Head To Head On… Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions

As mentioned previously, if there is one thing that can be said about the criticism on Hellbound.ca it is that we don’t pull punches. The reviews that we print on this site are the ones that are submitted by our writers and the editors just have to suck it up, whether they like it or not. So with that in mind, here are two very different reviews of Arch Enemy’s latest album Khaos Legions, which was released recently in North America through Century Media. Take these for what you will and make up your own mind about this album.

Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions

By Murray Cuthbertson

Khaos Legions represents another watershed moment for melodic death metal veterans Arch Enemy, as the Swedish juggernauts have once again undertook (and succeeded in accomplishing) the Herculean task of weaving an intricate web of crushing modern metal with epic classical elements and prodigious catchy themes. Following up their critically acclaimed 2007 LP Rise Of The Tyrant, the group has carried that momentum into the studio for Khaos Legions, which possesses all the sonic rage, shred antics, and surgical precision that their fans have become accustomed to. This album maintains it’s consistency throughout, opening with the brutal metal anthems ‘Yesterday Is Dead and Gone’ and ‘Bloodstained Cross’, and in true unrelenting Arch Enemy fashion, continuing forward with utter disregard for mediocrity. Angela Gossow‘s revolution-themed vocal performances are particularly inspiring on this album, as her signature guttural growls have become even more pronounced, while the higher register screams achieve that desired cutting overtone that makes her one of the leaders of the genre (this is evident in all of the record’s keystone tracks like ‘Through The Eyes of a Raven’, ‘Cult Of Chaos’, and ‘Vengeance Is Mine’).

Musically, the band has not deviated far from their winning formula of lambasting the listener with complex hammer on/pull-off guitar rhythms, breakneck tremolo strumming, and driving downpicked verses that transition into fluid melodic choruses. Intense double kicks, jazzy rolls, and sporadic blastbeat melees serve as the nitro burning engine which propels this record down the quarter mile thanks to percussion wizard Daniel Erlandsson. Augmenting all of this would be mastermind Michael Amott‘s signature ‘singing’ wah-wah guitar leads, which paint beautiful aural landscapes throughout this fourteen track metal masterpiece, giving the album a playful demeanour whenever the heaviness becomes overwhelming. Speaking in terms of production, this album possesses a crisp clarity that was characteristic to the Wages Of Sin, Anthems Of Rebellion, and Doomsday Machine releases; this can be directly attributed to return of the formidable Andy Sneap in the mixing and mastering chair. After four long years of patiently waiting for a new album from these metal stalwarts it has finally arrived, and you can definitely hear the blood, sweat, and tears that were infused into this powerhouse magnum opus.

(Century Media)

Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions

By Jonathan Smith

It’s been almost four years since we’ve heard new material from Sweden’s melodic death metal veterans Arch Enemy. In the interim we’ve seen a concert album/DVD, numerous compilations, and a re-rerecording of old tracks with vocalist Angela Gossow. All have only fueled desire and expectations for the band’s next offering. Khaos Legions is that offering, and while it has its shining moments, the end result can also be pretty bland at times. Sincere highlights are weighed down by occasionally boring lyrics, filler, and the album’s unnecessary length.

Those familiar with Arch Enemy will not be surprised by Khaos Legions‘ overarching concept. There’s a lot of songs about abstract revolutions, personal empowerment, and individual freedom. Part of Arch Enemy schtick has been to go for simple choruses that can be loudly sung by a crowd. That accessibility is part of their appeal. Here, as is the case with “Yesterday is Dead and Gone, ” it can lead to overly clichéd lyrics and boring choruses. Another example is “Bloodstained Cross”: it’s chorus is almost too melodic, dropping any of its sense of weight and ferocity for an almost poppy sound. The band’s notable ability to balance between heaviness and catchy melody becomes uneven a few times on the record. Some of the tracks (for example, “City of the Dead” and “Through The Eyes of a Raven”) are adequate but don’t stand out as anything other than generic Arch Enemy songs. Album closer “Secrets” is a strange tonal shift that feels tacked on and unnecessary after all the songs that come before it.

Some of the stronger songs beg to become live staples. “Under Black Flags We March” has a heavy bottom end and an extremely catchy and propulsive rhythm. Another strong cut is “No Gods, No Masters,” a song that matches the forcefulness of its name. After a string of less memorable tracks, “Cruelty Without Beauty” brings a heavier, sinister touch to things and reminds listeners of what Arch Enemy can do best. One of the three instrumental tracks, “Turn to Dust,” sounds like a melodic successor to “Snowbound” from 2001’s Wages of Sin. The players themselves seem into what they’re doing. Michael Amott‘s guitar solos whine and shriek their way throughout the entire album in the same manner they have for the past several releases. Gossow’s voice in particular is strong on many tracks, and it often feels like she’s not given enough challenges on this outing.

One of Khaos Legions‘ biggest issues is that the filler makes it feel much longer than it should. The album is only 55 minutes long, but feels much longer. A much stronger album, say about 35 to 40 minutes long, could be cut out of what is presented here. It’s worth reiterating that the album isn’t bad by any means, and that it has some awesome cuts. It’s also not as powerful, memorable, and fierce as Arch Enemy can and has delivered.

(Century Media)

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.