A Different Kind Of Diva
It was late 2000, Arch Enemy were a relatively known band (after all they were practically a supergroup), but haven’t swept the world yet, haven’t gained international recognition. They were known in the extreme metal community and had a pretty good first three albums. But Johan Liiva, leading vocalist, left (they actually ditch him) and they started looking for a new one. Instead of bringing another well-known singer that would bring in new fans and conquer all headlines of metal zines, Michael Amott decided to try out something completely new.
To understand how big an impact she had on the metal scene you have to know that female metal singers were almost exclusively in the operatic-symphonic bands (Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, Therion …) before Angela Gossow became part of Arch Enemy. Extreme metal was man’s territory; there were some women vocalists, but those bands weren’t famous, like Shadow’s (Japan) singer, Tokiko Shimamoto, with the only exception being Kittie, but they haven’t played “no clean singing” type of metal.
After Angela Gossow joined Arch Enemy as the main vocal things got completely changed. At first, she was laughed at by “trve” metal fans that just couldn’t accept that “some girl” can produce growls that can put to shame 90% of other extreme vocalists. And that was very true. On her debut, Wages of Sin, Angela showed the world that she can not only compete, but can be better than most extreme singers. As Amott later said regarding her audition, “she (Angela) wiped the floor with all the other contenders.” Burning Angel, Ravenous, Dead Bury Their Dead, Web Of Lies were huge hits that launched Arch Enemy into the metal stratosphere. They got worldwide fame, were the most popular Melodeath band, and most of that fame was because they did something completely unorthodox, having hired a female vocalist.
Arch Enemy’s music got faster, more brutal, as someone said “heavy as f**k”, and that wasn’t because of Michael Ammot decided to go heavier. Angela asked the band to make faster, more brutal riffs, and that became one of their signatures, along with her vocals. Most people who heard early recordings of Wages of Sin thought that the new singer is a guy, but when they found out the truth, they were astonished, they couldn’t believe that Angela was behind the mic. Another proof of her quality.
Girls that listened to metal had a new hero (or better to say heroine). I still remember those days, nine out of then female metal fans would say that their favorite band is Arch Enemy. Angela Gossow became a metal icon, and one of few real metal divas. Although she never sang clean vocals, regarding extreme metal, she has one of the best vocals. Guttural growls, chilling snarls, hellish screams, she can deliver all of those. Coupled with Amott’s genius riffs, she just got better and better. Anthems of Rebellion, Arch Enemy’s next album, was even better, vocal-wise. We Will Rise, Dead Eyes See No Future, Leader Of the Rats, are all songs that will show you the quality of her singing.
Arch Enemy’s fame got bigger and bigger, and with their next album, Doomsday Machine, they became a premiere metal act. Angela was at her best then, and Doomsday Machine is one huge catalog of her vocal capabilities, the song I Am Legend/Out For Blood still has one of the most brutal vocal performances to date. Around the time Doomsday Machine got released, even women that didn’t like extreme metal knew about Arch Enemy, Angela did something no other woman did before her, she became one of the most respected extreme metal singers, a title that is very, very hard to earn.
She did more for feminist movement than most 21st century “third wave” feminists have done, extreme metal was one of the few “all men” bastions in metal, and in music generally, at least vocals-wise. But after Angela, metal recognized that women can be as good vocalists as men, there were more and more female-fronted extreme metal acts. Izegrim, Kylesa, The Agonist (their former vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz replaced Angela when she departed from Arch Enemy in 2014) In This Moment, Otep (a popular band but not a quality band) have taken the Arch Enemy’s formula and became world famous.
The last grains of doubt about her vocal capabilities were swept away with The Root Of All Evil, an album that saw her singing biggest Arch Enemy hits of the Johan Liiva era. Their live shows had incredible energy, mostly because of Gossow, who was a killer live vocalist.
After Chaos Legions, Angela left Arch Enemy; she is their manager today. But even though she isn’t part of any band’s lineup for almost two years, Angela Gossow is still one of the biggest names in metal, and a proper music diva; a woman that entered men territory and conquered it with her amazing vocal, and with her genuine love for metal. And as the biggest woman vocal in metal, she deserves the title of a diva, the only diva that never used clean vocals.