Latest release: Khaos Legions (Century Media/EMI)
Band site: www.archenemy.net
Khaos Legions, the first album of new material in four years from Swedish melodic death metal stars Arch Enemy is about to be released. To get the lowdown on the new record, Loud got frontwoman Angela Gossow on the phone to talk about the band’s new-found anarchist streak, whether a “more is more” mentality really is better, when they’ll return to Australia, her thoughts on the new Morbid Angel album and more.
Q: So, what’s the latest in the Arch Enemy camp?
A: Well, we’ve just been to Morocco and North Africa; we played a festival there and we played a couple of new songs. Then we’re going to continue next week in Europe, when we take off and headline the Metalfest in five or six countries. Then we do like Graspop, Sonisphere and a whole bunch of summer festivals. Then we’re going to go the US in September/October, then to Asia in October/November, then back to Europe for a headline tour. Then next year, we’re going to do South America, we’re definitely going to do Australia at some point and Asia again. So yeah, it’s going to be touring from now on.
Q: The band has toured here a handful of times now since 2005 and the reception seems to be stronger each time.
A: We want to come over in 2012, so we’re going to make that happen. We haven’t really had great offers so far, so anybody who wants to, please get in touch – the contact details are on our website. We just need to find someone who can make us a good offer and bring us over.
Q: Like many acts who tour relentlessly, your Australian fan base seems to have grown very organically as well.
A: Yeah, we’re obviously not overnight, one-hit wonders. We’re just a band who works very hard, just kind of makes small steps and it’s very healthy. It’s good for us, because we can manage it, you can go along with it. If you suddenly get a lot bigger, I think it could be very overwhelming and then you have to bring in a lot of people outside to help you with that. Then you lose control again and we don’t like that. So we’re making small steps, but steady ones.
Q: The band has had a strong touring work ethic for some time now, but with CD sales in such a poor state, you’ve now got to work even harder on the road.
A: Yeah, I mean you sell like 250 CDs and you’re like fucking gold in some countries, in the top ten, you know? CD sales are… It’s not even really worth talking about because you don’t usually even recoup (from sales). A band now just needs to tour… I think it’s possible for bands who like grew up being more studio projects, people who weren’t as interested in the touring to still be around, but it’s very difficult to have a band these days, because you want to make a living off it.
Q: On to the new album then. If the title wasn’t a giveaway, there’s a distinct anarchist streak running throughout it. What inspired that?
A: It’s actually both atheist and anarchist, because we spelt chaos as “khaos”, which is the Greek spelling. The Greek version comes from the word “chaos”, like the creation of the universe. So, it’s got the chaos theory behind it as well, but with an anarchy in it, so it’s like a combination. That’s actually what we believe in, that’s our attitudes. We’re freedom-loving people and the whole album is about personal freedom – freedom from government, freedom from religion, freedom from social pressure and even freedom from yourself as well, because of the pressure people put on themselves. And we are self-managed, so we actually live a bit like anarchists (laughs). We do only the things that we want to do, we don’t believe in any Gods and our lyrics are very real.
Q: Mike (Amott, guitars) has been quoted as saying that this album was a case of “more is more”. Can you elaborate on that?
A: Oh, well if you listen to it, you’ll understand there’s a lot of shit happening. Musically, it’s quite an extreme journey. I’m not sure if anybody’s going to like it, because it goes from, I don’t know, like a very extreme part; let’s say ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ or ‘Cult of Chaos’, then it goes into this very sweet, almost Eurovision Song Contest kind of guitar part, and then in (to) a very long, drawn out solo part. You know, there’s a lot of different things in it that define Arch Enemy, but we kind of simplified our songwriting a little on the last couple of albums, so we stepped back from that again and this time we thought, more is more. Now it’s a lot less simple I think and there’s a lot of stuff happening. I think it’ll be very interesting when you listen to the album; musically it’s all over the place.
Q: The band is renowned for making vicious statements of intent with the opening track of each album and on this record ‘Yesterday is Dead and Gone’ is in the same vein. It just screams “set opener” to me.
A: Yeah, that’s actually the opener right now. It’s not the best track on the album I think, but it’s very Arch Enemy-esque. It’s like a totally Arch Enemy opener. It worked really well for us; we just played in Morocco and it worked really well as an opener at that show. It’s very much recognisable, it’s like, “fuck, that’s Arch Enemy” (laughs). You know? But I think there are more interesting tracks on the album, but as an opener, it works really well.
Q: I think the chorus itself pretty much sums up the message the band are trying to put forth on this record.
A: Yeah, ‘Yesterday is Dead and Gone’. We’re not a band that is too focused on the past, we just really believe in just natural endings and I think that’s why we’ve had some sort of success, because we just keep on going forward in a way. We’re always thinking of the next thing we can do, where we can play and what new countries we can discover. We’re already writing stuff for the next album, we know when we’re going to release a DVD, so we’re very progressive in that way. We’re always marching forward and I think that’s a very positive attitude. If you dwell on the past, it kind of pulls you back.
Q: That’s interesting that you say that, because your last release (2009’s The Root of All Evil, featuring re-recordings of pre-Gossow material) had one foot in the past and one in the future. Plus your musical influences are largely rooted in decades past as well. Is that something you are very conscious of?
A: Yeah, I mean, musically we’re very much in the past; it’s totally 90s death metal. But I’m not really that progressive when it comes to new bands. But when it comes to Arch Enemy, we’re very much, probably because we never run out of creative ideas, we’ve already got ideas for the next album. So that automatically pushes you forward, because you’ve got your head full of new stuff and you just want to put it somewhere. So you have to think about the future – like, when can you do that? When can you record that? All of those things.
Q: The band has never shied away from acknowledging its musical influences, but do your influences change much or is typically the same pool of bands that inspire you?
A: Chris (Amott, guitars) had a Bossa nova phase and I think there’s some of that in the album as well (laughs). As far as music goes, we often go through phases like anybody else. Like, I had a phase where I was listening to a lot of Candlemass, Trouble and Solitude Aeturnus, really like a doom-y phase. Then I went through a phase where I went totally into Testament, Exodus and Slayer, totally having a thrash metal moment again (laughs). Michael had a phase when he was listening to a lot of punk, like Crass and Circle of Dead Children – that all he was listening to for months. So that stuff obviously goes into an album; the album was written over four years, so there’s a lot of phases in that album. That’s why it’s so broad, because usually you only write an album in three months and then everybody’s in one phase and that clearly shines through, because of the natural feeling you have at the time of writing it. But this time, there was actually a four-year period in that album, so there’s a lot of different phases. I think that’s why the album sounds like it does – lyrically, it’s very broad I think.
Q: On the topic of influences, I know you’re a diehard Morbid Angel fan. Have you heard the new album yet?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: What do you think?
A: (Laughs) I like the Morbid Angel songs on there. I’ve never liked techno or any kind of industrial stuff, that’s the problem. I’m not into that, so there’s like five or six tracks on that album that I’m into. It really reminds me of Domination, it doesn’t remind me much of Altars of Madness, which would be my favourite Morbid Angel album. But I don’t care, I think people should go and buy the fucking album, just to support the band. I’m really looking forward to seeing them live, because they’re going to play the whole catalogue, songs from every album. I think they pioneered death metal, and they obviously don’t shy away from trying new stuff. I think (vocalist) David Vincent’s a really cool guy, I’ve met him a couple of times and we’re very alike in some beliefs. I think people should buy the album anyway, it’s worth it I think and it’s a great band to support. I think there’s a couple of tracks on the album that I don’t understand. Live, they’re fucking awesome, they’re brutal as hell, they just kill every other death metal band out there. And vocally, his voice can summon worlds I think (laughs).
Q: Back to Arch Enemy matters, you mentioned a DVD earlier and the band has recorded a wide range of covers and bonus tracks for stopgap releases in the past. What other projects are in the works for this album cycle?
A: We actually recorded 21 tracks for the album; we’re putting 17 tracks on the album and then we’ve got a couple of songs left over that are going to come out on an EP, I think in the spring of 2012. So we’ve got something new out there for the next round of touring. Then we plan to release a DVD, maybe at the end of 2012, then the new album in spring 2013. We are planning releases; we don’t plan on abandoning the touring and music circuit anytime soon – we’ve got plans (laughs).
Q: Of all the covers the band has recorded, what’s your favourite and why?
A: At the moment it’s the Discharge song, ‘Warning’, it’s on the European version of the new album. That’s really aggressive and brutal. I think it does the band justice; it’s pretty much punk, you know? It’s got cool lyrics and everything.
Q: It doesn’t seem to get a lot of credit, but I enjoyed your cover of Dream Evil’s ‘The Book of Heavy Metal’. Obviously that song was written very tongue-in-cheek, but it was fun to hear Arch Enemy go to a completely different place and just make it crushing and relentless.
A: Oh, that was a fun track (laughs), there’s a lot of humour in that song. We always like to take a song and Arch Enemy-ize it. Yeah, it was a lot of fun – it sounds so Arch Enemy in the end, that’s the funny part. It doesn’t have much balls, the original. It’s kind of an over-the-top rock tune, but it totally sounds like Arch Enemy now. We like to do that to songs.
Q: I understand you do manage the band, as well as Spiritual Beggars (Mike Amott’s 70s-style hard rock supergroup) and correct me if I’m wrong here, Carcass as well. How did that come about?
A: No, no, Carcass is self-managed; I think Jeff Walker does all that. But that’s actually where I got the idea from; when Michael joined Carcass again and I went, “wow, they’re having none of this baggage”, you know? They’re having none of the booking agents and no management to try and tell them what to do, and just get approached by people in different countries to do tours. They just do it totally their own way, and it was so much easier for them actually, it was so much easier. That’s where I got the idea from; but Arch Enemy was a lot more established in its set-up. We are a business, but we have to approach things differently. We have people in the UK and a publicist contract, and we have to do accounting and all that. And for many things we have the important people you need (helping us), but they’re on our payroll, so it’s the other way around for once (laughs). Nobody’s saying, “you guys have to do this tour” or anything, we just make our own decisions these days. So, it’s nice, but it’s a lot of work too.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Stick to your fucking metal, Australia – and we hope to see you soon. Rock on! (laughs)