I have always had the impression that I don’t like Arch Enemy as much as I should. They have the riffs, their guitar solos are sublime and yet… something has always seemed lacking. True enough there are tracks on ‘Doomsday machine’ that I absolutely love, but follow-up record ‘Rise of the tyrant’ was just a touch too samey for me and so the prospect of hearing Arch Enemy cover a selection of their own tracks (only with a new singer) didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm. That said, their performance at Bloodstock was superb (certainly enough to knock Carcass’s appearance into a cocked hat) and one can’t deny that this is a band who give 110% in terms of energy and aggression.
Kicking off with ‘the root of all evil’, a short and vaguely superfluous introduction, the first actual song is ‘beast of man’ which ignites in true Arch Enemy style in a flurry of blistering riffs and double kick-pedal work that seems destined to remove layers of paint from the walls around your stereo. A typically dazzling solo heralds the imminent arrival of Angela’s trademark roar which, astonishingly, sounds even more inhuman than ever. However, perhaps it’s just me, but I find Angela’s full-on vocal approach on the more-melodic songs to be a touch incongruous and you long for a more restrained approach on such tracks. The same can not be said of ‘The immortal’ which comes next, offering the sort of speedy guitar riff that is more suited to Angela’s brutality – it is here, when the band are playing at blistering speed that they sound most comfortable and it is also here that we are reminded precisely why Arch Enemy are such an awesome live act. ‘Diva satanica’ maintains the pace set by ‘the immortal’ with Angela sounding positively feral as she roars out the title over lightening quick guitar runs. It is also notable that she applies a more diverse approach to the vocals on this track, with her using a higher register than usual – something that actually suits her very well – and it’s an awesome track.
‘Demonic science’ is next with a MASSIVE drum sound propelling the song along and multi-tracked vocals adding depth to the chorus. Once again it’s the guitars that are the true stars here, particularly in the solo-ridden finale – but Angela has to be commended for turning in a more rounded performance than on the last record, moving from her traditional deep throated roar to a Danny filth-esque scream with ease. The slow-motion ending of ‘Demonic science’ provides a temporary respite from the mechanical horror before ‘bury me an angel’ slams in like a pro-American wrestler on steroids. Better still, the bridge section features a glorious half-time groove worthy of Pantera which only serves to emphasise the ridiculous speed available elsewhere. ‘Dead inside’ is another of the more melodic tracks that would benefit from a less frenetic approach in the vocal department – there’s something about the melodic lines in the song itself that just doesn’t gel with the frantic screams and it spoils the rather excellent levels of intensity found elsewhere. ‘Dark insanity’ lives up to its name, all brutal thrash and grind, ‘pilgrim’ once again reminds us that drummer Daniel Erlandsson is astonishingly capable and ‘demoniality’ slows things down to a sludgy trawl through doom’s grime encrusted pastures in a welcome change of pace and style.
The absurdly titled ‘transmigration macabre’ boasts a punky edge which sounds even more jarring after the brief horror of ‘demoniality’ but rapidly settles into a hefty, bass-led groove on the chorus. ‘Silverwing’ opens on a harmonised guitar solo which is just slightly cheesy compared to the other tracks here and ‘bridge of destiny’ closes proceedings in startlingly vicious style with its off-kilter rhythms jarring the senses.
Ultimately this is a better album than ‘rise…’ but it suffers from the same flaws as other Arch Enemy albums in the respect that it’s at least three tracks too long. Certainly the vocals here are better than ever, but they still start to grate a little over the fifty-two minutes of music on offer here. However, the band do at least offer variation in pace and style over the thirteen tracks which offsets this somewhat. Arguably not as good as ‘Doomsday machine’ this is still a worthwhile disc, particularly for newcomers to the band who have not heard the original versions, or rabid fans who just have to have everything the band put their name to, but for casual listeners it’s just not quite engrossing enough to be listed in the essential category. The production is, of course, top notch rendering the drum and guitar assault with brutal clarity, while retaining the bottom end and allowing Angela’s vocals room to breathe and the packaging is suitably attractive to draw fans in.
Special Edition notes
The root of all evil comes in three formats: a standard jewel case CD, a limited edition CD in media book packaging with three bonus tracks and a patch and an LP (with the CD thrown in for good measure). Needless to say fans of the band should head for one of the two limited edition formats as they generally sell-out quickly and are always worth the extra cash.