Black Earth…the beginning. In this day and age, Arch Enemy is basically a household name for any metalhead. They are known for playing aggressive and technical music, thanks to the ever-famous Amott brothers. Unfortunately, few people know any of their work before Angela Gassow entered the picture. Wages of sin is considered a metal classic, but whatever became of their Johan Liiva-era work? Well I say to you, it has not been forgotten. Diehard Arch enemy fans and metalheads with too much time on their hands alike not only know old Arch Enemy, but love it more than anything they’ve put out since Burning Bridges
. Still not convinced? Well, I’ll see what I can do. To get a general idea of what they were like, take Wages of Sin
, give it male grunting vocals, and amplify every aspect of the music by 100x.
:broken to keep quotes in tact. I know, I hate it too, but I refuse to redo all of the code:
So just how does the musicianship on this record compare to the Arch .....“Suffer in this grief
Enemy we know and love today? I say to thee, every bit as good, if .....Of forever burning hate
not better. The Amott brothers’ riffing and soloing is face-crushing .......The ashes of my life
metal to say the least. Their songwriting accents their playing ..........By the torment you create"
incredibly. The unusually heavy riffs are made even better by their .......- taken from Dark Insanity
perfectly placed guitar solos. Harmonized leads are used sparingly,
as brutality is the goal here. Daniel Erlandsson’s drumming is spot on. This guy is not sloppy in the least. His percussive work with double bass, blast beats, rolls and fills are not only pure metal chaos, but unrivaled by any of today’s metal drummers. If you look at this band in a purely musical sense, they can almost be considered a Scandinavian Dream Theater
…except these guys actually have songwriting talent.
When first listens to this album, their views of it will undoubtedly be mixed. The biggest differences are, of course, the vocals. Johan Liiva – he’s no Angela Gassow if you catch my drift. His screaming isn’t even really screaming. It’s more in the middle of death metal grunting and thrash shouting…capped by a singing voice that never really sounded good in the first place. Fans of modern Arch Enemy will definitely need to take the time to get used to his voice. It’s worth it though – I’ve been listening to it for a while, and I think I prefer Johan to Angela now. The music on the first three albums was much heavier and darker, and Johan fits that profile perfectly. His voice varies at times from almost death metal, such as the beginning of Fields of Desolation
, to the slightly less threatening shouting of Bury Me an Angel
Aside from the vocals, the music itself differs in several ways. Keep in mind that aside from the bass (which you can’t really hear anyway), the lineup of musicians is exactly the same as it is now. The music, as I said, is MUCH darker and heavier. The tuning of their instruments is much lower allowing for the Amott brothers to bring out the death metal side of melodic death even more. In modern times the music focuses almost solely on harmonization and lead guitar work. Back in the good old days, the boys from Sweden have their hearts into fast, brutal riffing. Just check out the intro of Bury Me an Angel
to see what I mean. If you’re looking for something to headbang to, grab your neck brace and head over to Dark Insanity
If you think that by buying old Arch Enemy you’ll be getting yourself into an entirely different band., you're far from correct. Why, you didn’t think the Amott brothers played nothing but riffs until Angela came along did you? Mike and Chris have knows their stuff from the start. The shredding here is as insane as ever. Lead guitar licks and melodies are used very sparingly here, unlike in current times, where they drive the song with lead guitar. They scatter excellent guitar playing amidst those already insane brutal riffs. Once again, look to Bury Me an Angel
. Riffs collide with melodic guitar insanity. There are some tracks like Demoniality
that sludge on for a little while with no soloing…but when they go without a solo, you can bet it was for a good reason. WARNING: Cosmic Retribution
may cause many or most guitarists out there to orgasm uncontrollably. A classical acoustic solo!? How metal is that!!?? The Ides of March
almost has a tribal feel to it. Daniel’s drums roll uncontrollably as the brothers of Amott solo as we all know and love. In places, you can almost tell what exact direction the band is going in. The ending solo to Fields of Desolation
has Gothenburg written all over it. The harmonizing of Losing Faith
could be put on Wages of Sin and no one would’ve known the difference.
The songs here have the all-important key: variation. Let’s face it – this album is only 38 minutes long.
That’s fine for a death or black metal record, but for something “Eternal Damnation awaits you my love ...........
like this, that’s definitely on the short side. To remedy
In the kingdom of the sick and the rotting dead ...
that issue, the band had to go the extra mile .........
You will suffer excruciating pain .......... ............
to make each song memorable in some way. Well, ...... ..... You shall now reap the twisted fruit" ..........
they sure as hell don’t get boring at any point on this ............. - taken from Transmigration Macabre ..... ......
album. Bury Me an Angel
and Dark Insanity
are both .................................................
bone-crushing experiences of brutal metal mayhem. Idolatress
has a slow, flowing chorus with a guitar solo preceeded by high, memorable pinch harmonics. Cosmic Retribution
has the most beautiful – and probably only – classical guitar solo you’ll hear in this style of metal, followed by the fastest shredding we’ve had in years. Demoniality
is a lead-heavy instrumental sludge fest that chugs on unrelentingly for a couple minutes. I don’t want to go overboard here – I’ll save some for the additional track-by-track below.
Although I may make out early Arch Enemy to be the pinnacle of heavy melodic metal (which it is), no band is ever flawless. The merits of Black Earth
outweigh it’s issues by far, but a review such as this should be well-rounded and tell of the record’s every aspect. The biggest gripe I have is the length. 38 minutes? That is rather short. They have plenty of songs on this album, but many seemed to be cut short to about three minutes. There are three tracks just over one single minute long (instrumentals) that throw off the average length, but even with two bonus tracks, this is not a long album. The music itself, while top-notch, is not always as exciting as it could be. In some places the riffs drag on a little too much. In others, maybe the guitar leads or melodies weren’t memorable. It’s hard to say what’s wrong with the music itself, because the music is excellent. I’m not going to sit here and make up a bunch of crap just to even things out – you’ll have to listen and decide for yourself.
The album opens with a musical kick in the jaw with Bury Me an Angel
. The intro is fast, dark, and brutal right from the start. WARNING: I cannot be held responsible for any neck injuries resulting from extreme head movement during this song. After an incredibly guitar harmony that almost defines Gothenburg, the song resumes it’s speed and brutality with Johan’s distinctive voice. The harmony is used here and there tastefully. A slow, melodic guitar solo (little shredding here) so an emotional level before the fast harmony comes back in accenting it beautifully. If you thought the last track was a brutal song that paved the way for a flurry of headbanging, wait until you hear Dark Insanity
. Unparalleled speed and heaviness highlight this metal anthem. Slower breaks for guitar harmonies only make the song seem even more punishing while Daniel punches away behind the set. Don’t overlook his blast beats, and especially the double bass/floor tom combo creating an atmosphere that couldn’t possibly work any better with the upcoming shredfest.
The following song, Eureka
, is a good relief. It’s slower and a little easier on the vertebrae J. Blasts of the guitar and drums back Johan’s vocals to the fullest. The palm muting of the guitar lick (used a few times) sounded great…they could’ve made a full epic solo out of that. The soloing of both guitars was incredible. Both together, and then back and forth…amazing. It’s like these brothers can read each other’s mind. Idolatress
comes in complete with bassy, percussive riffing. The main song parts are almost thrashy. The chorus has a slower, epic feel with chord-driven rhythms. The slower guitar playing halfway through with Johan doing death metal growls puts forth a fitting mood. The guitar was almost haunting, as the first part ends with pinch harmonics ringing out. The guitars solo together again. :cool: I can’t get enough of that.
As we progress, we get to Cosmic Retribution
, another rejuvenatingly ... “God turned his back on man
fast song with a cardboard box full of memorable riffs. Guitar harmonies ..........In divine resignation
highlight a fast, low power chord progression that sounds…dare I say….....Torn between two believes
menacing? Another screeching guitar solo is at hand, presumably played .....Eternal life or termination?"
by one of the Amott brothers. The acoustic classical solo was an ..............- taken from Fields of Desolation
unexpected twist that made my day. The amps are cranked up full as
the brothers shred their as
ses of in a thing I like to refer to as “pure metal mayhem".
We now come to the first instrumental track, Demoniality
. It is a sludgy song that chugs along incoherently for over a minute. Mostly a filler track, it has a good, dark atmosphere that fits the album. Transmigration Macabre
is the fastest song on the album yet. Sometimes I wonder if Daniel has to ice down his appendages after playing like that. m/ Catchy, grooving riffs are strewn about and compliment Johan’s fast, choppy vocals. The guitar soloing is fast shredding, but it has a very melodic sound to it. Palm muting and slight wah make it all to appropriate. The second instrumental on the album, Time Capsule
, is a great acoustic song highlighted by a distorted solo. Think Snow Bound
, but maybe not quite as good. Fields of Desolation
is a heavier song with somewhat of a chaotic feel. The brutal chord progressions are highlighted by the occasional high descending lick. Slow guitar soloing is apparent and gives a dark song an uplifting feel. The guitar solo was a beautiful display of melodic and harmonized shredding. The solo as the song fades out rings in my head all the time.
Now that we’re to the first bonus track, Losing Faith
, the mood seems to have changed to more of the modern Gothenburg kind. Guitars are harmonized while riffing throughout, and brief shredding is used as a quick lick. The chord progressions sound almost rock n’ roll at times and make it a very upbeat time. The guitar solo, however, couldn’t be more metal. Melodic playing with the always-popular wah effect sound excellent. After the solo, the guitars in unison play one of my favorite riffs on the entire album. Good stuff. The album closes with The Ides of March
. It opens slowly and builds up to a climax. The drums roll with a steady beat as the guitars solo one after another. It has a great, epic feel. For some reason this feel like the most appropriate way to end the album.
And in the end, everything we do, is just everything we’ve done
There you have it my friend. This album was the birthplace of one of metal’s most famous bands. I for one feel that the Johan Liiva albums are their best, but we cannot disregard the great things that Arch Enemy has done all throughout their career. The brutal, crushing music that came forth in the beginning will always have the edge over the melodic, Gothenburg style they play today.
Bury Me an Angel
Final Rating – 4.5/5
Enjoy, my friends. An overlooked staple in metal history.