Reissues can be quite revealing when a band has been around for a decade or more. A reissue might demonstrate that a band's sound has pretty much stayed the same over the years, or it might make the listener say, "You know, this band has done a lot of evolving since this album was recorded." Arch Enemy's debut album, Black Earth (which was recorded in 1996 and reissued in the United States by Regain in 2007), is definitely an example of the latter. Between 1996 and 2007, Arch Enemy experienced some lineup changes, and their approach became increasingly polished along the way. That isn't to say that Black Earth is not well played or short on chops, only that Arch Enemy favored more rawness in the beginning. Arch Enemy's 1996 lineup -- Michael and Christopher Amott on guitar, Johan Liiva on lead vocals and bass, and Daniel Erlandsson on drums -- keeps the slickness to a minimum on bare-knuckles thrash metal/death metal scorchers like "Idolatress," "Transmigration Macabre" and "Fields of Desolation" (all of which show the influence of both Sepultura and Iron Maiden). Black Earth underscores thrash and death metal's debt to punk, but the power metal influence is quite evident as well, and for all their bombast, the tunes on this album are fairly hooky and relatively accessible. Of course, longtime followers of Arch Enemy will debate the merits of their early output versus what came later. Some headbangers prefer the gruff-voiced Liiva over his replacement Angela Gossow; others will counter that Gossow was an improvement over Liiva. At any rate, Black Earth was a promising debut for Arch Enemy and is among the Swedish combo's more consistent and memorable efforts.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson