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Melodic Death Metal Perfection - 98%

Hatesnuggles, March 12th, 2005

This album features two of the world’s fastest, most complex and talented guitarists. Heavy, thundering bass accented by pounding, precise drumming which even out the rhythm section. All topped off by a woman with the face of an angel and the voice of the Devil. This is Arch Enemy’s Wages of Sin.

The guitar work on this album is second to none. The riffs come flying from the rest of the music on the album. The Amotts’ solos perfectly add a new layer to the songs, standing alone against one another, as well as strong against solos from any other band on any other album. The album has parts where the guitars frantically spit out notes at top speeds, chug along very low and intimidating, create a softer and moving sound, make a creepy haunting vibe, and soar high majestic and proud. This is melodic death metal perfection.

Competing with the excellent guitar work is the remarkable death vocals of Angela Gossow in her first album with Arch Enemy. Quite honestly, as far as death metal singers go, her voice is incredible. While not quite the highest or lowest of all death metal growlers, she has a great range. From flat out screaming to a high, almost seductive, whisper-like sound to a low, impressive growl. What separates her from many other death metal singers is she doesn’t have just one “death voice”. In many other death metal bands, the style of singing sounds the exact same on every single song, only with different lyrics. Angela, on the other hand, manages to handle each song differently, using varying nuances and inflections in her voice on every track. In Johan Liiva’s absence, she has turned out to be more than a worthy replacement.

Now, for those of you who are not death metal fans and are still reading, I’ll say this to you. Even if you’re not a big fan of harsh vocals, give this album a couple spins. It may take you a few listens to get used to Angela’s voice, I won’t doubt that. But, I also don’t doubt that you’ll be sucked into the technical instrumental work, while possibly being put off by Ms. Gossow’s screaming. I know this because I AM a melodic death metal fan and that’s how I felt about Arch Enemy at first. But hang in there; once you gain an appreciation for the music, an acceptance and maybe even enjoyment of the vocals could follow. Once you get to the point where you want to hear the Amotts’ slam out a little guitar, you’ll find yourself hooked. Just give it a matter of time.

Now, back to the album. It begins with an array of songs that should be death metal classics. Not just Arch Enemy classics, but songs that should be included when making the death metal time capsule. Some of the greatest tracks Arch Enemy’s ever recorded sit right up front on Wages.

A deceptively calm piano piece serves as the intro to the album, lulling the listener in a false sense of security and peace. This peace is soon shattered as the guitars and rums of “Enemy Within” explode from your speakers. What it starts with is probably one of the best riffs ever laid on tape which leads a short, sweet and insane metal track that will either immediately make you want to hear the rest of the album or send you screaming into the night, unable to handle the metal overdoes. You’ll then spend the rest of your poor existence listening to Kenny G records, trying to unwind and settle down from the metal madness. But, for those of you who managed to survive this first track, the best is yet to come.

Some nice demonic overtones along with a chilling but catchy opening harmony are just a couple reasons why “Burning Angel” is one of, if not my absolute, favorite Arch Enemy songs. While not quite as fast as its predecessor, this track is just as intense. A consistent rhythm section, some excellent double guitar harmonies, Angela screaming her heart out and a guitar solo that could make Yngwie Malmsteen say “Damn, that was pretty cool” flesh out this awesome death metal classic.

“Heart of Darkness” continues the album. Quite a bit slower than the last two, but a very complex song with several different parts and really takes advantage of Angela’s range. “Ravenous” is an extremely intense song, and was the first single from this album. It starts with some unusual riffing, but soon explodes into a fast-paced headbanger’s delight with some pretty gruesome lyrics. It’s the kind of song that makes you throw your devil horns in the air proudly, all the while wondering what the hell is going on inside their heads. All the while being sure this is a song that will be on their live setlist for years to come. Then, a more epic feeling comes from “Savage Messiah”, which is probably one of the few Arch Enemy songs you could say that about. From a slow, ominous opening, ripping into full metal fury, to a truly mighty refrain, this song is probably an example of some of Arch Enemy’s best songwriting. Definitely a fine example of what Arch Enemy can do, rounding out the classics that open up this album.

The rest of the songs on the album each have their own appeal and have a unique sound. While not quite as good as the songs that kick off the album, each should still remain in the death metal hall of fame. There’s the trudging, ugly, angry “Dead Bury Their Dead”, with it’s excellent drum work, time changes and bass lines. The excellent guitar licks towards the end of “Web of Lies” make the track MORE than worthy of a listen. “The First Deadly Sin” is an obviously Slayer-influenced track, with some classic speed-metal parts. While “Behind the Smile” starts very different, with a groovier, almost nu-metallic opening, this is just Arch Enemy branching out in a different direction and doing it pretty well. “Shadows and Dust” is an excellent song, almost taking a page out of the Megadeth playbook (the main riff sounds suspiciously like “A Secret Place”), everything in this song works perfectly, from the catchy tech riffs, to Angela’s screaming and the constant pounding rhythm. This is a song I’d love to hear them play live some day. Finally, the album is laid to rest with “Lament of a Mortal Soul”. What begins as a standard, catchy metal song is given an interesting touch with some unusual, seemingly misplaced guitar work during the refrain, but in the end it all works pretty well.

So, there you have it. In my mind, death metal perfection. You’ve got a pair of metal’s best guitarists doing what they do best. Writing excellent metal tracks and performing them as only they can. This is one of the few albums where I can honestly say I don’t need or want to skip a track. Which is very rare for me to say about a death metal CD, even if it is melodic. I can’t say it enough, this is an album that does everything right. From the piano at the beginning of “Enemy Within” to the last notes of “Lament of a Mortal Soul”, this is a 90-MPH heavy metal roller coaster, with hills, valleys and even a couple loops. For those of you who are death metal fans, this is absolutely recommended listening. For those of you who aren’t… this absolute recommended listening, it may even convert you to the darker side.