The vehicle through which death metal guitar hero Michael Amott channeled his most extreme instrumental concepts, Arch Enemy was an experiment that produced predictably wild and undeveloped results. After the group's debut, Black Earth, shocked and amazed many fans of the Gothenburg sound, Arch Enemy signed with indie metal powerhouse Century Media and released Stigmata in 1998. As often happens with highly anticipated follow-ups, Stigmata disappointed some fans with what some called a more restrained sound and lesser material. Realistically, the tightly constructed production was to be expected, and the real driving force behind Arch Enemy's success -- Amott's guitar work -- is definitely present. On the negative side, vocalist Johan Liiva doesn't do much except stay out of the way, and the addition of Peter Wildoer on drums (in place of Daniel Erlandsson) doesn't help either. Perhaps confirming the band's critics, Arch Enemy asked Erlandsson to return for its next release, Burning Bridges. These problems are really minor when balanced against Amott's massive playing and songwriting, so while Stigmata is a fraction off from the band's debut form, Arch Enemy still delivers some nice melodic death metal on the sophomore effort.
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson