Upon first hearing this disc I was actually quite surprised. I must admit that I have grown tired of death metal over the years. I mean how many times over can you hear the same old vocalist growling and grunting over blast beats? So, as I said, it was quite a surprise to hear a band who is labeled 'death metal' that could hold my interest for an entire album. Musically, Arch Enemy are about as far from your average death metal band as I have ever heard. They implore excellent guitar leads, aggressive, yet clean and punchy guitar rhythms, thrash-like guitar riffing, and dynamic songwriting. Arch Enemy are made up of siblings Michael and Christopher Amott (from Carcass & Armageddon), and their soaring dueling leads could please the most skeptic Iron Maiden fan. Just check out the smokin' guitar leads in the intro to "Pilgrim" or the beautiful passages in "Silverwing" or the amazing song craft of "The Immortal". However, despite the stellar guitar work and musicianship, the band employs a vocalist with a monotone, barked, hardcore-ish, shouting style. This really detracts from the music quite a bit. At times Johan Liiva's coarse bark works with the music, but it's a shame he doesn't employ more diversity. Some higher pitched thrash-like vocals (like Steve Souza perhaps) and some clean vocals really would have made this the album to beat. As for the lyrics, this was something I checked out after the fact. I found them to be quite honest. However, it seems that main lyricist Micheal Amott has some serious spiritual searching going on. Songs like "Pilgrim" and "Dead Inside" express his confusion, belief and doubts about God.. Other songs like "Demonic Science" expresses his opinion about DNA tampering, while "Angelclaw" is more of a fictional story about a female creature of the night whose name is Angelclaw.
Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin (Century Media) 2002
You couldn't have convinced me by playing this cd that the band's new vocalist was a female. I mean, to look at Angela Gossow's photo, you would never think that she could produce the brutal death metal vocals that are on this disc. Once again Arch Enemy deliver a cd full of technical, speed metal classics sounding like a beefier version of Nocturnal Rites with a death metal vocalist. To be quite honest, I prefer the death and black metal vocals on this album to the hardcore shouts of 'Burning Bridges.' Of course the vocals aren't nearly as important as the blazing heavy metal on this disc. I will admit that adding in some more melodic vocals along with the death growls would just put this band over the top. That has been my claim since the very first time I heard Arch Enemy. Still this is a stellar disc with excellent musicianship and dynamic great songwriting. Just check out the melancholy instrumental "Snow Bound" or the sick double bassing in "Lament of Mortal Soul." The first ten seconds should send most black metal bands running for the hills. Disc 2, which features the band's old vocalist, has three KILLER covers in Judas Priest's "Starbreaker," Iron Maiden's "Aces High", and Europe's "Scream of Anger". These three songs alone are worth the price of admission, although "Starbreaker" stands out as the best of the three. However, the entire two disc is a worthwhile listen, even if you are not a fan of death metal. The guitar work alone should have any guitar shred fan in stitches.
"Anthems of Rebellion" simply defines aggression. Reviews seem to unanimously call this "death metal." However, I would say that there has not been a more brutal thrash metal album released in recent years. Not even the mighty Extol's recent thrash metal output matches the intensity here. While "Wages of Sin" set the bar high for the band, "Athems of a Rebellion" manages to push it one step higher. "Anthems Of Rebellion" is the second album from the band to feature the female growler Angela Gossow. Angela's vocal delivery is much more impressive and concise on this disc. While the brutal growls are still in tact the ennunciation, and perhaps the recording, are just better. While the entire CD is solid from beginning to end, 'Exist to Exit' is probably my favorite single track. It combines old school death/thrash drums with precise Arch Enemy guitarmanship. The musicianship is, of course, excellent throughout and the production is crisp without losing an ounce of the grit and grind. Can't praise this one enough, nor can I seem to eject it from my CD player. Early pressings come with a bonus DVD that contain videos and such. Certainly a contender for one of the best albums of 2003.
Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine (Century Media) 2005
1. "Enter The Machine"
In the last few years I have grown weary of death metal. While it was my passion for a while in the 1990's, I guess I have grown tired of the vocal style or something. As such, I put off buying this CD for a while after it's release. However, shortly after it's release a friend gave me a copy after seeing the band at Ozzfest, telling me how this CD was the "best metal CD of the year." To my delight, this is about as far away from death metal as you can get and this most certainly is one of better metal released of '05. I still think that the 'melodic death metal' tag that Arch Enemy have is a mistake. The only real connection to death metal that they have here is some of Angela's insane vocals and the beefy guitar tone they have. Otherwise, this is closer to a melodic power/thrash sound than anything else. I even hear bits and pieces of riffs and such that would fit on a Nevermore CD. That may be blasphemy to death metal purists, but that's the way I hear it. Now to be completely honest, this one didn't kick me in the head like "Wages of Sin" and "Anthems of Rebellion' did and took some warming up to. However the mix of aggression and melody are infectious and kept me coming back for another listen and thus I have come to enjoy it a great deal. "Nemesis" is probably the standout track here, with it's super fast soloing and fautless execution. "Carry the Cross" is also an interesting song with its clea lead break and mid-paced riffs. A majority of the music on here left me wondering what this band would sound like with a more melodic vocalist like Warrel Dane, instead of the somewhat monotone growls. Metal album of the year? I don't know about that, however, this is certainly a good, aggressive, heavy and melodic metal album.
1. The Root of All Evil [intro/instrumental] (1:06)
With the "Root of All Evil", Arch Enemy follow in the steps of bands Testament, Anthrax, and Exodus, and re-record old songs with a more modern production, and in this case, with their far more popular singer Angela Gossow. "The Root Of All Evil" is the band's attempt to bring some of their older songs to a whole new audience who may never have given their old pre-Angela CDs a listen. The song selection pulls from all three albums; From Black Earth (1996): "Bury Me An Angel", "Dark Insanity", "Demoniality", "Transmigration Macabre". From Stigmata (1998): "Beast Of Man" and "Bridge Of Destiny". From Burning Bridges (1999): "The Immortal", "Dead Inside", "Pilgrim", "Demonic Science" and "Silverwing". Also included is "Diva Satanica", which was a b-side track.
I've read a ton of negative reviews regarding this release. Many fans feel these re-recorded albums are a waste of time and nothing but a quick money grab. I'm not sure how much of that is true, but I tend to enjoy them. The re-recorded songs sound very close to the orignals with far superior production by metal guru Andy Sneap. The guitars are heavy and vicious. As well, the vocals are a big improvement, in my opinion. Angela's vocals are far more varied than former vocalist Johan Liiva and fits the music better. Fans of the band's first three albums may not enjoy this album as much as I do. I can understand why some fans may be turned off by the re-recordings but those who enjoy Arch Enemy with Angela will find much to like about this. The current line-up of the Amott brothers on guitars, Michael and Christopher, along with bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, drummer Daniel Erlandsson, and vocalist Angela Gossow recorded a fantastic collection of early Arch Enemy music. Frankly I see it as a monumental celebration of their early years rather than a quick cash grab.