The Root of All Evil - pretty good title if you ask me - is the eight studio album of the Swedish melodic death metal band Arch Enemy. It is a re-recording of old songs. This doesn't mean it's not new. You see, Arch Enemy dropped their old singer, Johan Liiva, for Angela Gossow, their current singer, after their third album. The sound of the two singers is very different. Johan Liiva sounds a bit like you'd expect a death metal singer to sound - a lot of shouting, and, uhm, that's sort of it. To be honest, I'm not too thrilled about it - it doesn't sound like singing at all.

Angela Gossow on the other hand has a very, very unique sound. You see, most female metal singers have nice, clean vocals. Angela grunts and screams like there is no tomorrow. It's barely recognizable as female. Essentially, listening to Arch Enemy is listening to Angela. I personally think it's very good - powerful, very metaly but not so messed up you can't make out the lyrics.

So, what we have are the best songs from the first three Arch Enemy albums Black Earth, Stigmata and Burning Bridges, with the more mature current Arch Enemy sound and their new singer. Could be great, right? So, let's take a look at the album

  1. Intro: The Root of All Evil: Like many metal albums, this one too starts with an instrumental intro. Gentle, soft sounds, as the silence before the storm. To be honest, this is neither the fist nor the best attempt at it. Still, because the second song on the album starts very abruptly, not a bad choice.

  2. Beast of Man: Compared to earlier Arch Enemy albums, Angela's voice sounds very distorted. Yes, even more distorted than usual. The sound is trashy, and is reminiscent of the original. It's not too easy to make out the lyrics. The guitars are very clean, the drums powerful and fast. This somehow clashes a bit. You see, before this album, Arch Enemy made true melodic death metal, which is a bit slower and less rushed. Combining this with trash is... unusual.

    Anyway, back to the song. The opening is fast and aggressive, with sharp guitar riffs. It is soon cut by Angela's powerful sound, which somehow manages to be halfway between a grunt and a scream. The speed of the song is so awesome that it's almost impossible to catch it. Near the middle, the song slows down a tad, and the Amott brothers show that they are guitar virtuosos. During the outro, Angela repeats the chorus, and bang, that was the first real song.

  3. The Immortal With the listener still reeling from the Beast of Man, The Immortal starts a bit slower. Very rhythmical, like Metallica meets Satan himself. Too bad the lyrics are totally unintelligible, but the sublime guitar solo in the middle makes up a lot. Still, it's so incredibly fast that it's difficult to catch all the nuances. After the solo, Angela repeats the chorus, and the song ends.

  4. Diva Satanica: And the next song starts again. Now, some metal bands like to give their songs clear, long intros and outros to make sure the album doesn't fuse into a wall of noise. This is the first song with a clear, long intro. It's also slower, almost mellow compared to the previous two tracks.

    And then, Angela opens her mouth, with one of the nastiest primordial screams ever to be on a CD. Unlike the previous two songs, here, the venom is in the vocals, with the instruments serving as a backing for Angela to demonstrate her skills. This is more akin to the last few Arch Enemy albums. Because it's a bit slower, it has more time to make a lasting impression, and that is that the almost inhuman sound of Angela's voice in this song is a perfect way to convey the lyrics, which are about a demonic seductress. She would fit that role.

  5. Demonic Science: Pretty fast beginning, with the lyrics thrown at us. After the opening, the song slows down, and short instrumental and sung pieces alternate. The whole is a bit patchwork, it doesn't work to a climax. In fact, the climax of the song is in the first 30 seconds. Pretty unusual, and to be honest, I don't think it works. The very slow instrumental outro is nice, but it seems very out of place.

  6. Bury me an Angel : Nice, long intro, and then, Angela opens her mouth. Powerful vocals, good support by the guitar, catchy chorus... really, really good. It's fast, yes, but not so fast you can't follow it. The middle part is slower, with a bit of a doom metalish-sound. The chorus is then repeated. Classic Arch Enemy stuff masterfully executed.

  7. Dead Inside : Nice opening, many changes speed changes. A little before the 1 minute mark, Angela comes along, and does what she does best. Again, classic Arch Enemy stuff. The middle has an increase in speed, nice and very aggressive. After that, another brilliant guitar solo, that slows down towards the end.

  8. Dark Insanity : Like clockwork, an instrumental intro of about a minute, and then the song starts for real. Pretty slow song (compared to the rest of the album, that is), which makes it almost possible to understand the lyrics. The solo is short, but powerful, and the song ends with some guttural noises from Angela.

  9. Pilgrim Nice, long, original intro, with pretty clear vocals, which is good, because the lyrics of this song are worth it. It's about a pilgrim in a crisis of faith. I love the riffs on this song. Combined with the generously long solo, they make this one of the best, if not the best songs on this album.

  10. Demoniality: Slow, short, instrumental piece. Bit doom metalish, and is a nice pause in the album.

  11. Transmigration Macabre : The vocals stat almost immediately. very sharp sound, that really amplifies the drumming. Sounds like a hammer pounding, only really fast. Then, a slightly slower piece, before an even more over the top part starts. The solo has some very catchy riffs in it. The ending is quite abrupt.

  12. Silverwing The song starts fast and with little variation, neither in the singing nor in the instrumental part. The few short instrumental pieces are necessary variation. The solo at the end is pretty good, though. The lyrics are again warped beyond recognition.

  13. Bridge of Destiny Classic beginning, short intro, verse, chorus. The vocals are pretty warped, but not beyond recognition. The solo is long and contains a lot of variation. Then, after another verse and chorus, there is a second solo, with even more variation. A nice ending of the album.

The limited edition contains live versions of Bury me an Angel and The Immortal, Bridge of Destiny, which sound surprisingly much like the studio versions.

On a whole, it is a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion. From track 5 onwards, it is pretty much Arch Enemy as one would expect it. Only, in their earlier albums, it was just a little bit, well, cleaner, less distorted, and it was possible to catch at least some of the lyrics. Their earlier songs were heavier, more like classic black/death metal as opposed to melodic death metal, so one could expect this. The first four tracks, in my opinion, are not so good. It just feels like too much music is crammed in too little time, and the whole thing just becomes a wall of noise that is almost impossible to listen to, if you really want catch the nuances. On the other hand, it works surprisingly well to drown out background noise. The worst is that Angela gets swamped out, and she is the unique asset this band has.

In short, this re-release is quite different from the original. It is also quite different from the albums before this (from Wages of Sin onwards). For an Arch Enemy fan, this is certainly worth it. For someone who doesn't know the band, I suggest Wages of Sin or Rise of the Tyrant. Oh, and if my comments seem repetitive: so are the songs. Can't really help that.

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