Arch Enemy
Black Earth


4.5
superb

Review

by Shadows USER (89 Reviews)
August 7th, 2005 | 38 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist


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 asses 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.

Recommended tracks:
Bury Me an Angel
Dark Insanity
Cosmic Retribution
Transmigration Macabre

Final Rating – 4.5/5

Enjoy, my friends. An overlooked staple in metal history.



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user ratings (241)
Chart.
3.6
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Comments:Add a Comment 
masada
August 7th 2005


2733 Comments


This review is the length of many moons, and is good to boot. I like what you do with those side quote-type things. Like in magazines.

Shadows
Moderator
August 7th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank you. You caught me in the middle of editing them in (I wish sputnik had a 'preview post' button). I'm finished now. They were such a pain in the ass to do. I went with a ful album review as well as a track-by-track.This Message Edited On 08.07.05

/still isn't as long as Shattered_Future's Doosmday Machine reviewThis Message Edited On 08.07.05

Shattered_Future
August 7th 2005


1541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Jesus...this puts my Arch Enemy review to shame. Brillant job.

I listened to those Black Earth tracks today...all are brilliant. Cosmic Retribution...oh my fucking god. I almost broke my jaw, it dropped that low to the floor when the Amott brothers did that harmonized solo.

I have to get this album. It's now on the top of my "To get" list.

Shadows
Moderator
August 7th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank you very much. I think your Doomsaday Machine review was quite excellent.

I'd like to know - what do you guys think of the side-quotes of lyrics? I thought it was a prett original idea since no one ehre has done anything like it yet, but does it make the review look to cluttered? Hard to read? Let me know...it took me an hour to format all the code for it.

This is an excellent album.This Message Edited On 08.07.05This Message Edited On 08.07.05

masada
August 7th 2005


2733 Comments


I think it looks good, but I can see in a few places where it jumbles up the rest of the review.

Hells Bells
August 7th 2005


1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome review ShadowsFallen, very comprehensive. I've been listening to AE's newer stuff, and I completely forgot about Black Earth. Fields of Desolation is one of my favourite songs by them, brutal but very emotional at the same time. The lyrics and the atmphoshere created by the music go together perfectly -and then the solo at the end O_O
Incredible.
This Message Edited On 08.07.05

Shattered_Future
August 7th 2005


1541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's refreshingly original...if you tighten it up in a few places, it'll be perfect.

Shadows
Moderator
August 7th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Are you talking about the spacing around the quotes? I'm working with that right now, actually...

Ad Absurdum
August 7th 2005


44 Comments


Bloody good review, I'm not that into melodic death but I'm a guitarist who likes a good shredder so I might check this out.

The quotes at the side are a cool, makes you look even more professional.

Killtacular
August 7th 2005


1314 Comments


Christ, what a review. I liked them quotes on the sides. Very well done. You get an enthusiastic thumb.

:thumb:

Dead_Trench
August 7th 2005


159 Comments


We went from having to Arch Enemy reviews to 3 pretty fast. It is good to see more AE reviews, especially good ones like this.

loathed
August 8th 2005


174 Comments


you get my vote for the review.

Shadows
Moderator
August 8th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for all the cool compliments guys. I really appreciate it, especially when I try to do something new like this.

Burning Bridges is coming up next.

Keep posting. Let's see if we can get a second page going. This Message Edited On 08.08.05

Dead_Trench
August 8th 2005


159 Comments


Is Burning Bridges the album with Silverwing and Angelclaw on it? I love those songs.

Shadows
Moderator
August 8th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep, Burning Bridges has those two songs on it. I'll do a couple reviews in between but that will be the next AE review I do.

Shattered_Future
August 8th 2005


1541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was listening to some of Burning Bridges last night...I hate Johan's vocals on that. He lost his deeper edge...now it just sounds like he's yelling.

Shadows
Moderator
August 8th 2005


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, you're right. His voice got much higher on BB. The music I think is just as good as the albums before it though.

Arrakakaka
November 7th 2005


685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm iffy about a couple tracks, but the rest makes up. The opener is the best track.

King_Of_Terrors
December 10th 2005


52 Comments


Noice write up. I love this album. Good job!

Arrakakaka
December 10th 2005


685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Whoooa. This is on heavy listening from me.



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