Arch Enemy - _Burning Bridges_
(Century Media, 1999)
by: Paul Schwarz (
With this latest offering, Arch Enemy have at last succeeded in creating the album I'd always hoped they would. _Black Earth_ stated the band's commitment to brutality while also displaying their ability and desire to add melodic, emotional, and ultimately "softer" elements to their visibly-but-not-derivatively Carcass-influenced, head-down-riffing style. On _Burning Bridges_ the potential of this dynamic combination has finally been realised. Where last effort _Stigmata_ was a little too ponderous and got lost in its own technicality at times, _BB_ finds the perfect balance between these two opposing forces. What lets down even albums by great melodic death bands like In Flames is that they sound a little too happy to top my list of favourites. Arch Enemy, though, have leads and guitar harmony parts which could put many of these bands to shame, but they retain that spark of sheer brutality which is a part of all my favourite death metal albums: the crushing riffs, the lethal drum assault and thundering bass and the brutal vocals. _BB_ is dark like a death metal album should be, but the use of melody in the guitar work push it limitlessly far above the level of a standard death metal release like _Gallery of Suicide_ or _Serpents of the Light_. Incredible blazing leads blister out of songs like "Dead Inside", while "Demonic Science" showcases an almost prog-rock sounding breakdown and "Silverwing"'s chorus section is in major chords. What I love most, though, is the way Arch Enemy slip between the two different feels. "Pilgrim" begins with a hugely melodic, very heavy metal, lead/harmony part, but when Johan Liiva's crushing vocals enter, so does a heavy, percussive, death metal sounding verse riff, then, when the chorus comes in, the two opposites are expertly combined together. "Angelclaw" follows a similarly brilliant dynamic pattern. It took me a while to get into _BB_ and realise how damn brilliant it is, so give it a chance, because Arch Enemy have gone out on a limb here and managed to pool their considerable talents and emerge with one of the year's best albums.
(article published 7/7/1999)
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