Angela Gossow has been the best thing to ever happen to Arch Enemy. The Swedish melodic death act has improved steadily since bringing their German frontwoman on board with 2001's Wages of Sin, and now they're a genuinely great metal band. Gossow is a charismatic vocalist with a much wider range of emotion -- even within the raw-throated genre of death metal -- than her predecessor, Johan Liiva, and the band's songwriting skills have grown steadily over the years. So why revisit the early years? This album features re-recordings of songs from the Liiva years (four from Black Earth, three from Stigmata, and five from Burning Bridges, with Gossow on vocals). And while the performances are impressive, the songwriting is clearly much more crude and dependent on prevailing winds within Swedish death metal at the time than then-recent AE discs like Doomsday Machine and Rise of the Tyrant. Furthermore, if you want to hear Angela Gossow singing these songs, versions of five of them ("The Immortal," "Bury Me an Angel," "Dark Insanity," "Silverwing," and "Bridge of Destiny") appear on one or the other of the band's live DVDs. So while the performances are solid -- the Amott brothers' always impressive guitar playing in particular -- this is ultimately an inessential release that may wind up confusing fans who wonder about these heavier, almost overly complex songs that frequently lack the fist-in-the-air, singalong choruses of more recent work.
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman