30 May 2011
by Tom Dare
Several genuinely massive heavy-as-fuck songs that sound like they expect to be played in arenas, furious thrashy riffage, stellar shred and the scary German lady being scary -that’s good enough to forgive the fairly high filler content on an Arch Enemy album, right?
There was some talk from the Arch Enemy camp about this being one of their fastest records to date. Just to shock you, this wasn’t bullshit – Khaos Legions spends much of its running time sounding like the most assailing moments of their career since Johan Liiva left. Which is probably the biggest problem hamstringing proceedings. The Amott brothers are far too accomplished guitarists to turn in genuinely weak material, and in truth they haven’t here. The problem is that nowhere nearly enough of it gets your pulse racing and your hair windmilling like the breakneck-paced tracks on prior albums have – and crucially, it sounds far too much like lesser versions of songs they’ve already written.
There are no “crowd singing the guitar line” moments to be heard anywhere, and the huge-yet-extreme sound Arch Enemy do as well as anyone comes more from the (unsurprisingly excellent) production than from any memorable melodies or outstanding riffs. It may satisfy someone with a genuine thirst that can only be quenched by this band, but there’s nothing truly excellent to be found.
We then have the thorny issue of Ms Angela Gossow, who it’s hard to say a bad word against without sounding like a misogynist metal dinosaur. When sounding aggressive and angry to go with the aggressive, angry tracks, her vocals are superb. She sounds powerful, imposing and far more upsetting (which, this being death metal, is kind of the point) than the majority of monotonous male cookie monsters around. The problem is that, despite spending ten years in this band, she still has no real variation. The very best growlers at the melodic end of the spectrum – the Johan Heggs and Mikael Stannes of this world – know how to rein the gnarl in a bit to cope with the more mellow sections where a full-throated roar would sound totally incongruous. Angela Gossow still hasn’t learned this, and it ends up becoming tiresome long before the end.
Watch the video to ‘Yesterday Is Dead And Gone’ by Arch Enemy:
Much of Khaos Legions is, at the very least, a moderately enjoyable (if fairly uninspired) mixture of thrashy riffs and melodic lead guitar work. But given the obvious proficiency of the musicians involved – not to mention some of the anthemic modern metal show-stoppers they have written in the last decade – it’s significant how unmemorable much of it is, and how unmoved you are through much of its running time. Most of all, at no point does a single song leap out of the mix to suggest it could dislodge ‘Revolution Begins‘ or ‘Ravenous‘ or any of the other greats in the Arch Enemy repertoire from a live set. Sadly, Khaos Legions ends up being a rather dull affair, however adept its construction may be.
Sounds like: At The Gates, The Haunted
Top track: No Gods, No Masters
Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions tracklisting:
Yesterday Is Dead And Gone
Under Black Flags We March
No Gods, No Masters
City Of The Dead
Through The Eyes Of A Raven
Cruelty Without Beauty
We Are Godless Entity
Cult Of Chaos
Thorns In My Flesh
Turn To Dust
Vengeance Is Mine