Thursday, 2 June 2011

CD Review: Stigmata, by Arch Enemy (1998)

Arch Enemy's second album straddles the metal line between a juvenile punk attitude and a yearning for mature melody, with the two often battling for supremacy on the same track. The in-your-face punk sound on Stigmata is represented by Johan Liiva spitting out his growl lyrics with blatant contempt for whatever. Meanwhile Michael and Christopher Amott are busy weaving their guitar magic with classically inspired melodic interludes. The stressful marriage of two divergent paths would last for another album (Burning Bridges in 1999) before Liiva's departure.

Stigmata offers Dark Of The Sun and Tears Of The Dead as two examples of the better Arch Enemy elements that would come to the fore in future years. Dark Of The Sun, the longest track at 7 minutes, goes on a journey that starts with basic work boots but transforms to ballet shoes as the Amotts take over with an exquisite instrumental section, before ending with a brawny trip up the barren metal mountain. Tears Of The Dead is equally impressive, generating gyrating power from a driving riff that starts and dominates the song.

Elsewhere opener Beast Of Man and closer Bridge Of Destiny are potential show-stoppers hampered by the band's split personality. The rest of the album is solid without catching fire.

The best days of Arch Enemy were still ahead; Stigmata represents a group going through growing pains on the road to finding a stable identity.


Johan Liiva - Vocals
Martin Bengtsson - Bass
Peter Wildoer - Drums
Michael Amott - Guitars
Christopher Amott - Guitars

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Beast Of Man - 8
2. Stigmata - 7
3. Sinister Mephisto - 7
4. Dark Of The Sun - 9
5. Let The Killing Begin - 7
6. Black Earth - 7
7. Tears Of The Dead - 9
8. Vox Stellarum - n/a (short instrumental)
9. Bridge Of Destiny - 8

Average: 7.75

Note: The 2009 re-release includes an impressive seven tracks of bonus material, including four live performances.  

Produced and Engineered by Fredrik Nordstrom.
Mastered by Goran Finnberg.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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