Arch Enemy: Tales From The Jugular

There is nothing about flower-power here...

Female fronted metal is not a new craze, love it or hate it you can’t deny it - women are highly distinguished as the ethereal queens upon some of the most successful Gothic, melodic and symphonic metal thrones. Nightwish, Ebony Ark, Lacuna Coil, Epica, Tristania the list goes on; however during the 90’s, it was Arch Enemy who set the precedent, in a heavily male dominated domain - to enlist the first ever female death metal vocalist. This history making female and vastly intimidating siren is known to the world as Angela Gossow.  

None as such, scrape at the throat in quite such hostile manner as Angela Gossow; separating herself and ranking her talents from players such as  Otep (Otep), Sabina Classen (Holy Moses), Morgan Lander (Kittie), Alisa Gluz (The Agonist), or Maria Brink (In This Moment, if you feel that way inclined *shudders*). So when it comes to vocal ability, Angela Gassow is first and foremost the mother of death metal.

Gossow is a self confessed atheist who spreads the pro freedom message and incorporates this into the music of Arch Enemy.  Her passion for life and freedom of choice goes hand in hand with the woman’s confidence and strength as a musician, and as an ambassador for autonomy.

"I am opposed to the clerical/religious institutions who actually insult anybody’s personal beliefs by cherry-picking passages in old books in order to repress free speech, oppress minorities and women, force people to worship against their will, abuse religion to implement fear and exercise it as a tool of power, mind-control and manipulation".

[Extract from http://www.angelagossow.com/angela-gossow/religion-faq]

Whilst giving the soap box a good old workout, Metal As Fuck caught up with Frau Gossow herself to chat about tours, tomboys and the promotion of Arch Enemy’s latest album Khaos Legions.

Beginning the Asian leg of the Chaos Legions tour very shortly should be amazing, new countries have been included? This can be interesting. “Yeah, we kick off the tour in a month’s time. We are huge in Japan which is great, extreme places such as Malaysia for the pop summer slam festival – never played there before.  It’s great to visit new places however a little nerve-wracking with equipment, backline, general set up etc but we've just got to hope for the best. Then Australia during May. We love Australia!”

If you can overcome the raging water at the moment. “Yes we’ve seen, I thought Australia was prone more to drought?” So did we. “Ah. Where else? India for the first time which could be interesting then definitely a holiday (laughs). We have toured Europe extensively over the past 12 years, so it’s great to have a change of pace and explore exotic locations. At the end of the year we head over to South America. The people are warm and heavily into their metal”.

Both Asia and South America don’t get too many heavy metal bands touring which is unfortunate. “Yeah so they go insane! It’s great, really great vibe in South America, although they are faced with so much pollution and forest destruction horrors yet they are still such a beautiful people, I like testing out all their exotic drinks” (laughs). We love to tour, granted we can tour in style now” (laughs).

I don’t think any touring is stylish I add with a giggle. What are the highlights in touring for you? “I like the adventure; the European festivals are always the best. We get to see great bands whilst on tour, and we pick all of our own supports on tour, it keeps us entertained as well as seeing a great band”.

For the 2012 tour you are promoting the release of the bands 9th album Khaos Legions, what separates this album from previous releases? Angela blows a raspberry over the airwaves and gives it to me straight. “We like to scratch ideas around on the road, it’s basically down to our influences, the situations we are faced with on a daily basis, political turmoil, music we listen to, the vibe from people and other musicians whilst touring. For example we were heavily into blues after touring Chicago. We were writing this album for three and a half years, it’s our musical journey, and this album shows our versatility. It’s very confronting”.

The music of Arch Enemy communicates the Atheist pro-freedom of mind message. How important is this to you and the band as a whole? Has the message become stronger over the years? “Definitely, freedom is all about revolution, risk and courage. We were heavily influenced by revolution in this album, the revolutions in history and all the situations going on around us today. The revolutionists currently in Syria and Africa, risking their lives for freedom, escaping religious persecution and a lot of them are women”.

The French revolutionist painting, Liberty Leading The People by Eugene Delacroix, I have a funny feeling this was an influence somehow? (Don’t be frightened readers I just know my Romanticism) “Yes, it was the inspiration behind the album cover; women of revolution are inspiring to me as a woman and as a human being, we all fight for the same cause. The woman in the painting is strong and wasn’t afraid to fight for what she believes in. You reach a point in your life where you are not afraid of the future anymore; you wake up to a lot of things around you. In saying all this - the album? Well we are never happy with an album, our drive is to always make it better and that’s where our constant drive is, this is the message we give to ourselves and it gets stronger every year”.

In saying that has the album stirred any new perspectives on life for you? “Yeah, you know we look back at our catalogue, and Arch Enemy's is quite extensive now. We are getting new fans every day; it makes us immortal in a way. It gives you a reason to continue getting out of bed of a morning. Metal fans are very dedicated. Metal is very dedicated. We like to keep close to our fans, we recognize past fans when they’re smashing at a barrier. We didn’t want to be wanky rock stars, rock stars that are only out for themselves, the rock stars that lose touch and kill themselves. It’s important to us to keep this connection with our fans and in turn it keeps a connection in the albums we produce. This is our perspective”.

I had been looking forward to this question through the whole interview. Your vocals Angela gad damn! Did you always know you wanted to be involved with this genre of music and of course use the accompanying vocal style? “I have forever been a fan of metal, and always death metal. I’m German you know, in Germany, growing up you got a proper job and bands were just a little hobby you had on the side. I always felt grounded. So I did the usual, sent myself to University, degrees in Economics, marketing etc until in 1991 the underground scene in Germany began to rise; however there was never any money in death metal; there still isn’t any money in death metal (laughs) but growing up I never considered or even thought to myself that I could do this as a job you know. Now it’s prospered into a business as such with 10 employees, a very DIY business”.

So how difficult was it to establish your reputation in the beginning? Being that heavy metal/death metal was strongly dominated by male vocalists – especially in the 90’s. “I was previously in a couple of bands before joining Arch Enemy and no other girls wanted any part of that world, so I didn’t really have a role model. It’s quite funny though, like when I was young I was a Tomboy and all the guys in my bands were cute like me so I could get away with it, I didn’t have any tits and I wore huge pants, I’m pretty sure everyone just thought I was a guy, so I never got a negative response ‘coz everyone thought I looked like a dude. Once I grew up people began to notice and we were a little anxious, it was a huge gamble, when we thought about it, it wasn’t really a recipe for success but we kicked it off and enjoyed it”.

Well I mean you were stearing a new course for death metal when you think about it, making history. “Yeah and now there are so many women in metal who use Arch Enemy as an influence because its ok now (laughs) and it works, and that’s really cool”. No female role model wasn’t a problem for Angela Gossow, for as the likes of Rob Halford [Judas Priest] John Tardy [Obituary] & David Vincent [Morbid Angel] as some of Gossow’s main influences; the vocals for Arch Enemy were in strong hands, with Angela able to discover a whole new range of possibilities.

So what do you want to capture with your vocal style universally and what has been captured in the new album?“I want to translate a vibe from the music. My vocals are pretty aggressive”. Angela bashfully laughs.  “There is nothing about flower-power here” she says as she bursts into laughter once again. “The latest album is angry. The belief in individual freedom and heavy revolutionary concepts. Dreams shared by many, its whole inspiration is the world. We are Arch Enemy - you will see no Pagan messages, no satanic messages, no fairytales here. This is real life”.

Now you have taken over Management duties for Arch Enemy as of 2008? How and why did this come about? “I couldn’t be victimised by the industry any longer, seriously freedom and self approach was the only way for us to survive. Record labels wanted their cut, booking agents, tour managers, promoters, PR, distribution – they all wanted a percentage.  I became jaded and disillusioned, there was no money yet we owed so many people. We couldn’t go on like that for much longer, we would most certainly die and didnt want to continue living like shit. So we took it over ourselves. We now own all of our music, all of our publishing and we practice what we preach. We knew that if it was destroyed it was destroyed by our own hands. We are stronger now because of it though, we feel very empowered by the decision and we have been extremely lucky and fortunate over the past twelve years to have the love and support from our fans".