Sound — 9
In what is a rather smart (and somewhat intriguing) move on the part of Arch Enemy, the Swedish melodic metal outfit has re-recorded tracks from its first three releases, which are compiled on a new CD titled The Root Of All Evil. The previous CDs (Black Earth, Stigmata, Burning Bridges) all featured then-vocalist Johan Liiva, so it's certainly understandable why the band wanted to allow the always-surprising Angela Gossow to take a stab at their past hits. There are distinct differences between the vocal approach of Liiva and Gossow although nothing too terribly dramatic and those unique qualities inject new life to newly recorded versions. What even stands out more than Gossow's presence is the general recording quality, which is leaps and bounds better than what you hear on the originals. For every band that has ever replaced a frontman/frontwoman, it's always a bit of chore convincing the audience that the replacement singer now owns the older songs. It should also be mentioned that bassist Sharlee D'Angelo was not a member during this time period, either. Rather than go through that nonsense anymore, Arch Enemy'a latest CD at long last gives Gossow full reign over many songs on the first three albums. With the 13 tracks on The Root Of All Evil (11 of them featuring vocal content), you get an interesting mix of nostalgia and fresh creativity. What remains the same is the solid musicianship, which was already in place. Among the highlights are Dead Inside, which begins with a somewhat steady tempo and eventually goes in a variety of musical directions. At the heart is the guitar work of Michael and Christopher Amott, who always are top-notch in terms of skill. When you hear the latest version of the song, however, you notice little nuances like increased dual guitar work and a more polished sound altogether. The guitar team obviously made some new choices in their equipment, as it sounds impeccable now. Another key standout track is Bury Me An Angel, (originally from the Black Earth record), which now takes on a crisper, more defined sound within the rhythm section. If you haven't looked into Arch Enemy's work until now, The Root Of All Evil should be a vital part of your collection. The CD is jam-packed with meaty riffs that range from being standard death metal rhythms to licks that would make Yngwie Malmsteen pleased. The track that sums up that statement perfectly is Demonic Science. It masterfully takes unlike/clashing musical styles and somehow makes them cohesive. There is, of course, a higher-pitched sound to Gossow's growls and screams in comparison to Liiva, but her delivery is still quite effective.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrical content is on the more dramatic side, but it works well with the genre. In terms of subject matter, you'll hear about everything from dangerous, conniving females in Diva Satanica (Divine queen of evil; Sowing her seeds of hate; Mistress of pain) to spiritual answers in Pilgrim (From the womb, to the tomb; An eternal struggle for the holy truth; We are not the first, nor shall we be the last). Granted, you won't be able to understand a good deal due to Gossow's gruff delivery, but the songs are still fairly well thought-out in terms of the structure.
Overall Impression — 10
Arch Enemy proves just how much they've grown musically with the release of The Root Of All Evil. While the songs from the band's first three releases were solid in the beginning, the newest recordings are impressive on even more levels. Gossow is a welcome addition, but it's not necessarily her presence that took the album to the next level. However, she certainly adds a distinctly fresh vocal sound that works well with all of the changes that were made during the recording process.