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Arch Enemy

Een nieuwe CD van Arch Enemy is altijd iets om reikhalzend naar uit te kijken. En als op 24 september 'Rise Of The Tyrant' in de winkels ligt, zal menigeen de knip weer trekken. Ik sprak met bassist Sharlee D'Angelo over het nieuwe album en er ontspon zich een zeer open en aangenaam gesprek.=

Door: Patrick | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

band imageHi Sharlee, how is life today?
Well, it is another rainy day in Dortmund so you can guess …

You are glad another journalist is saving you from the ultimate boredom; staring at the walls of your hotel room?
Haha; right! And the new album is one of my favourite subjects to talk about so that certainly is no problem.

Well, let us focus on 'Rise Of The Tyrant'; what are your own personal feelings about the end result?
Actually I am quite surprised. I had a lot of confidence in the material, but hearing the final end product … it blew me away. It had so much more than I had expected. There were songs that were okay in the studio and now they come out as one of the best. When everything was there, especially the vocals coming in, they came out so strong. A good example for it is 'Nights Falls Fast'; it is a song in which we tried like one hundred different variations and arrangements. Somehow we could not find the thing to make it happen, until Daniel (Erlandsson - drummer) came up with a different drum beat for the verses. We felt it was that what was needed as it pushed a lot of energy to it. But we still were not quite sure. And now when it is done, I was like 'Wow'.

The sum of the total made it satisfying?
Absolutely! Especially those things saved the song as there is not that much happening in the track. Instrumentally we felt it was not that strong, but with the power in the vocals it turned out great. 'Blood On Your Hands' was also a song from which I personally thought it was not going to be that strong. But now it has turned out as one of the best of the album. We played it for the label and they straight away said that this was a great track, fit to be the opener. We had not really thought of that one as an opener; we thought more in the direction of 'In This Shallow Grave' or 'The Last Enemy'. 'Blood On Your Hands' is a great opener, just not the one we had in mind.

So this time around it certainly was great to hear the end result, after being in the studio.
Indeed. Every little thing that we added, worked out well. It is great to hear that all those little things were the pinch of salt which makes the soup simmers.

Did you have a specific goal when you started to write material for 'Rise Of The Tyrant'? I ask this because I feel the new album has a large 'Wages Of Sin' feeling. Does that also have to do with your return to the Studio Fredman to record with producer Fredrik Nordstrom?
It could be. More people mention it has something in common with 'Wages Of Sin' but we did not want to do so. 'Wages' is a great album so if we managed to capture some of that … it is the album I am the most happy with. So when people hearing something of that in 'Rise Of The Tyrant', it is just great. The production by Frederik might indeed have something to do with it. But also, when you compare this album to the last two we did, 'Anthems Of Rebellion' and 'Doomsday Machine', both of them are quite to the point. 'Doomsday' at some points does do have a somewhat monotonous feeling, and I do not mean that in a negative way. It is more like a train moving forward without stopping; that sort of thing. This album has got so much more diversity in it and there is a balance in each and every song. It holds more melody where melody has to be and exploring the extremes more. It also has such a natural feeling. And there are so many little different things, which make the songs really interesting. It keeps you on your toes when you are listening to it because all of a sudden things come in which you do not expect. It keeps it fresh all the time. When I heard it from beginning till the end for the first time, it felt immediately as 'I like to hear this again'.

Does the return to the sound of 'Wages Of Sin' not make you not afraid people will say that the new album is too predictable or that they even feel you repeat yourself too much? And when it comes to critics, do you bother at all?
Not really. I mean: music is so subjective. And of course everybody is free to think what they want. Of course, nobody likes a bad review, but you can not satisfy everybody as well. It is nice when you get a good review though but at the end of the day it will be impossible to live up to everybody's expectations. And when it comes to critics: when you are a writer for a magazine you get in touch with so much music, I guess it can become real easy to get cynical. Do not get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with that but we do not let those things get to us. If we would, we would go cramped into recordings, not being able to explore the extreme more. And that is not us.

'Revolution begins' will be your first single from the new album. How important is having a single for Arch Enemy?
Singles these days … they don't really sell that much or you have to make real mainstream music and maybe not even then. It is more a promotional tool, to gear up for the album. It can also be a fun thing to do when you add B-sides and things like that to it. Just like Iron Maiden always did with adding one or more extra songs. It gives the people something extra to look out for.

The album contains an instrumental track as well. Was 'Intermezzo Liberté' written as an instrumental track or did you all somehow not find the right words for the song?
It was designed as an instrumental piece. The main melody of it is actually something that we used during the 'Doomsday' tour. It was part of Michael coming up on stage. And it was Chris who added another part to it, which made a full-fledged instrumental track. And we wanted to use a part where people can catch a breath during the album. Our songs are quite heavy in the ear so it was basically to clench ones ears again. Ha-ha!

You just mentioned Christopher; in which things on the new album can we hear his return at Arch Enemy?
You can definitely hear his return. Even though he was only gone for two years, he did not miss an album. When he came back, instantly, in the things he was playing, he found the Arch Enemy sound. He and Mike complete each other when it comes to our music. And he added a lot to this album, both playing and writing wise. So we are extremely happy to have him back.

Let us have another look at some of the songs, with your permission. 'The Great Darkness' holds a choir, which is something you do not expect from Arch Enemy. What is the reason for having the choir in the song?
When the song came about, in the main riff it is if you can almost hear a choir singing. It had that feeling which made it quite obvious for us to add a choir to the song. And we feel it worked out great as it gives the song another aspect, which works out great.

At the beginning of the song 'Rise Of The Tyrant' your hear voices coming from the movie 'Caligula'. Could you tell why you have included these parts?
Caligula is one of the most well known tyrants in history and probably the most insane one as well. He was like the archetype of megalomania. In exception of maybe Hitler he has to be one of the worst. But using Hitler would have been too obvious. And second to that; the part we use is quite long, I believe it is a little over forty seconds, so it comes with quite a surprise effect of when the song will start. It is a little larger what you normally expect from an intro.

Editorial: for those who may not know what the exact words from the beginning of the song:
Caligula: I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am... a God. I shall wait for the unanimous decision of the senate, Claudius.
Claudius: All those who say aye, say aye.
Caligula: Aye ... aye!
Senators: Aye! Aye! Aye!...
Guard: He's a god now ...)

band image

After the release of the album you will be going on tour. You are doing a tour under the name 'The Black Crusade'. Among the other bands are Machine Head, Trivium and Shadows Fall and in Europe Dragonforce as well. First you will be doing a co-headliner tour with Machine in the US. Must be something special to go on tour with a band as Machine head or does it not matter for you with which band you go around the world?
Well, we are not that difficult when it comes to touring with other bands. But hey … Machine Head is a great band with a strong following. And when you look to the bill there are five, well known metal bands included, which, although they all are brutal, are quite different from each other. I think it is an interesting line up as we are all different types of bands. It is so diverse. When you compare all the bands … Shadows Fall, they play a sort of old school thrash the American way, than you have Dragonforce, the most extreme power metal band ever and you got Trivium; a band which combines modern metal with old school riffs. Machine Head … well do they need an introduction? And then there is us. I think you get a lot of great metal for your money.

But with five bands on the bill there will have to be made some sacrifices regarding playing time. Or the show must start real early in the evening.
I think we are starting fairly early although I have no idea what time it will be. And with a package like this you simply can not have each band playing one and a half hour. It would not work out for the people as well as the concert would take way too much time. So yes, we will have a restricted time. But after it is done, everybody's ears will be bleeding anyway. I think the human ear can not take that much more. Ha-ha!

With this being your eight album, it must be getting more and more difficult to come up with a set list. How do you compose such a list?
Yeah … it is getting tougher and tougher. There are songs that are classics, which we simply can never take out of the set. People expect us to play those songs. But, certainly now with the new album, you also like to play your new songs, so it has got be a mix between some new ones and some classics. And when you play a set of 45 minutes, which is not even that short, you have to make choices. When we go into a tour the set is not yet steady, so to say. We change it around in the beginning until the flow is good. We normally need a couple of shows for it. And when that has been done we do not change anything anymore. The only thing that might make us change things is the length of the set. Sometimes that varies.

If you don't mind I would like to focus on some, more or less, personal issues, without getting in too deep though …
Feel free to ask!

What kind of bass guitars do you use? Why do you prefer them? What do you look for in a guitar; tone, feel, type of wood, thickness of neck?
All of the above! Usually it is what attracts you in a guitar is the look. And then we you start trying it, it is the feel. How easy to handle is it. You start playing on it and than comes in the tone, which is, of course, really important. And then you look at the pick-ups which are on it. So it is a process of going from one thing to another. To grab another, try until you find something which feels real comfortable. It is funny that you mention this as I am momentarily working together with Ibanez to release an Iceman - the Sharlee D'Angelo bass. We are not sure when it will be ready but might be around the end of the year. So if you want to play like me, go out and buy it! And even if you don't want to play like me … buy it! Ha-ha!

With all the touring and eight ten albums under your belt, how far has Arch Enemy surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band? Or is being a member of Arch Enemy living the ultimate dream?

Ouch, that is a difficult though interesting one. Musically Arch Enemy has been extremely satisfying. I am really happy to be in the band. I got to be a part of a band that exists of only the best musicians in metal. That by itself is already a dream come true; to work with musicians with great ideas, who also can make it happen. They don't only come up with great ideas but also know how to play. In the years we have grown to such a tight unit, with the German blond general in control. Ha-ha! And we are friends as well, which is extremely important. We don't leave each other alone; not that we necessarily spend every minute with each other but it is great to be in each other's company. We have a very nice, calm atmosphere in the band ... until we actually hit the stage and things explode.

It sounds good to me.
It does and I am really happy to be here where I am now. I have come to do a lot of thing which I might not have experienced without the band. We share the stage with some of our heroes; we toured with Slayer, with Megadeth and with Iron Maiden. I have only one wish to be granted; if Judas priest takes us out on a tour … that is the day that I can die peacefully. And also … you get to go to places where I otherwise probably never would have come. Take Japan for example. you also meet real nice people all over the world; you get to places, talk to people and see the reactions on things. I get to see other sides of people and that is really, really fascinating. To see their background, where they come from and how their life is, that makes this a rewarding job which I would not trade for anything else! Money is not really a point for me … I am not in it for the money. I should have played a different type of music if I wanted to become rich. I have enough money to support myself and am in a position that I can do what I like. We can make enough money out of music to be in it all the time and we do not need another day job beside it. I am sure a lot of people would trade with me without any hesitation. I have had crappy jobs as well, which I never liked but knowing that at he end of the day I got to meet my pals in the rehearsal room got me through it.

Are there any other happenings or things going on that you would like me to let people know about? Do you have anything to say or add for closure? Or are there things you would to leave out of the interview?
No. This interview has been most enjoyable. Thank you for asking that last question for there are not many music journalists … well, they take whatever they can, to make some sensational things … it is really nice of you to ask this. It is great to see that there still are journalists taking the music and their artists serious. Many music journalists are just after sensational news and some magazines hardly write about the music anymore … they just want to ask any American band how many groupies they meet out on the road and things like that. Of course during an interview musicians will give away some private things which, as a reader, I am happy to read as well, but I am mainly interested in their music and to hear the other side of the album actually. And that is something you certainly have achieved; keep up the good work!

Well, thank you Sharlee!
No need to thank me; there should be more people like you! When you are in Amsterdam at the end of November grab me if you see me, for it would be nice to drink a beer with you!

That invitation is highly appreciated and accepted! Well, thank you for your time Sharlee. It certainly was a great, enjoyable conversation for me as well. All the best & hopefully see you around in Amsterdam at the end of November!
Well, take care of yourself and again … I hope to see you in Amsterdam!

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