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Burning bridges since '99 - 88%

octure, June 11th, 2010

I was fortunate enough to have received this album as a freebie when Arch Enemy came to play here in the Philippines last year. I consider this to be my favorite pre-Gossow Arch Enemy album. While this isn't as heavy as 'Stigmata' or 'Black Earth', this is a more focused and consistent effort rather than merely a Michael Amott solo project that some people felt with the previous records.

The songs move towards a mix of thrash, melodic death, groove and at times, 80's metal. This made them differ from other Swedish melodic metal bands in the day. Even though they put more emphasis on melody this time, tracks are still generally fast paced with hints of thrash and groove all around. Worth mentioning is 'Silverwing', one of the highlights on this album with its amazing harmonious intro, the thrashing verse section, and the very melodic and anthemic chorus and solo section.

Unsurprisingly, the guitar work is tremendous here, thanks to the Amott brothers. A hardcore Arch Enemy listener could probably always recognize Michael Amott's signature sound. That is what is present here, especially on the leads and solos. The solo section on 'The Immortal' is another highlight here as well as 'Angelclaw'. Christopher Amott deserves his kudos too, given that he is the more technical of the two soloists. One of the reasons why I pointed out that this was a focused album is that the rhythm division (bass & drums) could really keep the structure and cadence of the songs even if they are uncomplicated and straightforward. The oddest song here would have to be the title track. It is quite slow-paced, and backed with atmospheric keyboards and piano towards the end but sad to say, it was ultimately lackluster. I would have preferred a simple instrumental track and another shorter full song. Finally, Johan Liiva’s trademark vocal delivery is still what it is, the mid-ranged and abrasive bark, although I felt that it was a bit weaker now than on ‘Stigmata’.

What I hear is an Arch Enemy that shifted to a more melodic approach which in turn could have most likely marked the transition towards 'Wages of Sin'. Overall, the album has a cleaner and more refined sound than its predecessors, almost giving a feeling and sense of triumph and conquest. Sacrificing intensity of previous albums for catchy melodies and grooves does not signal a regression from form. In fact, I believe that Arch Enemy had attained their true essence with 'Burning Bridges'. If you’re interested in checking out the old Arch Enemy, this is a pretty good starting point.