Angela Gossow in full form and going strong, like an angry cheetah. Expert delivery of Melodic Death Metal at its best really is the specialty of Arch Enemy. And it just blasts you out of your reverie into paying attention to what is going on in your earphones.
The 2011 album Khaos Legions is the last one to date featuring Angela Gossow and Christopher Amott. Ironically, in 2014 the latter had to replace one of the guitarists leaving in a hurry in the midst of the War Eternal tour. But only temporarily until Jeff Loomis arrived in November of the same year to cover the rest.
Whilst inherently aggressive (or should I say artificially aggressive?), the tracks on this album do unfortunately not deliver former, nor past qualities of this band. Or not very well to say the least. It is pretty much the songs mid-point – like the first five or so – that make up the bulk of quality tracks.
And from then on things move downhill. And it is a pity, too. Only some five out of fourteen songs really holding their water is really a lot of waste in an album. Loads of filler material, which is reminiscent of some of the AC/DC deliveries. The album is furthermore plagued by intros, outros, and some sort of interludes of the instrumental kind that confused the hell out of me.
It is however still rock solid Arch Enemy. I admire bands that are able to deliver their style and sound all over again. Re-inventing themselves without doing goofy restructures of how they present their tune. And by doing so losing their identity. Whereas they got dangerously close to going the other way (see below).
So, in this department, well done. Not everything needs to be managed like a friggin’ business endeavor where university brainwashed change addicts like to reign. What they failed in Khaos Legions is kicking it up a notch and deliver more oomph.
Arch Enemy delivered a ton of material to not such great acclaim from around the fan community. But what is really there? First, it appears that they took an experimental stance with some of the tracks beyond track no 5. Giving these songs a confused (and sometimes ugly) start.
Knowing that a listener today will only pay attention for about 30 seconds to any one track before deciding if it is good or bad, this does not bode well. This is by the way not a mistake they made again in their follow-on album War Eternal. Many of these tracks do improve with age and get better further along. But this is way beyond the attention span of many.
Second, there seems to be style confusion and Khaos Legions somewhat moves away from the Melodeath scheme in a way. Almost reminding me of the stuff we get to hear from the Black Metal scene. And I only mean the distorted sound and screechy vocals, not the mindset nor deeds nor direction or equally distorted beliefs. And this has in all probability contributed a lot to much of the hate mail these guys have been getting.
Frankly, Bloodstained Cross, Under Black Flags we March (stellar this one – the only track that really deserves this label), and No Gods, No Master are really very good.
Yesterday is Dead and Gone at the very beginning of the album is already plagued by the same disease that the second half of the album suffers from. But this track really improves later as it chugs towards the end.
The rest is – as I mentioned before – a mixed bag of tastes, looks and feels. The most remarkable is Cult of Chaos. If you can survive the first minute of confused mayhem, that is. They could probably have elevated some of that stuff a bit more by adjusting their tune a little better, but for some reason, they did not.
In essence, Khaos Legions is still Arch Enemy as we know it, but not the best performance they ever had. It is a pity that so much of their material seems to be ill-presented. And thus its real value remains hidden from the majority of the listeners. Based on this, the outcry was substantial from the fan community and I am glad the band heeded the advice for their follow-on album.