After parting ways with Carcass following the completion of Heartwork, the Swede Michael Amott embarked on his own project called Arch Enemy. Stigmata is the non-sell-out sibling of that last reviled/worshiped Carcass album in which Amott participated in. Starting out with Johan Liva barking in the vocal department, this was a far cry from the embarrassingly audience-pleasing act this band later became.
While most so-called melodic death metal acts, including later Arch Enemy, following in the footsteps of Carcass’ last album (Swansong should have been kept by Bill Steer for private use) produce clear, straight-up pop verse-chorus with riffs and solos in the manner of the most mainstream 1980s metal. Sticking out from the crowd, Stigmata explores different song structures, and different ratios between Swedeath Carnage-style riff sections and those which are direct references to 1980s melodic metal. Michael Amott presents us here, in this still underground release, the best of his ideas in their most sincere (though not optimal) form.
Symptomatic of the middle-age crisis that underground metal went through in the mid 1990s, Stigmata shows a sincere desire to produce solid, thought-out metal music, but its motivation and direction is misplaced in nostalgia-driven emulations of the past rather than a forward vision. This was the end of metal’s own romantic era. Metal artists’ general illiteracy in art could give no rise to a counterpart to the 20th century modernist classical music (perhaps Obscura was an exception?) and it went straight to post-modernist pandemonium shortly after the turn of the century.
Tags: 1990s, Arch Enemy, Bill Steer, carcass, Heartwork, Johan Liva, Melodic Death Metal, Michael Amott, middle-age crisis, midlife crisis, modern metal, post-metal, sell-out, Stigmata, underground
7 thoughts on “Arch Enemy – Stigmata”
The coolest thing Arch Enemy did was reuse the riff from Torn Apart by Carnage to start off their first album. Everything after that reused and watered down riff is just more stuff from the “sold out” bin…
About still being an underground release… Throughout their entire career the “metal media” (magazines, tv, etc.) have constantly played this band and others like In Flames and Children Of Bodom as being the “next big thing” or “original”. The songs posted here have some good guitar playing, but that’s it. The tracks posted sound like a mash-up between Yngwie, Megadeth, and Machine Head/Nevermore style “aggro/modern metal” – not much of a far cry from their later stuff, except more congested (the Death/And Justice For All syndrome – too much repetition and similarity between parts). In all fairness, I haven’t heard the whole album.
The opening riffs of “Bury Me An Angel” and “Torn Apart” are indeed very similar. I never noticed that.
I second this. In Flames were better than these guys but still weren’t doing with the romantic guitar leads that earlier Swedish bands such as Dismember, Uncanny, and early Therion and At the Gates hadn’t done better and more intelligently. In Flames just stuck them in shitty radio-friendly pop songs.
Basically instead of friends serving you a delicious meal that ends wih a fresh-baked flavorful cake from a bakery on your birthday, you’re just eating shelf-stable, partially-hydrogenated supermarket icing from the jar with a spoon. That’s In Flames. Archenemy is this but you’re crying alone as you just contracted HIV from a probably transsexual blonde hooker.
I’m not even sure what the last paragraph means, haha.
A metaphor for what the later Gothenburg bands did with the lead riffing style (and riffs too) from the earlier Swedeath bands and how they didn’t even do a particularly good job of it either. A song like “On Frozen Fields” from Dismember’s Massive Shitting Capacity (How misleading was that cover?) is much better done than most Gothenburg tracks.
“Stigmata” could have been a good album. I think its main problem is not that it emulates the past but the crude songwriting. The verse-chorus formula is badly executed, too often the two simply don’t fit together. Patrick Mameli once said that he is influenced by pop music and you can hear that in his albums: he has an understanding of how to build tension between verse and chorus while not damaging the continuity of the song. “Stigmata” remains the best Arch Enemy album, but Carcass have done better on “Heartwork” and the even more hated “Surgical Steel”.
I actually find Swansong slightly less offensive than this. Swansong has some riffs and is so bad I can laugh at it for a song and a half before getting bored by it’s awfulness. Early Archenemy had those seven minute VCV songs and try hard Pantera tough guy posturing vocals which means I can’t even finish a single track before turning it off.
Comments are closed.