ARCH ENEMY: BURNING BRIDGES (1999)
1) The Immortal; 2) Dead Inside; 3) Pilgrim; 4) Silverwing; 5) Demonic Science; 6) Seed Of Hate; 7) Angelclaw; 8) Burning Bridges; 9) Diva Satanica; 10) Hydra.
The final album with Liiva on vocals – surprisingly, this is the turning point where Arch Enemy becomes an unstoppable machine for the production of some of the catchiest musical brutality ever offered to human ears. Substance-wise, there is no big difference from Stigmata; the difference is in the details — the riffs become more complex, more interesting, and there's, like, two or three of them within the average song on Burning Bridges.
Since I am quite far removed from a metalhead, it took me several listens to «get» the greatness of this stuff. You still have to ignore the vocals (Liiva can hardly even «growl» on here at all; most of the time, the «singing» just degenerates into tuneless hardcore screeching), and get used to the fact that these guys are not going to lead you astray by arranging a meeting with the spirits of Art, Depth, and Intellectual Relevance. But in the end, most of these tunes are artsy, deep, and even «intellectually relevant» in their own crazy way.
The best thing about Bridges is the absolute lack of slack. Seven out of eight songs originally included on the album push forward at either simply fast, or ultra-fast tempos; only the title track ends the record on a «monstruously slow» note, with a long «operatic» coda that is its only direct nod to classical influences — the album ends on nothing less than a piano-and-Mellotron (!) driven passage which is, I guess, supposed to hint at the existence (somewhere really far away) of Paradise, in addition to the all-pervading Hell. (For the record, the keyboards are played by guest musician Per Wiberg, who would go on to play with the band on their next albums, as well as spend six years with Opeth as full-time member).
But, like I said, that is a tiny exception. As for the loud, fast, riff-heavy rockers, it is useless to discuss them individually. After a while, the individuality of the tracks does begin to step out of the general din, and I would say that the best riffs are on 'Seed Of Hate' (I like the Entwistl-ian «gurgling» descending bass/guitar runs competing with the lead riff), 'The Immortal' (still plenty of thrash influence, but even the trash riffs are easily discernible note-for-note here), and 'Silverwing' (that opening riff must have been ripped off some classical piece) — and you could say that these are the worst riffs, and pick 'Pilgrim' or 'Angelclaw' instead, and I wouldn't give a damn.
Simply put, it's a kick-ass metalfest all the way, and that's the way it should be — if you are intent on maintaining one very limited style over fourty minutes, you might as well grind it up to the max; and I am always ready to take off my hat before anyone who is able to grind it up to the max, regardless of mood, attitude, or genre. From that point of view, Burning Bridges is a flawless masterpiece of «melodic death-thrash-metal». From other points of view, it may be samey, boring, and lyrically / substantially idiotic. But, as it just happens, these are not included in my thumbs up.
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