With so many different types, subgenres, speeds and religious views, metal is a tricky genre to categorize. Sometimes even artists themselves aren't sure exactly which box they fit into. Sweden's Arch Enemy is the perfect showcase of the genre's eclecticism, featuring vocalist Angela Gossow-- one of the only female metal vocalists who can actually growl-- and guitarist Michael Amott, who formed Arch Enemy out of the ashes of gore metal group Carcass. The band is a deadly mix.
"It's convenient to just give things a name and put music in a box. Usually the musicians themselves don't feel comfortable with it [. . .] Having a tag can be a little annoying," says Amott. "We have no problem calling our music metal, that's what it is, it's very heavy and extreme, and we classify our band as extreme metal. It just happens that we are based in a country that has got a lot of great metal bands, so it's easy to get grouped in with a wave of bands that come from Sweden."
Though hard to classify, Arch Enemy has been accepted wherever they play, including when opening for big name metal acts like Slayer, Iron Maiden and Megadeth on tours throughout North America. Amott notes that fans north of the 44th parallel got into the tunes before their southern neighbours.
"Canadian metal fans are more hip to the European scene than the American fans are. It was the Canadian fans that caught onto our band early on, before anyone else did," says Amott. "Now metal is becoming more globalized, we used to just see mosh and circle pits in North America and now we see them in Europe. I look out into the crowd and I don't know where I am, both scenes are starting to look the same."
Late last year, after global tours, guest vocal appearances by both Amott and Gossow on the Cartoon Network's Metalocalypse, and Amott releasing his own signature Dean guitar and Zoom pedal into the market, Arch Enemy released The Root of all Evil. Evil is a compilation album featuring tracks from the band's first three albums-- before Gossow joined.
"It felt like we had lost that era of the band, we had tried playing those songs with Angela [Gossow] live and no one knew what they were," says Amott. "We thought it would be cool to reconnect back to those songs and increase awareness of our band since a lot of people didn't realize Arch Enemy existed before Angela joined in 2001."
Metal veterans with a competitive edge, Arch Enemy has been crafting their art for years. Currently preparing to record their as-yet untitled 8th full length album, Amott says his group got to their current place by simply working hard.
"We have been working very consistently for a long time now, I never considered doing anything else, I never learned a new trade," says Amott. "Through good times and bad times, I have persevered. I never considered playing what was in vogue or in fashion or playing other peoples' music to pay the bills. I have always done my own thing."
Musicians face a long hard slog to get to a good place and it sometimes requires unglamorous and painful nights.
"Hard work pays off and right now we have a great thing with Arch Enemy that has been growing all around the world allowing us to tour globally and release records successfully," he says. "We definitely started from the bottom. Personally I have done everything from sleeping on top of guitar cabinets in the back of a van in a sleeping bag."