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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.