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Solid, catchy and powerful. - 80%

Empyreal, September 28th, 2009

It is with no great shame that I will admit to enjoying this album. However, that’s still no excuse for making it. For those of you who don’t know, Arch Enemy have become extremely popular with the mall-ish crowd in the last few years for their more recent material, which stars the resident lass of the lacerated lungs, Angela Gossow. Now, most of those kids are Neanderthals, who don’t know anything about music, and as such, didn’t even know the old songs when the band played them live. I mean really, what kind of fan do you have to be to not know a band’s full discography, at least in passing? It’s positively maddening, but of course Arch Enemy pandered and remastered their older material so these Neanderthals could know what songs they were playing live. What’s going to happen when they play an old song that wasn’t on this compilation? Who knows? I don’t care, though; this compilation just smokes, and I’m here to review it, so let’s get started.

It’s amazing how one man can make a stale metal formula sound good. I’m of course talking about Chris Amott, who is the only reason I even checked this out, after enjoying his side band Armageddon so much. His guitar playing, as on Embrace the Mystery, is classic-metal oriented, with a lot of biting, gnashing riffs and melodious, searing leads for anyone’s consumption. It’s really hard to dislike this music; it’s just too un-pretentious and earnest. Everything about this is just bare-bones classic metal glory, with the only deviation being Gossow’s vitriolic barking, which actually doesn’t even sound that bad a lot of the time, being layered and polished to something suitably demonic. The riffs just keep coming at you, polished but not weakened or sterile in any way, and the leads are always entertaining and passionate, bursting with a dazzling flare that will no doubt be wasted on the kids who are only into this music for the “fucking brutal shit, dude.” But I digress.

And no, I haven’t heard the original versions of any of these songs. I know some people will bitch about how they’re too polished compared to the rawer original versions, but to that I say, don’t you think this band would have made these songs sound like this if they had the proper money and materials to, even back then? I highly doubt that 90% of extreme metal bands intended for their works to be as raw as they were – hell, most of them probably would’ve liked a louder, fuller sound if that would have been possible. I’m not going to claim that most of the extreme metal classics were only accidental in their atmosphere and unique feel, but I will say that there is definitely no conspiracy to ruin the classics here, or anywhere where old bands try to update their classic material. We don’t know what they originally intended when they wrote their music, and I find it pretty presumptuous for anyone to try and decry the band just for updating the sound alone, especially if it sounds this good.

And I have heard something about the band editing the songwriting itself, but like I said, it sounds good. They are always on top of things here. I do think this whole thing runs on a bit long, and that kind of hurts the material, but the songs are just solid as hell. It’s really quite bare-bones material: just play the riffs, let the solos rip out and have a fucking good time, no strings attached. And the best part about it? This has turned me onto the band and made me want to hear more of their material, and that is the best compliment I can give it. They crafted a good synthesis of their early works and featured kick-ass songs like “The Immortal,” the diabolical “Demonic Science,” the slower burn “Bury Me an Angel” and the exquisitely good “Bridge of Destiny,” and overall, I’m impressed. Check this out if you’ve never heard the band before. It’s good stuff.

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