Stigmata (Century Media)
by Martin Popoff
Arch Enemy comprise Mike Amott from Carnage, Carcass, and the godly Spiritual Beggars, his brother Chris and bassist Martin Begtsson both from Armaggedon, Johann Liiva from Carnage and the under-rated Furbowl, and new drummer Peter Wildoer, who actually steps out and steals the show, damn! What they’ve woven is a staggering follow-up to the equally dense and intelligent Black Earth debut, Stigmata stacking upon high influences from black to death to thrash to classic ’80s metal, emerging from the tunnel as one enigmatic tactical unit of metal might. It’s hard dipping into that ’80s vibe and remain respectable, but Arch Enemy have mastered the plunder, pulling just the best, while caking the thing way underground with aggression and your middle bad bark, not too sour, not too sweet. Emotionally powerful and prog-finessed to the teeth, calling this one a timeless masterpiece would not be unwarranted, Arch Enemy rhythm-pounding their way down a devilish path that frost-cocks all the filmy-eyed priss of the new Maiden clones, Amott’s sense of classic being more about classic Euro death and classic U.S. power than classic commercial. Just feels important, that’s all.