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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Arch Enemy

Wages of Sin

Review by Mike Korn

They say anticipation makes the heart grow fonder. If that's the case, metal fans should be looking forward to the latest Arch Enemy record Wages of Sin" with unmatched adoration. It's taken the patience of Job and the persistence of Captain Ahab to get this metallic treasure unleashed in the US but hallelujah, the day has finally come! The record has been out in Japan and Korea for almost a year and in Europe for a couple of months. Why it took so long for US fans to check it out is a mystery only some Century Media management wonk can answer.

Arch Enemy is just about the perfect band if you are into aggressive but very well played and melodic metal. The guitar playing wizardry suggests Death's Chuck Schuldiner and Testament's Alex Skolnick/Glen Alvelais at their most technically sound. Here's a band that's not afraid to scorch the frets with some genuinely shredding solos! And why would you expect any less from a band that features Michael Amott, who contributed to the glorious Carcass album "Necroticism", and his brother Christopher manning the axes? The brothers expertise is matched by the extremely talented bass/drum tandem of Sharlee D'Angelo (also in Witchery and Mercyful Fate, amongst others) and Daniel Erlandson. The new joker in the deck is vocalist Angela Gossow. Yes, dudes, it's a girl and man, does she rip! No sweetly singing chanteuse is this...instead, Ms. Gossow has that "gargling with razor blades" raspiness down pat, mixed in with an occasional low growl. Unlike, say, Kittie, there is absolutely NO clean singing here. In addition to being quite the babe, Angela fits 100% with the aggressive style of Arch Enemy.

"Wages of Sin" is a superb effort if you dig powerful melodic death/thrash metal. The only drawback is that some of the riffs and solos seem pretty familiar. Once in a while, it becomes a case of "oh, there's a riff from Testament" or "hey, that solo sounds like it comes from Death". Arch Enemy quite rightly aren't afraid to tip their hat to their influences, but it occasionally points out a lack of a strong identity of their own. Nonetheless, "Wages of Sin" is required listening for all true metal fanatics. See if you can grab the special double CD which includes some rare cover tunes and unreleased tracks for a real treat.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Enemy Within
A stark piano intro leads to a choppy Metallica "Battery" style riff, a swirling guitar arpeggio is added and then the track really picks up speed. Angela's rusty barbed wire vocals hit you straight off, and the song is a good introduction to Arch Enemy's speedy but busy style.
Burning Angel
Opening riffs on this one recall "Unleash the Beast" from Hypocrisy's "Into the Abyss" album but the melodic guitar touches soon set it apart. Erlandson's drumming is outstanding. It's a great aggressive cut still loaded with melody.
Heart of Darkness
It sounds like a fairly typical chunky thrasher, with a bit more "groove" to it, but the sweeping, majestic chorus really catches you by surprise and helps make the cut more memorable. There's also a pretty melodic break in the middle where things cool down for a bit before returning to the more metallic feel.
Ravenous
This starts with some really quirky guitar work before hitting a thrashy Testament style vibe. There's a classical feeling to some of the Amott Brother's fret bending on this one. Angela's vocals are nasty on lyrics like "Ravenous, I will be a God, Carnivorous Jesus, I need your flesh!"
Savage Messiah
A slower track all the way through, this starts with an ominous twanging riff before a very doomy crushing guitar hook comes in. It's fairly catchy and features another lighter section in the middle.
Dead Bury the Dead
The opening hook on this one is just too familiar, and I've heard many bands use it. One of the record's fastest and heaviest cuts, it seems pretty basic compared to the other tunes on show here but there's still some cool soloing going on.
Web pf Lies
This is a fairly complex piece with a mid-tempo vibe to most of it. Angela's vocals are about as sick as any female you will ever hear.
The First Deadly Sin
The opening dissonant chords soon give way to a blast of total Slayer inspired thrash sounding like it came right off "Hell Awaits". This is the purest thrash track on the record.
Behind the Smile
Real choppy heavy riffs with some sick down-tuning characterize this medium-paced cruncher. The mournful chorus with its keyboard backing again brings memories of Hypocrisy's slower moments. This is the closest Arch Enemy get to true death metal yet there's still classy melody on the guitar solos.
Snowbound
This mellower instrumental brings a touch of relief to the proceedings and allows Michael Amott to show how tasteful a guitar player he can be.
Shadows of Dust
This comes across like a cross between Testament and In Flames but it's definitely the most accessible and commercial track on the record. I probably would have ended the disc with "First Deadly Sin".
Lament of a Mortal Soul
This is a bonus track that will make its way onto most copies of the CD. I really don't know how to describe the opening riffs on this, as it sounds fairly upbeat and catchy. The song is OK and heavy all the way through, but it doesn't really stand up with the best on the rest of the disc.
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