By Carl Begai
Just as Canadians have been pegged by the world at large as being nice and polite in any given situation no matter how dramatic or off-putting (no, we are fucking not), Japanese metal fans have been saddled with the reputation of being reserved and disciplined to a fault regardless of how intense a band might be on stage. Arch Enemy’s latest DVD, Tyrants Of The Rising Sun, rips this myth to shreds. Perhaps it was due to the cameras set up on the night, or maybe it’s because Japan has become Arch Enemy’s home turf in a bizarre trans-continental way, but the audience that the band plays host to on this latest live retrospective was anything but sedate. Like the fans in North America and Europe – perhaps even more so – the Japanese legion hang on every word and every note as the gig plays out, breaking into song and applause when instructed, unleashing soccer chants and circle pits as the music and atmosphere dictate. No question, Japan’s metal fans can wear Arch Enemy’s trademark “Pure Fucking Metal” shirts with pride.
“I’ve always wanted to do a DVD in Japan but it was always difficult and expensive, which is why we did the main show for Live Apocalypse in London” says guitarist Michael Amott. “Live Apocalypse only came out in 2005, but it just felt like the time was right to do another one. I made some inquiries to our management if we could do something in Japan this time because things kind of picked up for us there with Rise Of The Tyrant. It was a very successful record for us there. The tour dates were selling out and I thought it would be cool to capture that on film, because who knows if it’s going to happen again? I really wanted to capture this one show in Tokyo because I had a feeling it was going to be a good one. Also, I like the continuity of it, I like the feel of it, because when you mix stuff up with footage from several shows it’s a bit more of a collage. I like the idea of sitting down and watching a whole concert.”
Tyrants Of The Rising Sun can been considered a “thank you” to the country that essentially put Arch Enemy on the map. Already well established in the island nation in the latse ‘90s, their Japanese label Toy’s Factory issued Wages Of Sin in 2001 while record deal negotiations were underway with other territories. It was a cannon blast heard around the world in that it was the debut of current vocalist Angela Gossow. The fact Arch Enemy had parted ways with founding singer Johan Liiva had been a shock for some fans; that they’d successfully replaced him with a woman made for one hell of a buzz.
“We’ve had a lot of success in Japan,” says Amott, downplaying the initial fan-fuelled controversy upon Gossow’s entrance. “Wages Of Sin was massive for us, and we’ve always maintained a certain high level there, but we’ve had certain peaks like Wages Of Sin and Rise Of The Tyrant. I think the Japanese metal fans, they have a very specific taste. They like speed and melody, and I think those two albums have those elements. With Anthems Of Rebellion and Doomsday Machine I think we strayed from that a bit, because they were heavier and a bit less melodic when it came to the guitars playing.”
“Rise Of The Tyrant has done really well overall, actually” he adds. “You know what the market situation is with album sales, but the album has done well in spite of that. In Germany it’s the biggest album we’ve ever had. I think America did less than Doomsday Machine, but I don’t know why that is.”
Viewing Tyrants Of The Rising Sun against the Live Apocalypse DVD from 2005 – literally, and back-to-back – the new DVD shows Arch Enemy in a much different light (no pun intended). Where Live Apocalypse is dark, gritty, close quartered and almost MTV-friendly in its execution, Tyrants Of The Rising Sun is a wide open and glossy showcase of the band at their meanest. Plain and simple, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get into. Amott agrees:
“This one has longer shots, yeah. It’s not as hectic. We knew it had to have a different feel from Live Apocalypse… and I guess maybe Tyrants is a bit cleaner than the last one. Japanese shows in general are very clean; you could lick the stage, that’s how clean they are (laughs), but that’s just the way they do things there. I think the DVD reflects that a little bit.”
Given the Japanese reputation for top-notch organization when it comes to any show, it’s safe to say Arch Enemy went into Tyrants Of The Rising Sun with their collective eye on the quality of the production.
“It seems that a lot of DVDs these days are just shot in front of 300 fans in a TV studio in Poland,” Amott laughs. “They all look the same. We always want to offer the fans something special. I don’t know, maybe we waste money, but we pride ourselves on putting product out that we feel the fans deserve. We want to be proud of what we put out, we want it to be awesome for the fans and the band. We think the fans are worth it.”
For Amott the issue of video sharing channels like YouTube and the downloading that goes with them isn’t much of a concern with regards to DVD sales. He’s willing to give the fans the benefit of the doubt.
“If you’re content to simply sit in front of your computer and watch one clip at a time on YouTube at a low resolution, I think you’re semi-retarded (laughs). That’s just me. YouTube is great for checking out rare stuff, but if the material is out there and officially released why not buy it? I remember when Children Of Bodom put out their DVD (Chaos Ridden Years), I was curious to see what it looked like, so I checked out YouTube. Somebody had ripped the whole thing and put it up song by song, but I ended up buying it because I couldn’t sit there and watch it like that. I like YouTube for checking out stuff like Michael Schenker playing live in 1981 on a Belgian TV show or something. That’s when video channels make sense, because seeing those rare clips is awesome.”
As 2008 started to wind down the rumours of Arch Enemy going in to re-record some of their older material with Gossow on vocals gained momentum. It’s no secret the band has wanted to do so for some time, and Amott confirms the next studio album we see from them will be this internal cover album.
“It’s very much a reality, and it’ll be Arch Enemy’s next studio release, for sure. The way it’s looking, it’s going to be a compilation of 12 songs from the first three albums which featured Johan. It’ll be the songs that we’d really like to start playing live again, and we’d like to re-introduce them to our current fanbase because the old albums never really picked up in sales as our popularity has grown with Angela in the band. Arch Enemy was a very different sounding band with Johan, and I guess that material doesn’t appeal to our current audience. So, it’ll be quite cool to do those songs with Angela in the studio. Also, Sharlee (D’Angelo/bass) didn’t play on the first two records, Daniel (Erlandsson/drums) didn’t play on most of the second album, so it’s nice to be able to update that old material with Arch Enemy as it is now. We’re going to stay true to the original songs but it gives us a chance to tighten things up a bit which, will be nice. They’ll be recorded the way we do them live now.”
The as-yet-untitled album will also put an exclamation point on the return of Amott’s guitarist brother, Chris, to the fold. Taking nothing away from the talented gentlemen that took his place during his two year break from Arch Enemy, Amott admits it’s like Chris never left.
“It feels very normal because we were in the band together for so long before he left. He was out of the band for two years, but those two years seem kind of insignificant in a way. There were no actual recordings done in that time; we were on the road for 18 months with Gus G. (Firewind) and Fredrik (Akesson/Opeth) filling in. I loved playing live with both of those guys because they’re great guitarists, but when it comes to writing for Arch Enemy a big part of the sound comes from me and my brother.”
“It was pretty awesome having Chris back in the band for about a week,” Amott deadpans, “and then it was just back to the old days (laughs).”
Michael Amott photo: Carl Begai. All rights reserved.