This CD of rare covers and demo's came packaged with the special edition re-release of the Wages Of Sin (for more on this album, see MADRIGAL's review, it's pretty excellent, the album and the review!). Apparently it was also available with Stigmata.
All songs on this were recorded prior to Angela Gossow joining the band, and feature Johan Liiva on vocals.
I'll review this track by track because, since this is an odds n' sods collection, there's no point in trying to get across the "feel" of the album.
1. STARBREAKER - I've not heard the original Priest version of this, but I'm familiar with their music in general, and their style can be recognised in this cover, albeit with a few nice additions in the way of blastbeats, and obviously the roared vocals. A great song overall. 4/5
2. ACES HIGH - At one time, there was no way I could ever entertain a cover of a Maiden song with shouty vocals, but that all changed when I heard this. The band are, instrumentally at least, quite faithful to the original, and although this is a very good cover, it pales in comparison to Children Of Bodom's take on it. Maybe AE just didn't put enough of their own touch to it, but either way, its still quite good. 3.5/5
3. SCREAM OF ANGER - Predictably, the only Europe song I've heard is The Final Countdown, but thankfully Arch Enemy haven't done the predictable, and instead chose to cover this. Again, having not heard the original, I can't comment on how true to it they stay, but I can safely guess that the vocals and drums are a tad harsher than Europe's version, and probably the other instruments too! 3.7/5
4. DIVA SATANICA - In the liner notes, Mike Amott states that this is one of his favourite Arch Enemy songs, and from a guitar point of view, I can see that he would very much have enjoyed playing the frantic riffs which feature in most of the song. The lyrics seem a little ripped off from Iron Maiden's "22 Acacia Avenue" ("Misuse her, abuse her... Seduce her, she'll use you..." see what I mean?). Overall though, the guitar work is the only really amazing thing about this song, but even the solo can't save it, as it seems to me to be mindless widdling (impressive mindless widdling mind you!), but not up to the melodic standards in songs such as "The Immortal" and "Burning Angel." 3/5
5. FIELDS OF DESOLATION '99 - This is a re-recording of a song from the "Black Earth" album which didn't turn out as good as the orignal, according to Mike in the liner notes. I've not heard the original version (this disc is the only Liiva-era material I currently own), but I must say, I love this song, especially the minor key main riff, and the melodic leads. The highlight of this disc, IMO. 4.7/5
6. DAMNATION'S WAY - I'm not going to mindlessly regurgitate the liner notes again, but suffice to say, Mr. Amott isn't exactly praising of this song, or, in fact any part of it, slamming it as AE's worst recording! It features a different drummer than usual (Peter Wildoer). The song isn't unforgivably bad, but not up to the band's usual standards. 3/5
7. HYDRA - This song is a typical AE instrumental, featuring keyboards from the bands then-producer Frederik Nordstrom, which work quite effectively. However, just when you expect it to break into a massive riff or lead break, it just stops. Dead. 2.5/5
8. THE IMMORTAL (VIDEO) - This is quite a cool video, set in some random building with a load of industrial fan blades spinning in the shadows nearby. Johan's mouth distorts as he sings, which adds a nice, if weird, effect to the proceedings. The song itself is great; Johan's vocals are strangely reminiscent of Peter Dolving (The Haunted) which is always a good thing, and there's plenty of brutal riffage followed by a huge solo section. Pretty good, by all accounts! 4.5/5
My Rating for this disc alone is 3/5. It's an interesting listen, if not always as brilliant as their other material. It seems some of these songs didn't make it onto albums with good reason (although many appeared as bonus tracks on various worldwide releases).
NOTE: If you buy this as part of the Wages Of Sin 2-disc set that I mentioned at the start of the review, you also get 2 bonus tracks on the WOS disc too, those being Lament Of A Mortal Soul (an absolutely shredding song, I think it was a WOS outtake), and the CD-Rom Video for Ravenous (one of my favourite AE songs, with a great video, not least because it features the delectable Angela Gossow! :D)