlucky that she got that now.

MU: The new record is still not out in the U.S. until next April. Why such the long wait after you already released it everywhere else? Don't you think that will hurt sales here a bit - all of the hype and impact of the record's release is somewhat diluted.

Arch Enemy

CA: Our management, Sanctuary, felt that we could get a better record deal.

MU: Your management is Sanctuary, the same as Iron Maiden?

CA: Right. And they felt that we could get a better deal, that Century Media was not working us the right way. They approached them, and then there was this battle. They wanted a huge sum of money to let us go from the contract. So, we just ended up, "Fuck it, we'll do it anyway."

MU: If you had been able to get out of the Century Media deal, what kind of label would you have been looking for?

CA: Someone who can recognize a band with a lot of talent and who wants to work with that band and not just put out 100 CDs per year. Sometimes labels don't focus on one act, they just see what works.

MU: So you'd be looking for a label with a smaller roster, but not necessarily a major label? Or would you guys be talking to major labels?

CA: Anything really. I'm not really into that whole side of things - our management would have to decide that - a reliable label that works for us. We want to play fairly big tours with big names and stuff.

MU: Would it be safe to say that the next record will probably come out on a different label here in the U.S.?

CA: I don't know. We'll have to see what happens.

MU: Do you think that having the record come out months ago in Japan and Europe will hurt U.S. sales?

CA: I hope not. You can't really help that. We've had a lot of bad luck with her vocal chords, and this whole thing. We're just going to have to work through it. We're not sad about it or anything. It's great to be here, and to be able to play tomorrow and go to Japan and everything.

MU: Who writes the music in Arch Enemy?

CA: Me and my brother do. We both write equally. We sit around at his house and play, two guitars, and fool around a bit. Then we take it to the rehearsal studio, and Daniel comes in and does his bit.

MU: I love the riffs. They make we want to throw shit around the room.

CA: That's cool!

MU: I like the beginning of "Heart of Darkness".

CA: OK, that's Mike's riff.

MU: Still, it must kick ass just to play that.

CA: Yeah, we want to have a good time with our music, to feel the energy.

MU: Which riffs are yours?

CA: "Shadows and Dust". That's my riff.

MU: When did you do the video for "Ravenous"?

CA: A couple of months back. That was just kind of a low budget thing. We were sitting around, we had nothing to do, and we decided we wanted to do a video.

MU: Did you get any airplay for that?

CA: We stuck it on a single we put out in Japan.

MU: It's on the U.S. release I think.

CA: Really? We're going to do a new one, actually, for the track "Burning Angel" when we get back from Japan. Alex from Entombed is gonna direct it.

MU: You guys are going to play the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival?

CA: Yep.

MU: Is that definite? 100% confirmed?

CA: Well, what is? But, yeah.

MU: There's just such a history of last minute cancellations at these festivals.

CA: We're not going to cancel.

MU: You toured the U.S. with Nevermore a few years back.

CA: Yep.

MU: And how many times besides that have you played in the U.S.?

CA: That was it. This will be our second time over.

MU: How many shows was that tour?

CA: Thirty shows, I think - the east coast and Canada.

MU: So this is your first time playing southern California tomorrow night?

CA: Yep. I'm enjoying it. (laughs)

MU: How important are guitar solos to the Arch Enemy sound?

CA: It's becoming less and less important, actually.

MU: Why do you say that?

CA: It's not what the music is all about.

MU: But some people think of Arch Enemy as sort of a musician's death metal band.

CA: Yeah, we want to get away from that. We just want to play big riffs and have people throw stuff around, as you say. The guitar solos are just a spice to give the whole thing some flavor.

MU: For a band that wants to get away from guitar solos, they're all over this record.

CA: (laughs) Yeah, I know, but we had even more. Michael and I aren't out to prove ourselves as lead players, like an Yngwie Malmsteen or whatever. We're not interested in that whole playing fast contest. But anyway, even if we decide to have less leads, it's still going to be a lot by regular band standards. (laughs)

Arch Enemy

The night after this interview was conducted, Arch Enemy hit the stage with new vocalist Angela Gossgow for the first time ever. Century Media / Nuclear Blast America publicist Loana dP Valencia penned the following after the event:

What the crowd at The Troubadour witnessed on Tuesday night was nothing short of the making of history.

Years from now, the ARCH ENEMY fans who attended the first EVER show with their new lead singer, Angela Gossow, will be able to cherish it as a prized memory. Even Dino Cazares of Fear Factory knew he had to get in on it, and stood amazed at what he was witnessing. The commanding professionalism, the high caliber of musical talent, and the obvious fan devotion all combined into a hypnotizing atmospheric elixir that left everyone euphoric.

The anticipation was absolutely UNDENIABLE. The show was a sell-out. The commemorative autographed Wages Of Sin CDs debuting the new line-up sold-out. ARCH ENEMY shirts sold out. Posters from the venue walls promoting the show were stolen. Fans recognized that ANYTHING pertaining to the March 5th show would mark the evening as an experience of a lifetime.

Just after 11 p.m., fists and horns pierced the air as the intro music began. Guitarist Christopher Amott was the first to step on-stage and fiercely salute the army of arms before him. Drummer Daniel Erlandsson, bassist Sharlee D'Angelo, and legendary guitarist Michael Amott quickly joined him. Which such an incredible line-up, the fate for the evening had been sealed: it was going to be UNFORGETTABLE.

As the men of ARCH ENEMY ripped into the intro to "Enemy Within" all eyes awaited their first glimpse at the newest vessel of vocal brutality. Angela Gossow grabbed her cordless microphone and leaped fearlessly into what felt like an inferno. Fans screamed their approval at her first growl, and to those who never doubted her abilities, Angela thanked them personally with every snarl, every subsequent growl, and every mighty scream over & over & over again.

The photo [above] was taken and graciously shared by Blake Kuehn, proving that fans in the front row ran the risk of dismemberment from the ferocious activity close to the stage as the band tore through the rest of their set: "Bury Me An Angel," "Diva Satanica" (could a more appropriate song have been penned?), "Heart Of Darkness," "The Immortal," "Dark Insanity," "Burning Angel," "Pilgrim," and "Ravenous," concluding with the ever-memorable "Silverwing."

Following the final note of the last song, the band left the stage, but chants of "EN-E-MY! EN-E-MY! EN-E-MY!" ensured the encore everyone so painfully wanted, and the members of ARCH ENEMY returned to crown the evening with "Dead Bury Their Dead," and "Beast Of Man."

After the show, Michael, Christopher, Daniel, Sharlee, and Angela met with their fans and were doused with endless praise as they signed cd booklets, posters and ticket stubs.

For the historian in us all, I highly recommend everyone picking up copies of the latest Mean Street & Los Angeles New Times and upcoming issues of Revolver Magazine, Guitar World, Guitar One - Women In Rock, Metal Edge, Metal Maniacs, Hit Parader, and Rockrgrl. After the phenomenal March 5th performance, these issues are already destined to be collector's items.

With the strength & pride of The Underground, Loana dP Valencia


review of Arch Enemy 'Wages Of Sin'

"Burning Angel" from 'Wages Of Sin'





Interview: Eric German [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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