Arch Enemy: Khaos Legions

It's the same old, same old on Arch Enemy's eighth album, albeit with a few tweaks here and there.

Arch Enemy

Khaos Legions

Label: Century Media
US Release Date: 2011-06-07
UK Release Date: 2011-05-30
Artist Website

Aside from Amon Amarth, no metal band has gotten away with recycling its sound so well for so long as Arch Enemy. For 15 years the German/Swedish band has been churning out the exact same hybrid of melodic death, thrash, and power metal, and it's gotten to the point where you can pinpoint striking similarities between new songs and old songs. But like Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy has an uncanny knack for making repeated ideas sound fresh, and as a result the band has been able to not only maintain its popularity but sell more albums with each new release. The fact is the fans know exactly what to expect, and Arch Enemy always delivers.

Those who follow Arch Enemy closely will tell you that there are distinct differences between their albums, and that's definitely the case with their eighth full-length Khaos Legions. After 2001's Wages of Sin, the explosive debut of vocalist Angela Gossow, the band, led by former Carcass guitarist Michael Amott, has been continually tinkering with its approach. The template has always been the same, but subsequent releases have varied in tone: 2003's breakthrough Anthems of Rebellion was crisp to the point of feeling rather sterile, 2005's Doomsday Machine was punchier but also far more polished, while 2007's Rise of the Tyrant returned to the raw, more aggressive approach of Wages of Sin. The latter album worked so well for the band, especially Gossow, who benefited immensely from the less processed approach to her vocals, that it was enough to think Arch Enemy would continue this route from now on.

Interestingly, the band tweaks things a little more on Khaos Legions. Again, there's nothing new in the songwriting department at all, but the way Amott and Doomsday Machine producer Rickard Bengtsson shapes the sound on the new album tones down the ferocity considerably. While it diminishes the visceral impact of the songs, the more restrained touch forces listeners to focus on the band's other big strength: the melodies. Amott is one of the best guitar soloists in metal, able to create expressive, catchy solos that still appease the shred-heads, while he and his brother Christopher create the finest dual guitar tandems around, and the way their melodies and harmonies offset the blunt assault of Gossow's distinct snarl is what makes Arch Enemy work so well. On Khaos Legions the Amotts are in fine form, their hooks never overwhelmed by over-the-top production.

What also makes this particular album work so well is its sequencing. As familiar as this all is to longtime listeners, the band actually does a smart job of creating a nice, subtle ebb and flow from track to track. After the requisite barnstormer "Yesterday is Dead and Gone", it's followed by the somber melody of "Bloodstained Cross". Mid-paced stomper "Under Black Flags We March" follows in classic Dio fashion, which then segues into "No Gods, No Masters", the closest thing the band has ever come to a ballad. We're still privy to solid, well-timed extreme metal moments, with "Cult of Chaos" and "Vengeance is Mine" serving as prime examples, but with the production being as it is on Khaos Legions, the best moments are the ones where the band is more controlled.

As for Gossow, she's grown into her role as frontwoman very well over the years. Her vocal delivery might be completely devoid of melody, but she's one of the most dynamic screamers in metal, possessing a powerful voice that emasculates many of her male peers. In addition, she's learned to enunciate better and better with each new record, and here she sounds terrific. Never mind the fact that she writes some of the most hackneyed metal lyrics this side of Manowar ("What doesn't kill us / Makes us stronger / Locked and loaded / Ready to strike / Here we stand / Loud and proud / United as one"), at least she gets her message across clearly. It's another example of how well Arch Enemy has refined its music; it's all been done before, but the band does it better than anyone, and they're still evolving, albeit a lot more subtly than other bands. Sometime's it's more of a challenge to sound fresh without constantly reinventing yourself, and Arch Enemy has done an admirable job of it yet again.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.