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Black Earth - Arch Enemy

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Genre: Hard Rock & Metal - Speed Metal & Thrash / Artist: Arch Enemy / Audio CD released 2002-03-25 at Regain

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      26.01.2008 13:01
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      Arch Enemy's first album (1996).

      Departing from Carcass once his work was done in really helping to kickstart melodic death metal with the classic 'Heartwork' album, Michael Amott recruited his brother Christopher and fellow Swedes Daniel Erlandsson and Johan Liiva to continue mixing violence with sweet harmony in Arch Enemy. Less refined than its immediate successor 'Stigmata,' 'Black Earth' does seem like the bastard son of Heartwork, exaggerating the contrast between heaviness and often jarring melodic lead guitars and lighter choruses to create an album that still works well, but comes perilously close to making a mockery of the whole notion of melodic death metal.

      The Amott brothers' light, eighties-throwback lead guitars will likely be the main point of contention between Arch Enemy fans and more seasoned/weary members of the death metal community. When I was but a schoolboy hearing 'Burning Bridges' for the first time I thought it was a fantastically conflicting mix and instantly became my second favourite melodic death album of all time, though to put it in perspective the only other I had heard was the far superior 'Heartwork.' Listening again with years of death metal baggage, that later album, and to a lesser extent this debut, are plagued by what I can't help but think of as "TV solos," pretty entertaining in their own right but noodling about in a manner and tone reminiscent of what the people who composed incidental music for 1980s TV shows thought a rock guitar sounded like. This flaw isn't quite so prominent on the first two albums, but a couple of TV solos still find their way into songs like 'Eureka.' For the most part, the Amott brothers play fast and loud in the same thrash style as later Carcass (particularly in 'Idolatress' and 'Transfiguration Macabre'), heading in a nicely contrasting direction to that band's slow 'Swan Song' released the same year.

      The main failing of this debut is that the songs all sound pretty much the same, opening with a mid-speed riff and then launching into the ferocious assault before the verses, slower choruses and solos. The only ones that stand out as significantly different are made just a little bit too different, particularly the minute-long time-wasters 'Demoniality' and 'Time Capsule,' short and pointless instrumentals that you would expect acted as a sort of intro and outro for the song in-between. They don't though. The only point of the second instrumental seems to be the inclusion of some acoustic guitar to further demonstrate the band's melodic side, something that is also attempted with pretty horrendous results in 'Cosmic Retribution,' where an acoustic section jumps out of nowhere after the solos with none of the folk intrigue of early In Flames.

      Despite being a shaky start, this is still a decent melodeath album for those who don't mind the contrast to be fairly strong and not as well-integrated as something like Amon Amarth or Dismember, and it avoids any traces of the Gothenburg/metalcore sound that we really don't need to hear anymore. The end of the album is particularly fun, moving from the excellent 'Fields of Desolation' and oddly bouncy 'Losing Faith' to a couple of Iron Maiden covers seemingly seeking to prove how death elements can be incorporated into melodic heavy metal, rather than the alternative approach of the previous ten tracks. The band successfully re-captures the energy of Maiden's classic 'Aces High,' but it's still essentially an abomination. A fun one though.

      1. Bury Me an Angel
      2. Dark Insanity
      3. Eureka
      4. Idolatress
      5. Cosmic Retribution
      6. Demoniality
      7. Transfiguration Macabre
      8. Time Capsule
      9. Fields of Desolation
      10. Losing Faith
      11. The Ides of March (Iron Maiden cover)
      12. Aces High (Iron Maiden cover)

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  • Product Details

    Disc #1 Tracklisting
    1 Bury Me An Angel
    2 Dark Insanity
    3 Eureka
    4 Idolatress
    5 Cosmic Retribution
    6 Demoniality
    7 Transmigration Macabre
    8 Time Capsule
    9 Fields Of Desolation
    10 Losing Faith
    11 Ides Of March
    12 Aces High