By Carl Begai
Swedish bashers Arch Enemy – who now boast Canadian and American talent within their ranks – kicked off October with the surprising news that their upcoming show at the Loud Park festival in Japan will feature guest appearances by former members Chris Amott (guitars) and Johan Liiva (vocals). At press time there had been no official explanation given as to what had spurred the upcoming reunion(s), but a quick call to Liiva offered a bit of insight as to how he became involved.
“I was invited by Arch Enemy to do this along with Chris as it’s two jubilees,” he begins. “Ten years for Loud Park and soon 20 years for Arch Enemy, so it was no hesitation there for me.”
Chris Amott left Arch Enemy for the second time in his career back in 2012 (the first time being 2005), presumably never to work with the band again. Given that his guitarist brother Michael calls the shots in Arch Enemy, one can assume that family ties played a significant role in bringing Chris back to the fold, however temporarily. Liiva, on the other hand, left under seemingly unpleasant circumstances after three cult favourite albums and was replaced by Angela Gossow, which ultimately turned Arch Enemy into a metal household name. Gossow was officially replaced by Alissa White-Gluz in 2014.
“I left the band the band in 2000, and of course we weren’t too eager to talk to each other in the first few years after that,” Liiva offers. “The first years after I left the band, the relationship was quite infected. I know that Michael didn’t feel too good about the situation. He wanted to go in another direction. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few years and I understand him now. It’s like a process and you have to think things through because Arch Enemy is his life and Michael knows what he wants. He made the band into what he wanted it to be, and for me it’s okay because the touring life was never my thing. I loved being in Arch Enemy but I much prefer the life I have now.”
“We got in touch again after a few years, though, and I made some guest appearances on stage in Sweden with Angela. I think that was in 2004. Arch Enemy and me, we’ve stayed in touch since then.”
As for what fans can expect from Liiva’s guest appearance at Loud Park….
“I actually don’t know yet (laughs). We will be rehearsing on Tuesday (October 6th). It’s a matter of two or three songs but I’m not sure yet how it’s going to be done. Michael told me we’re going to talk about it at rehearsal, but I have a suspicion I might do one song together with Alissa.”
Some folks might be wondering why Arch Enemy is taking this special package to Japan rather than unleashing it in Europe, which is technically around the corner from home. Liiva is able to offer an explanation since he was on board when the band’s star began to rise.
“Japan is a very important market for Arch Enemy and the fans are really devoted,” says Liiva. “Japan is where we reached a peak really quickly; we sold a lot of copies of the (1996 debut album) Black Earth there. We built the band up in Japan with three albums and three visits to promote ourselves in the early years.”
Having the Japanese fanbase continues to pay off for Arch Enemy and Liiva to this day.
“Definitely. For example, when we were getting ready to release the last Nonexist album, From My Cold Dead Hands – and the new one as well – we contacted the label (Trooper) because I’m acquainted with one of the guys there from back in the day. He immediately said that they would release the album. It’s nice to still have those connections and relationships in Japan.”
One has to remember that reunions of any kind aren’t simply a matter of band members burying whatever hatchets had been previously sharpened. There’s management and contracts to deal with, and Arch Enemy is no different. It’s a unique situation, however, in that Gossow is now Arch Enemy’s manager, meaning Liiva has had to work with his vocal successor putting the Loud Park details together.
“It’s totally comfortable, not strange at all,” Liiva reveals. “I’ve been in contact with Angela since the spring about the arrangements for Loud Park, the visa, and she helped me through it, sent me the forms I needed, and guided me. She spent 14 years in the band I have total respect for that. I told her at one point, because I felt that I had to bring it up, that I never had any problems with her replacing me. Of course, in the beginning I felt really awkward and shocked, but I never really had any problem with it. That’s how I am. I don’t hold old grudges. Angela is a good person and a total professional.”
In closing, Liiva reveals he has indeed been following Arch Enemy and has heard the band’s latest album, War Eternal. He’s clearly excited about getting back to Arch Enemy business, if only for a brief stretch.
“War Eternal is a very, very intense album. It’s merciless (laughs). I really do like it. Alissa seems great and I ‘m looking forward to meeting her.”
Go to this location for Loud Park 2015 information and updates.
Johan Liiva recorded three studio albums and one live album with Arch Enemy:
Black Earth (1996)
Burning Bridges (1999)
Burning Japan Live 1999
Watch for my interview with Liiva about the new Nonexist album Throne Of Scars, coming soon.