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Melody doesn't have to mean soft - 93%

Vim_Fuego, August 8th, 2004

When people look back on the metal of 2001, what will be best remembered? Slayer's return to form with 'God Hates Us All'? Slipknot failing to live up to the hype with the dire 'Iowa'? Emperor's final exit with 'Prometheus…'? Deicide's crazed contractual obligation album 'In Torment In Hell'? If there was any justice in the world, 'Wages of Sin' would be hailed as the defining album of 2001. It won't be, but hey, life ain't fair.

Right from the get go, Arch Enemy command respect. Even on first listen, the technical brilliance of the band is awe–inspiring. The riffing and soloing is amazing. It immediately gets in your face, grabs you by the ears, and shakes until you can't help but give it your full attention. This is not something to listen to while you're working, as you'll be constantly distracted. That's not to say it's overly technical in a prog–rock kind of way. No, this is interchangeable twin guitar rifferama, as pioneered by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, where it's difficult to tell where rhythm and lead guitar blend seamlessly.

Choosing the outstanding tracks on this album is impossible. As each new track begins you think "this is the one!" but then the next track begins you think "or maybe this". There is not a dud, filler, or weaker track among them. Just as a random example, "Heart of Darkness" starts with what sounds like a riff left over from Carcass' pathologically essential 'Necroticism: Descanting The Insalubrious'. Angela Gossow's guttural growl (it says here it's a female vocalist, though it's difficult to believe!) also sounds a lot like that produced by the Carcass lads.

Latter day Carcass seems to be a reference point time and again, and if any band deserves to revisit the likes of 'Heartwork' and 'Swansong', it's Arch Enemy. After all, Michael Amott helped define their post–'Symphonies of Sickness' sound. All the same, it would be misleading and unfair to call Arch Enemy Carcass clones. This band has it's own unique musical identity, out–muscling a majority of so–called melodic death metal bands, but still retaining that essential listenability and attention to detail missing from more brutal bands.

While the brainwashed, baggy–trousered hordes think they have found the essence of "extreme" metal in Slipknot and System Of A Down, anyone with an ear for what metal CAN be will be tracking this down and smiling quietly and blissfully.