During the time of recording Black Earth, Arch Enemy was more of a solo project. Michael Amott wrote all of the songs and played bass guitar on the album. Although Johan Liiva is cited as playing the bass, Michael later stated in an interview that he had it credited that way to make it seem more of a "band effort." Christopher Amott, who was attending music college at the time, only contributed his leads on the album, leaving Michael to record all the rhythm tracks.
Black Earth was critically well received. Anders Sandvall of Metal Rules stated that "the album is brilliant and there are no bad songs on it."Allmusic's critic Alex Henderson wrote in his review that "Black Earth was a promising debut for Arch Enemy and is among the Swedish combo's more consistent and memorable efforts." Ron Salden of Archaic Magazine said that Black Earth is a classic and praised the songs writing they "showcase a fresh mixture of death/thrash metal whilst the Amott brothers rip their guitars exquisitely to delightful bits of melody, harmony lines, guitar licks and solos." He praised "Bury Me an Angel" and comments that the songs "Eureka", "Transmigration Macabre" and "Fields of Desolation" still sounds fresh in these days. Chad Bowar of About.com said that the album sound "was raw, but the songs still were very catchy with solid guitar work from Michael and Christopher Amott". About the songs, Metal Review's journalist Jason Jordan states: ""Dark Insanity" is arguably the best of the lot due to its fantastic riffs and leads, which Erlandsson backs up with a pummeling, and at times appropriately restrained, performance." He also comments that some songs like "Idolatress", "Cosmic Retribution", "Transmigration Macabre" and "Fields of Desolation" have praiseworthy characteristics too, though none quite match the verve of the openers. Jordan praised mainly the band members writing that "Black Earth is a solid outing of melodic death metal with each member in fine form" and that "the brothers Amott turn in excellent performances as the band's guitarists, Daniel Erlandsson provides backbone support from atop the throne, and Johan Liiva contributes his unique vocals to one of the better Arch Enemy efforts."
Despite the good reception of the band, the singer Johan Liiva received an unfavorable critique of Tartarean Desire's reviewer Jesse Ketman, which compared Liiva with Angela Gossow: "This is an Arch Enemy album through and through, with the only downer in the whole mold being vocalist Johan "Liiva" Axelsson... the deep unchanging yell can be looked past due to the top-notch quality of the metal on here, but it's apparent at this point that gaining Angela Gossow on vocals was one of the smartest moves Arch Enemy ever made; her Schuldiner-style intensity and intelligibility far outweigh the boring barks of Axelsson." And finished, "everything else is how it should be: brutally interesting riffs, just enough catch, and solos from the metal stars far outweigh any negative." On the other hand, Ryan Loostrom of Maelstrom commented about, "They had Johan Liiva as their vocalist, who had a throaty and guttural growl that spouted ferocity and visciousness with every note. Then, they released Wages of Sin and destroyed their ability to make good, punishing music, and shelled out their fantastic vocalist for the horribly over-processed and lackluster Angela Gossow." Later, Loostrom stated, "the fact that no one in Arch Enemy saw Johan Liiva as a vital asset is almost ridiculous." Alex Henderson of Allmusic mentioned this issue stating that "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."