Arch Enemy - _Stigmata_
(Century Media, 1998)
by: Paul Schwarz (8.5 out of 10)
Arch Enemy have made an interesting, and slightly unexpected, progression from their _Black Earth_ debut of two years ago. Opener "Beast of Man" kicks in with searing riffing and thundering double bass, which creates the false impression that the new material will be far more like the _Heartwork_ era Carcass sound which characterised much of _Black Earth_. Arch Enemy have, in fact, gone the opposite way -- in terms of heaviness, not quality --, and produced an album which utilises far more melody, especially in its choruses, than _BE_ did. This may sound like a "wimp out" by the band, but that would be seeing the matter very narrowly. Arch Enemy have not drawn their "melody" from pop or even folk; in fact, nearly everything that characterises the difference between _Stigmata_ and _Black Earth_ can be summed up in three words: classic heavy metal. Arch Enemy have gone back to the classics like Iron Maiden or Helloween and successfully injected much of what made traditional metal classic into the body of their primarily 90s death metal sound. The results are -very- successful and this mixing is what makes _Stigmata_ a great album. Arch Enemy introduce blinding solos of epic length straight after belting out viciously bassy riffs and deep powerful vocals: a beautiful contrast. On songs such as "Let the Killing Begin", Arch Enemy allow harsh simple riffs and pounding drums to give way suddenly to twin guitar melodic scale progressions and then effortlessly flow back into hard riffing or great soloing -- or whatever they choose. What is more pleasing is that Arch Enemy don't seem to be worried about what they're putting into a song as long as it sounds good: they're doing just fine there. Admittedly, a few riffs or songs do overstay their welcome, but this is rare and overall _Stigmata_ is a great album and one of the best directions Arch Enemy could have chosen to follow after their critical success with _Black Earth_.

(article published 8/7/1998)

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