Thursday, June 2, 2011

Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions

Arch Enemy
Khaos Legions
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Arch Enemy’s last studio release ‘Rise Of The Tyrant’ was by far one of the band’s strongest and more consistent releases in many years, and the once again reignited the faith of diehard fans who believed that the band were trying too hard to reinvent themselves and broaden their sound beyond their established melodic death metal sound. Although the album didn’t stand out as a huge departure for the band stylistically, it was notably darker and heavier sounding than their previous couple of releases (2003’s ‘Anthems Of Rebellion’ and 2005’s ‘Doomsday Machine’), which was enough to make the album stand out.
It’s been a long four years since then, and while the Swedish act has offered up a couple of releases within that time (2008’s live C.D./D.V.D. ‘Tyrants Of The Rising Sun: Live In Japan’, 2009’s best-of compilation ‘Manifesto Of Arch Enemy’ and their ill-advised re-recorded collection ‘The Root Of All Evil’), it’s a new album that fans have been calling out for most of all.
But after a lengthy wait, the long running five piece act (Comprising of vocalist Angela Gossow, guitarists Michael and Christopher Amott, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Daniel Erlandsson) are finally back with eighth studio album ‘Khaos Legions’.
In a lot of ways, ‘Khaos Legions’ doesn’t represent a huge change from what Arch Enemy have delivered in the past, with the bulk of the album remaining true to the melodic style of death metal that has long become Arch Enemy’s trademark. But having said that, while ‘Khaos Legions’ is a solid Arch Enemy album, it certainly doesn’t match ‘Rise Of The Tyrant’ in terms of consistency or sound.
The opening introductory piece ‘Khaos Overture’, while impressive on an instrumental level, is a cringe worthy way to start the album with its spoken word component sounding really cheesy. Thankfully, the band amend things with the opening track/first single  ‘Yesterday Is Dead And Gone’. Rhythmically strong, vocally melodic and brutal in just the right measure and full of guitar trade offs between the Amott brothers, ‘Yesterday Is Dead And Gone’ is a powerful opening statement of intent from the band, and one that definitely announces their return.
The speed at which the verses on ‘Bloodstained Cross’ are delivered leans a little more towards the thrashier side of Arch Enemy’s sound, but is balanced cleverly with some mid-paced neo-classical choruses, while the thrashing ‘Cult Of Chaos’, ‘Vengeance Is Mine’, ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’, ‘Thorns In My Flesh’ (One of the few tracks where Opeth/Spiritual Beggars keyboardist Per Wiberg really shines) and the brutal closer ‘Secrets’ firmly show the band’s ability to combine all out aggression with moments of pure melody, without straying too far either way to lessen the overall impact.
Unfortunately, not everything on the album is as balanced as the above mentioned tracks. Both ‘No Gods, No Masters’ and ‘City Of The Dead’ are solid enough tracks, but are plagued by a lack of bite on the guitar front and their seriously plodding tempos, while the flashes of demonic savagery in ‘Through The Eyes Of A Raven’ and ‘Under Black Flags We March’ are diminished with the inclusion of unnecessary melodic leads. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with those melodic elements, it’s just that they seem a little ill-fitting when compared to some of the other songs.
‘Khaos Legions’ has a few patchy efforts in amongst the gems, which gives the album an inconsistent feel overall. And the modern sterile/clean production (Handled by co-producer Richard Bengtsson, who previously worked with the band on ‘Doomsday Machine’) does at times dull the metallic edge of the band’s sound. But in the end, if you’re a fan of Arch Enemy’s last couple of albums, then you’ll definitely enjoy their latest. ‘Khaos Legions’ is far from perfect, but hardly a complete failure either. All up, it’s another solid release from the band.

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© Justin Donnelly