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Arch Enemy - Black Earth

1996 Wrong Again Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-06-30

In 32 minutes, Arch Enemy manage to blow the doors of metal wide open. This is what death metal was initially all about. Think back to 1987, more specifically, Sodom, Pentagram (Chile), Death, Kreator... Now take the intensity of those bands, lower the guitar tone, and you've got Arch Enemy. Keeping the essence of death metal and displaying a keen sense of melody, Black Earth is an incredible album. The vocals here are excellent, as is the guitar interplay between the brothers Amott. Daniel Erlandsson's drumming is top-notch, he expertly balances rhythm with flash, always keeping the direction of the song steady. In short, this is mandatory stuff.

Arch Enemy - Stigmata

1998 Century Media Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-06-30

This is going to be a really tough review to write, and to explain why, one would have to be familiar with Arch Enemy's groundbreaking opus Black Earth. That album is a masterpiece, which of course, leads to unrealistic expectations for the next album, setting up anticipation for another work of unparalleled genius. Of course, we all know that this may or may not happen (cases: Wolverine Blues, Swansong and Whoracle, to name a few), and it appears that disappointment is here again, as the inevitable transition to a major label has fancied up the bare bones, rushed in the studio, kick ass sound that permeated the first release. Much of the change may be attributed that the facts that the band expanded to a five piece, they had tons more time to write these songs, and that the rhythm section is really Armageddon. How much the drumming may change the overall sound of this band is best evidenced on the opening track, which is the closest in sound to their older material (Daniel Erlandsson is the original drummer, and he plays on Beast of Man). The rest of the album is still pretty damn heavy, but there are more "Gothenburg sound" elements, and quite a few times a hear a lot of In Flames in here. Some other changes? The vocals, which just fit so damn perfectly on the last album, are sometimes way mismatched with the melody lines, most noticably in the choruses (Let the Killing Begin springs to mind). So, why was it still album of the week? Because, while I am disappointed to see the riff juggernaut that was Arch Enemy become more progressive, I realize that bands must grow, and for fairness, I'll try to leave the comparison's from the first release out and give my review. The Brothers Amott are, in my opinion, one of, if not the, best guitarists/ songwriting pairs in metal today. There are so many moments of pure brilliance here that I can't even begin to describe. Songs are longer than on Black Earth (the album), mixing different ideas together to produce another killer slab of Swedish Metal. Of course, this doesn't always work, and there are a few spots that make me cringe (again, the Iron Maideny/In Flamesy chorus of Let the Killing Begin), but these spots are few and far between, and Black Earth (the song) is just so fucking incredible it's worth the price of the album alone. Drumming is similar to that of Armageddon (surprise, surprise), very flashy, lots of double bass/splash cymbal hits. I am a big fan of this (normally) but I miss the controlled chaos of Daniel Erlandsson, who seems to add a level of emotion (see Eucharist) where Peter Wildoer offers a more mathematical/fusion oriented approach. Bottom line? There's just no comparison to the first album, this being a much slicker offering, but this is still a riff monster that blows away everything else out being released these days, and that makes this mandatory.

Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges

1999 Century Media Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-06-30

It was only a few years ago that Black Earth became one of the most sought after indie albums of all time, it seems. Intelligently using the old supply and demand law, Wrong Again Records only released a paltry amount of this platter, forcing most people to import and pay high prices in many areas of the world. It was a secret that wouldn't last long, with Century Media "discovering" this band of musical geniuses and giving them a deal. The result of this initial union was Stigmata, a highly technical affair which pleased many young guitar virtuosos, but was a trifle disappointing for those of us who had experienced the power of the debut. Talking to Michael Amott provided some illumination into that recording, and I think that it's definitely safe to say that Burning Bridges rectifies any weaknesses in the AE armor. While not as all out brutal as BE, or as technically driven as Stigmata, a happy medium is realized, uncomprising, yet as wise and experienced as it should be. I'd place a lot of the refocusing of the group back on drummer Daniel Erlandsson, a gifted individual who helps define what metal drumming is. His powerful base allows the brothers Amott freedom to explore, yet reminds them when it's time to come home from arpeggio heaven, if you know what I mean . In heralding the rhythm section, one has to also mention bass wunderkind Sharlee D'Angelo, who is also responsible for this solidity. Now, there are some true moments of stadium rock here, where the solos are the spotlight, and I almost hear flashes of Rush or Cheap Trick! It's not as apparent as on Stigmata though, and Liiva's vocals are once again strong (apparently he was sick while tracking the last album), a good thing as his work helped define what I consider the Arch Enemy sound. He experiments a bit as well (if that is indeed him, promo discs don't have the full credits listed), a welcome change, not as outlandish as before. You may have noticed so far that I've hardly mentioned the Amott's playing, an interesting fact as Arch Enemy is truly a guitar band! Well, what needs to be said, besides the fact that the elder Amott is responsible for penning some of the greatest songs in death metal history. Chris may be the young one, but his playing shows plenty of flair, knowledge and excitement as well. I, for one, am glad to see the boys back in form after their "sophomore slump", and can easily peg Burning Bridges as one of my favorite releases of the year so far.

Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine

2005 Century Media :: Reviewed by Skeksis on 2005-08-14

I've read a lot of reviews praising this record and making bold statements like it's a return to the bands thrashier roots and its more vicious than 2003 "Anthems of Rebellion"; and yadda, yadda, yadda. Ok, it does present a slightly thrashier side than the previous record, and is more vicious in a sense, but only every so slightly. On the other hand, I walk away from this record feeling really pissed off. Arch Enemy has musicians of such high caliber that it's really no excuse that they released such a mediocre and half assed record. The songs are boring, mostly mid paced, and lack that spark that makes you bob your head like a moron while driving. Sure, most songs start off with some killer riffs (especially "Nemesis") and there are killer (and I do mean killer) leads here. But alas, intros and leads do not make a good song or album. What I will wager is that these songs probably sound a hell of a lot better live as they seem written for that setting. The songs are simpler and more to the point. But I digress, that's not what I expect from Arch Enemy. I expect "Black Earth" and "Wages of Sin" quality material. I expect the songs to rip the flesh from my face and all the while remaining classy because the brothers can shred. But this is just too mediocre for this band. The other thing that reeks on record is Angela Gossows vocal performance, or at least the way it was put to tape. Now before anyone gets their panties all bunched up, let me state I could never stand Johan Liiva and so preferred Angela's vocals on her debut with the band. But on "Doomsday Machine", her vocals sound way to processed and layered to be enjoyable. And lets not forget those lyrics, "all for one and one for all"??? Common, I know they can do so much better than this. But two duds in a row might be the sign of a continuing pattern. Thank the heavy metal gods the new Nevermore came out the same day as this or I would have been in one stinker of a mood the whole week. Stupid album name aside, at least the cover looks cool.