For those new kids out there, “Wages Of Sin” was not ARCH ENEMY's first album! For you melodic metalcore kids still high on LAMB OF GOD and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE who thought the Swedish roots of their beloved genre only stretched back to IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, and ARCH ENEMY I’ll refrain from lashing out on the Angela Gossow material because we all know how you guys love those albums. And Angela Gossow…
I myself wasn’t exposed to much early ARCH ENEMY material, although I did end up hearing a few songs with old vocalist Johan Liiva, so this album is fresh and new to me, and the first thing I have to say is how surprisingly heavy it is. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I was expecting something a lot more along the lines of the thrash and melodic death metal of the Gossow era albums. Instead, what you can expect from “Black Earth” is a mixture of old-school European death metal (especially that heavy guitar tone that almost gets into double-distortion buzzin’ territory), melodic death metal, lots of harmonized solos, and so much from “Heartwork” era-CARCASS that I’ll need to discuss that on it’s own.
Those people who know me personally know how much I loved “Heartwork”, and certainly since guitarist Mike Amott played on that album, it’s not surprising that I can pick out riffs and melodies and such that sound very similar to specific songs on “Heartwork”. From the subtle hints of death rock, to the modernized JUDAS PRIEST riffs and IRON MAIDEN melodies, to some of those ultra-heavy holding down the chords, to the tremolo picking that stands apart from the also-rans, to the runs, there are so many subtle hints from “Heartwork”. Mike Amott even shakes his notes the same way he and Bill Steer did on “Heartwork“.
Of course, there’s the former vocalist Johan Liiva, who I thought was always capable with his mid-range/slightly low bark. It’s kind of unfortunate that he let his vocals shine with a lot more range and diction in the band he formed right after he left ARCH ENEMY, which was on “Deus Deceptor” by NONEXIST. I have to admit that his predecessor, Angela Gossow has a powerful voice with a notable death metal tone.
I haven’t had a chance to hear the other two ARCH ENEMY albums, “Stigmata” or “Burning Bridges” to recommend a truly great ARCH ENEMY album over one another. The general consensus that I’ve gathered so far is that most people favor either “Black Earth” or “Burning Bridges”. Let’s hope that Century Media feels like re-releasing those other two albums sometime soon. Oh! I almost forget, since this is a re-release, the copy I got came with extra tracks “Losing Faith”, and two IRON MAIDEN covers, “The Ides Of March” and “Aces High”. I’m not sure if the actual copy getting released will have these tracks, or perhaps different or more tracks, due to the fact that this album also came out in 2002 with the same added songs. Is the video track perhaps a bonus? I’m not sure, but as far as those IRON MAIDEN covers are concerned, sometimes harsh vocalists sometimes have a hard time making the transition from sung songs to screamed ones due to the fact that harsh vocals have no pitch, but Johan Liiva does his best interpretation by moving his harsh scream up and down in a somewhat similar fashion to how Bruce Dickenson might sing. Not only that, but you can never go wrong with IRON MAIDEN!
I’m sure the appearance of “Black Earth” in CD stores would confuse many modern ARCH ENEMY fans into wondering what this release is. I can just imagine all the remarks of “I didn’t know ARCH ENEMY had a new album out!” to “What’s wrong with the vocals?” to “There’s no chick in this band?!” Of course, that only goes out to those melodic metalcore fans who only care slightly about their roots, as opposed to those who don’t care at all, or those who care a lot.