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Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions

  • Review by: Vilasini Muralidhar

Step up a few levels from the underground scene, and you’ll see that Arch Enemy is one of the more popular of the popular metal bands. So that, by default, made their new album ‘Khaos Legions’, one of the more anticipated releases of the year. I was looking forward to it quite a bit too, and maybe that was because I was a little eager to find out if they’ve taken on something new. With that in mind, the album could be a disappointment because it still is very formulaic and typical of what they’re known for. But if you don’t mind that, then get on-board. It’s quite a ride!

‘Khaos Legions’ starts off with an intro titled “Khaos Overture”. It’s a good powerful start and leads into “Yesterday is dead and gone”. With fast-paced guitar progressions, Angela’s infamous guttural vocals (which sound a little deeper when compared to her ‘Wages of Sin’ days) and the supremely melodious solos that butt into the track every now and then saving it from a slump into monotony, it pretty much sums up what’s in store for the listener for the rest of the album. “Bloodstained cross” plays interestingly with tempos, and the switches from the main stanzas to the chorus changed my opinion of the song quite a bit. Gossow tries some vocal gymnastics in this track, going from high pitched screeches to the throaty growls, and in the end, pulls it all off very well.

“Under black flags we march” continues the same formula, and is very reminiscent of “We will rise”, and not necessarily because of the sound. “No Gods, no masters” is a great track, and finally brings in a slightly different feel to the album after around twelve minutes or so. It’s an easy anthem with lyrics along the lines of “I am who I am… Take it or leave it…” and the “rebel at heart” is sure to bob his/her head along with the song and hum along with a sense of connection somewhere! “City of the dead”, “Through the eyes of a raven” and “Cruelty without Beauty” come one after another, blaring the same old formula over and again, and that’s when you might realize that ‘Khaos Legions’ has now lodged itself inside a rut of typicality and that it might take a while for the band to crawl out of it. It’s not that the music is ‘bad’. It’s just that it’s all the same and as a listener, it’s always nice to have a surprise thrown at you at least once in a while, if not in every song.

So the band attempts to climb out of the aforementioned rut with another instrumental- “We are a Godless entity”. It starts off well, but then, ends like any other intro, when it could have actually progressed into a complete instrumental song and probably been the saving grace halfway through. But no, they continue in their comfort zone with “Cult of chaos” and “Thorns in my Flesh” with more impressive guitar work by the Amott brothers and themes of revolution and anarchy that are delivered like punches in your face by the ferocious frontwoman.

Suddenly, another instrumental. High on melody, as always, it begins beautifully, but turns out to be another stunted little intro for the track that follows, i.e. “Vengeance is mine”. That is followed by “Secrets”, another (welcome) highlight of the album, which sees a slight variation in the pattern, and more than anything else, scores mainly because of the sentiment with which it comes across. And of course, the solo, which happens to be one of my favourites on the album. “The Zoo” is another headbangable filler which is then followed by “Snow bound”- an alarming acoustic ending to the attack of metal that the listener has endured for close to 60 minutes of playback! It’s a soothing track, but should have been placed elsewhere in the tracklist and not right at the end when endurance levels are low and when you’ve almost run out of patience.

The final verdict- ‘Khaos Legions’ is a good album, but could have been shorter. I won’t write off the band for not experimenting much, but if they were planning to stay in the same zone, why spend so much time (ours and theirs) playing with slight variations of the same sound over and over again! ‘Khaos Legions’ begins very well, but gets a little too monotonous as it moves ahead. The tracklist could have also been rearranged so that the listener is left with at least one riff in his/her head after the CD wraps up. But negatives apart, the album scores in the areas of melody and guitars. In fact, that’s a strong point that Arch Enemy has capitalized on very well. Also, Angela Gossow doesn’t always steal the show just because she’s a woman. Leave the gender bias behind, and you’ll still realize what a mind-blowing vocalist she is!

Overall, I’d rate the album an average 3.5 on 5 and I’d recommend it more for the less seasoned metalhead. The rest of you might want to stick to only a couple of singles and let the remaining pass.