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Almost the perfect album - 97%

PorcupineOfDoom, September 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2002, 2CD, Century Media Records (Enhanced)

Not many people dispute the fact that 'Wages Of Sin' is the best album Arch Enemy released with Angela at the helm of the ship (although fans of the original band lineup may disagree about it being the best AE album of all-time). And despite the number of great albums that they've put out over the years, I have to agree with that as well.

This is quite possibly the only album I've ever listened to where I don't feel the need to skip a single track (usually there are one or two annoying tracks that I can't bring myself to listen to). Literally every song on this album is a masterpiece. You have the fast and melodic songs like 'Enemy Within' and 'Burning Angel', the slow and heavy 'Savage Messiah' and 'The First Deadly Sin', the melodic intermission 'Snow Bound'. Literally everything on this album is great.

I was never a fan of Johan Liiva, but it's undeniable that Angela Gossow far outclasses him. Obviously he has a lot of fans, but I find myself falling far outside that circle. To be honest, they're the one thing that put me off of Arch Enemy in the first place. With the rest of the lineup unchanged, you kind of know what to expect. The Amott brothers throw insane hooks and solos around the entire album, coupled with solid riffs in the background by whoever's turn it is to play rhythm rather than lead. Meanwhile Daniel drums solidly throughout, large portions of the album played with rapid double bass that match the general pace of the songs. He does prove that he can tone it down and play slower, more rhythmical parts as well on tracks such as 'Heart Of Darkness'. There isn't really too much point in mentioning Sharlee as we know that hardly anyone will hear most of his work, but we also know that he's an excellent player that keeps the time well.

With so many good tracks on this album, it really is nearly impossible to pick a favourite. It just sort of depends on what you're in the mood to listen to. My favourites were probably 'Burning Angel' and 'Savage Messiah', but I really could have said almost any of the tracks.

My only little niggle is that there are a couple of songs that pale in comparison to others. For example, 'Heart Of Darkness' seems far worse when listening from cover to cover than it would if you were to just listen to it on its own, purely because it's sandwiched between two of the best songs on the album ('Burning Angel' and 'Ravenous'). If you were to listen to 'Behind The Smile' next to these songs, I'm pretty sure it'd seem worse as well.

So that covers the first CD, the one with the new works on it. But the version that I own came with a second CD, one featuring older songs that were unreleased or considered hard to find. Unlike the first CD, this one features Johan Liiva doing the vocals (which did initially put me off of listening to it).

When I gave it the chance though, there were some pretty good songs on there. 'Starbreaker', a Judas Priest cover, is an excellent song full of fast drumming and heavy guitars (tuned lower than on the first CD, making them seem heavier) where you can almost forget about Johan's poor vocals. To be honest though, they aren't even that bad on that song, it's more 'Damnation's Way' that shows just how shit he can be. The music is so good, but the vocals just sound dead out of place. It doesn't even sound like he's singing or growling, just kind of talking over the top of the music without any kind of method. It's a shame really, because it pretty much ruins an awesome song.

All in all an excellent album with an additional seven tracks to keep the Liiva fans happy (four of which I will admit I liked). This is genuinely a record that I feel will go down in history as one of the peaks of melodic death metal, or indeed metal as a whole. Music doesn't get much more perfect than this.