Arch Enemy: Stigmata
April 21, 1998 on Century Media records
Johan Liiva - Vocals
Martin Bengtsson - Bass
Daniel Erlandsson - Drums
Michael Amott - Lead/Rhythm Guitars
Christopher Amott - Lead/Rhythm Guitars
Arch Enemy...another band from the Swedish melodic death metal scene, home to such bands as Arsis, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames(some of the more well-known melodic death acts). Some may dismiss them as more of the same...however, Arch Enemy is not. With brutal, downtuned, in your face riffs, this album would be a favorite of even the most loyal death head. However, the band also possesses a terrific melodic edge, unsurpassed in what they do...this may appeal more to those who arenít fans of straight up death metal.
For those of you familiar with Arch Enemyís work with Angela Gossow (Johanís replacement), this album may be different for some. Johanís voice is much deeper (owing to the fact that Johan is male), and has more depth and fullness than Angelaís.
The album kicks off with Beast Of Man.
At once, you feel the fury of Arch Enemy (corny phrase, i know, but it seems fitting)...your headphones/speakers explode with the power of guitars tuned down to B standard, and some of the greatest drumming this side of death metal you will ever hear. This furious onslaught continues as a second guitar comes in over the rest of the instruments, and plays a little solo riff. The instruments stop for a split second, and a verse ensues...more brutal riffing and drums, though not as chaotic as the intro. Johan comes in at the second part of the verse; his voice is the perfect match for the music...deep, loud and brutal. A short interlude, and the chorus comes in. This is where the ďmelodic" part of Arch Enemy plays in. One guitar plays chords, while the other plays a different riff. As Johan stops, a harmonized guitar part takes the place of the chords. The band then goes into another verse, and the interlude and chorus are repeated. A new interlude results, with palm muted guitars under an little solo riff. The harmony comes in at the second half, and the song takes a different turn. It sounds like it speeds up (it doesnít...the guitar just fills in all the spaces), as a solo guitar comes in over it. It harmonizes with the second guitar, and then...the instruments fade out, leaving one guitar. The song then changes again, and becomes incredibly melodic as the solo continues. It goes on, and the chorus is repeated. The song then ends after the chorus. A brilliant and brutal opener...the perfect song to describe Arch Enemy with. 10/10
The next track, Stigmata,
is an instrumental...I think of it as an intro to the next track. It opens with a slow, almost doom-like riff. This is repeated, and then the second guitar plays the harmony of the first. Both guitars then play a higher up part...its very beautiful. The way they harmonize is brilliant...the Amott brothers can pull off some of the best harmonies in modern music. The song then goes into a solo section, which is excellent as well. Itís very dynamic...it changes from shredding sections to full of emotion. The backing guitar then begins to palm-mute as the solo continues. The intro riff is repeated, and the song just flat out ďblows up" as it ends. A single low chord is held, and as it fades out...
...a drumroll is played, and Sinister Mephisto
begins. As always, the beginning is brutal...very loud, and faster than most. The song then slows, as the guitars begin to alt-palm mute. This goes on for a little bit, and a short guitar lead is played (barely audible) as Johan comes in. As he fades out, the guitars harmonize for a little bit, and the chorus comes in. Over some great low guitar work, Johan sings (or screams...or growls, whichever you prefer):
ďSinister mephisto/Ride the sky
Sinister mephisto/The ultimate high"
The intro riff is repeated again, and the song stops for a split second...and resumes, repeating another verse. This verse is twice as long as the first. The harmonized part is played again, and the chorus is repeated. The drums come in periodically, as one guitar plays a great low part, in the traditional melodic death sense. Its harmony joins it a short time after, and the 2 guitars go on for a little bit. After this, a solo ensues...it goes well with the song. The song switches up a bit as the solo continues...it becomes more uplifting and melodic. At the last part of the solo, the 2 guitars harmonize YET AGAIN...however, itís quite pretty. The intro is repeated again, and the riff right before the solo is played. The chorus is repeated again, with Johan changing his vocals a little bit in this part. The song ends shortly after. A great song, featuring more brilliant guitar work. 10/10
The fourth track, Dark Of The Sun,
once again, begins ultra heavy. There seems to be a LOT of bass in this intro...you can hear a lot of the low end. The guitars do some palm muting as Johan comes in over them. A new guitar part arises after this...more harmonization interspersed with palm muting. In the second repetition, one guitar plays a different riff over the other. The verse comes back in, and the interlude is repeated, this time with Johan singing over it:
Itís all the same to you"
On the second part, he sings:
ďBut does anyone/really know
What the future holds in store?"
The chorus then ensues. It is a bit slower...yet still ungodly heavy. Johan comes in shortly after, and at the end of the chorus, the intro and verse are repeated. The interlude is then repeated, and the chorus comes back in. The song abruptly changes gears after this...a solo part comes in, and some harmonies ensue, along with a bit of shredding work. The Amott brothers are severely underrated...both are brilliant craftsmen, and can hold their own with any other good guitarist of today. Some low harmonizing results after the solo, and a second solo comes in. This one has FAR more emotion in it than the previous. Another verse is played as Johan comes back in. The interlude is repeated, and the final chorus comes in. The chorus riff is then played harmonized, and then the song ends. This one is a bit longer than the previous 3, and in spots drags on a bit. However, it is still a great song. 9/10
The next track, Let The Killing Begin,
is top notch. It doesnít start off as furious as the others...however, it is still heavy. The drums come in fully at the second part of the intro. The band goes on like this, and the guitars fade out, leaving only the bass and drums. The bass suffers from a tuned too low syndrome...itís very hard to hear, and doesnít sound very good. Itís passable though. The guitars come back in as the verse officially starts, and Johan comes in over them. Some palm muting ensues after this, and the chorus comes in. This is one of the best choruses on the album...over some brilliant harmonized guitar work, Johan sings:
ďLet the killing begin
Let them end your life of sin
Feel the torment/Within
As the beauty of death sets in"
This is repeated twice, and a short drumroll is played as the verse comes back in. The interlude is repeated again, and the chorus is repeated. A new interlude is played, featuring quite a few harmonics. As usual, the second part is harmonized between the guitars. A short palm muted part, and a solo begins. At the end, it is harmonized, and the guitars then alternate between a harmonized distorted riff and a clean riff. Soon after, another solo ensues over the clean part. This solo has the perfect blend of talent and emotion. Another verse is played, and the first interlude is repeated. The song ends with Johan singing ďLet the killing begin" over the first part of the chorus. One of the best songs on the album...a canít miss. 10/10.
The sixth track, Black Earth
, is a personal favorite of mine. It opens with more downtuned riffing...though a bit slower than usual. Under the music, you can hear a voice whispering ďBlack Earth...save our souls". Quite creepy, really. The intro ends, and a palm muted part ensues. Music stops, and the part fades back in, this time with everything in full force. A few chords, a pick slide, and Johan comes in. He sings for a while, and then the chorus comes in. Another verse (this one has 2 parts to it), and then another chorus. After the chorus, everything halts...the cymbals crash in time with the guitars, another pick slide, and Johan lets out a brutal scream as a solo starts. This one is a bit different than traditional Arch Enemy solos...there is a lot of feedback in this solo. At the end, there is a bit of a harmonized part...and after, one of the weirdest things I have ever heard is played. Itís just...weird. If anybody has heard Dimmu Borgirís cover of Satan My Master, itís weird like the solo in that song...its not really a ďsolo", just a whole lot of feedback. After this part, the music stops, and starts back up again with another verse. Another chorus is repeated, and a new solo comes in. This one is a bit more normal...the first part of it is put through a delay pedal, and the second part is played like a normal solo. Itís an awesome solo; it doesnít require a lot of technical precision, but it is beautiful. After the solo, the song ends with some more heavy riffing. Another great song. 10/10
Tears Of The Dead
starts off with a higher part on the guitar than the usual intros. However, after this part is played, once again we get more trademark heavy riffing. A solo is played after this part, and the verse starts as Johan comes in. A short interlude, and the chorus is played. It is the intro riff played again. Johan sings over this:
ďI canít defy it/Canít deny it
I know it to be true
In my sleep/They come to haunt me
They know it to be true"
Johanís voice is at its most brutal on the album in this song. After he sings this, the guitars go on for a while longer, then everything fades. A low voice says ďTears of the dead", and another verse ensues. After the verse, another chorus is repeated, and a lone guitar is left playing. A guitar chord is held over this part, a drumroll is played, and another solo ensues. An interlude results after this, with Johan singing:
ďMy hands are soiled/Covered in blood
Stains that never wash away
Their hollow eyes
Confronting me/Judging me"
When he finishes, another solo starts. All of a sudden, the music becomes less loud...a new solo starts playing. This one is focused on emotion...once again, it is beautiful. The solo runs up the neck, and another verse is played. One last time, the chorus is played. The instruments cut out as Johan says ďThey know it to be true". Right before the end, voices start whispering, ďTears of the dead." Johan then shouts it, and the song ends. An excellent song, chock full of great solos and vocals. 10/10
The eighth track, Vox Stellarum,
is another instrumental. It begins with a piano intro, courtesy of the bandís producer, Fredrik Nordstrom. The piano part is very pretty...itís a break from the usual heavy riffing of Arch Enemy. The drums crash, and the rest of the band comes in. A lead part is played, which equally matches the emotion of the piano. Arch Enemy constantly has brilliant instrumentals, and this one is no exception. The piano closes the song. A quite pretty piece, short enough to keep the listenerís attention hooked. 10/10
And as we come to the end, the highlight of the album, Bridge Of Destiny
, begins with more heavy riffing. The guitars begin playing palm muted chords as Johan comes in and the verse begins. A short interlude, and the chorus begins, playing the same part as the interlude, albeit harmonized. Johan sings:
ďStanding at the bridge of destiny
Show me a sign
On the verge of losing my sanity
Free my soul"
The intro riff is repeated, and another verse is played, followed by another chorus. The guitars begin playing more palm muted chords as the drums and bass fade. A drumroll, and the whole band comes back in. Drums stop again, and come back in for a second repetition of this part. Another drumroll, and a solo begins. The first part of it is harmonized, and the rest is done by Christopher. The riff before the solo is played again, and another verse ensues. Another chorus is played, and the song changes tempo. Supposedly, there is a bass solo in this part...you can barely hear it though, which is kind of disappointing. However, this part is good nonetheless. Another guitar solo is played after this part, more emotional than the last. The instruments stop and hold their notes, and then...one of the greatest riffs I have ever heard is played. It is sheer emotion in an instrument...not even a voice could convey this much emotion. It stands up there with riffs such as the main riff of Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple or Walk by Pantera, in that it is instantly recognizable and will be stuck in your head for days at a time. It is two guitars playing a beautiful harmony part...words cannot convey how great this part is. A solo follows this part, which is great as well. The riff is repeated, and the song ends. By far, THE best closing song ANY band has ever done. Itís just brilliant, how it goes from heavy to sheer melody. Without it, the album would not be the same. Buy the album just for this song, if you need a reason to. 10/10
Arch Enemyís essential album to own. There isnít a single bad track, and every band member does their part. Johanís growls give the music a whole other dimension of depth, the Amott brothers craft brilliant music and solos on their guitar, Martin lays down gut-wrenchingly heavy riffs with his bass, and Daniel keeps the beat with some brilliant drum riffs. It is 9 songs and 46 minutes of sheer melodic death metal brilliance...donít miss it.
Final Rating: 10/10