Arch Enemy - Stigmata
Century Media
Melodic Death Metal
9 songs (46:20)
Release year: 1998
Arch Enemy, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The knells are sounding as yet another album from this once-great band starts its ominous approach, doubtless to be hailed by mainstream publications as the greatest thing to happen to heavy metal since those cobweb-strewn weirdos Carcass split up and allowed Michael Ammott to take his rightful place as widdlemaster supreme. I’m on record as enjoying the various ways in which Arch Enemy have ploughed their back catalogues, despite myself – anthems like Nemesis and Blood On Your Hands seem written especially to appeal, and no doubt they were. Yet I have a grumpy urge to curse and throw things whenever pictures of Angela Gossow start to appear on metal magazine covers – even more so when the band’s publicity corps have decided that clothing them like a Crass tribute act will suit these living hardcore radical times and sell more albums to champagne socialists – and the end result is that getting out the band’s old albums and giving them a listen reminds what a great act they used to be.

No pretentions at being an underdog fighting for democracy, no attractive blonde, just spectacular melodic metal with guitars all over the place and a great frontman in Johan Liiva. Stigmata, the second Arch Enemy full-length, is a more than solid showcase not just for the Ammott brothers to show how good they can play the guitar, but also for the underrated Liiva to do his raspy-bellowy thing over a set of near-flawless songs that pack a timeless punch. Opening with a rampaging Beast Of Man, all flying double-bass and conga-lining guitar leads, the album wastes little time in getting stuck in and rattling out melodic death hit after hit. Copious bells and whistles ensure that the core solid gold melodeath is even better, from the ominous instrumental title track that abruptly turns fruitily melodic for an amusing centre section, to the interestingly diverse drumwork on Dark Of The Sun. There’s even a second instrumental Vox Stellarum, copious piano making them sound like Dream Theater at one point!

Thrash-ridden cuts like Sinister Mephisto have enough twists and turns without actually being proggy to keep you listening despite the full near-six-minute running times. A stomping introduction to Let The Killing Begin sets it up as a live anthem, complete with militaristic drum battering and Carcass-esque riffage, but the best comes with the epic opening to Black Earth, Strapping Young Lad-esque levels of building intensity soon launching into attack – melodeath at its best. Songwriting throughout is excellent, and really this is about as flawless as the genre gets. By the time finale Bridge Of Destiny rolls around, all heart-stirring melancholy and fist-pumping melody, not only will you be falling over yourself to grab ahold of the other Liiva-era albums, you’ll be cursing the day Arch Enemy fired him. Why? Simply because, as briefly entertaining as they can be with each mindless rebellion and angst-ridden chorus, they’re never going to be as good as Stigmata again.

Killing Songs :
Beast Of Man, Sinister Mephisto, Dark Of The Sun, Let The Killing Begin, Black Earth, Bridge Of Destiny
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Arch Enemy that we have reviewed:
Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges reviewed by Ben and quoted 90 / 100
Arch Enemy - War Eternal reviewed by Joel and quoted 89 / 100
Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions reviewed by Tony and quoted 87 / 100
Arch Enemy - Tyrants Of The Rising Sun - Live In Japan reviewed by Pete and quoted no quote
Arch Enemy - Rise Of The Tyrant reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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