Arch Enemy

Picture of Arch Enemy

Stigmata

Arch Enemy - Stigmata ©1998 Century Media
1. Beast Of Man
2. Stigmata
3. Sinister Mephisto
4. Dark Of The Sun
5. Let The Killing Begin
6. Black Earth
7. Tears Of The Dead
8. Vox Stellarum
9. Bridge Of Destiny

I've been spinning this disc for a few days (until it got dizzy) trying to figure out exactly what I want to say about it. Yes, it is the latest project of ex-Carcass (and Spiritual Beggers and Candlemass and Carnage...is this guy trying to be in as many bands as James Murphy?) guitarist Michael Amott. Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding it. Naturally, being the skeptical type, I wasn't sure what to expect. Carcass had never really appealed to me, so Amott's previous gig was not a selling point. But that's why they let the music do the walk and the talk.

From the age-old "who do they sound like?" standpoint, Arch Enemy reminds me of a logical tangent from Carcass's guitar explorations of Heartwork while vocally reminding me a bit of that whole In Flames sound (in other words, rough shouts and bellows). The music is equal chunks of death riffing, old school metal, and some of that aforementioned Gothenburg school of guitar. In other words, the riffs themselves are the focal point of the music. Fortunately, Amott and his brother Christopher know the value of a smart lick and play solos that just scream class and skill. From the opening seconds of the title track, I was hooked. Nearly every song oozes with great playing all around, especially in "Dark of the Sun", "Sinister Mephisto", and "Vox Stellarum". At the end of the day, I can spend hours trying to think up a clever review, but all I will say is "This rocks".

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1998

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Burning Bridges

Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges ©1999 Century Media
1. The Immortal
2. Dead Inside
3. Pilgrim
4. Silverwing
5. Demonic Science
6. Seed Of Hate
7. Angelclaw
8. Burning Bridges
9. Bridge Of Destiny
10. Hydra

Essentially picking up almost on the exact same note they left off on last year's Stigmata (probably B sharp), Arch Enemy furiously races through another disc chock full of what has made them famous up to this point: excellent guitar leads, aggressive and punchy rhythms and those barked hardcore-ish vocals. Stigmata fans can be assured (and save themselves the trouble of reading the rest of this review) that Burning Bridges is going to be pleasing to no end. Fans of the whole melodic guitar hero death metal scene (ie: Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, etc etc etc) will also find Burning Bridges to be hot indeed. But among all the dueling notes of guitarist siblings Michael and Christopher Amott, I do have a couple minor complaints. First, when you hear marvelous and exemplary guitar leads such as the intro to "Pilgrim" or the beautiful passages in "Silverwing", Johan Liiva's hoarse, monotonous bark is nothing but grating. Everyone else in the band displays great ability and diversity in their playing and his one note shout downgrades the music somewhat. But as I stated earlier, it really is only a minor complaint. Arch Enemy is still in a league of their own for creating such fine guitar oriented metal that doesn't fall prey to power metal pompousness or soundalike status for In Flames imitation.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999

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Wages Of Sin

Arch Enemy - Wages Of Sin ©2002 Century Media
1. Enemy Within
2. Burning Angel
3. Heart Of Darkness
4. Ravenous
5. Savage Messiah
6. Dead Bury Their Dead
7. Web Of Lies
8. The First Deadly Sin
9. Behind The Smile
10. Snow Bound
11. Shadows And Dust
12. Lament Of A Mortal Soul (bonus Track)
13. Ravenous (CD-rom Video)

After being stuck in a holding pattern for quite some time, Arch Enemy has resurfaced sporting a new vocalist to front their brand of melodic death metal. When I heard previous vocalist Johan Liiva was leaving the band, I rejoiced (albeit quietly, and right at my desk) because I felt his monotonous approach was holding the band back, particularly since the guitar interplay and depth was always the best point of the band. It seems as though the music demanded something more than a hoarse shouter. Then, much to the surprise of the metal world, Arch Enemy chose a young lady from Germany to assume the microphone duties and to my dismay, her approach is a hoarse, monotonous growl. So much for elevating their music by finding a dynamic vocalist.

The second odd factor about this album is that, unlike most metal releases, it features bonus tracks not available in Japan, not vice versa. Credit must go to their label for actually encouraging fans to patiently wait for a stateside release rather than fork over excessive amounts of loot for an import. The CD also contains a CD-rom track for those who aren't computer challenged. But that's where the intrigue ends.

Wages of Sin, sadly, is a very pedestrian, bland affair that is neither great nor bad. It simply lies in the middle, sounding as though the band had few new, exciting riffs at their disposal to use for songwriting. The guitar interplay between the Amott brothers is sort of there, but not as sharp and inviting as the previous two albums. The songs all say, "Yes, we are that Swedish Death Metal, Melodic Issue, with a touch of old school speed metal influence", but they don't seem to excel beyond that, with the exception of neat little passages here or there. The vocals of Angela Gossow aren't terribly different from any other vocalist in the trade and the novelty factor of a female growler wears off in seconds. Fact of the matter is that anyone can use this sort of technique and sound like a unisexual beast. But what she fails to do is add a new dimension to Arch Enemy's music, which one would hope a new presence would accomplish.

Although fans of the genre won't cause themselves grievous harm by purchasing this CD, particularly if they're already into Arch Enemy, a lot of folks may be slightly put off by the fact that at a time when few bands are stepping to the forefront with records that excel expectations, Arch Enemy is putting out dry toast with no butter. Wages of Sin only entices me to pull out my Spiritual Beggars CDs to hear Amott in a more interesting project.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2002

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