If you’re a fan of melodic death metal, you will have heard of Arch Enemy. Stalwarts of this genre, their catchy riffs and outspoken female frontwoman have attracted legions of fans and, like any mildly successful metal band, a barrage of critics. After seven studio albums, even the most imaginative of bands find their songs sound the same, and that’s been the main reason I only own a couple of Arch Enemy records – any more and you feel as though you’ve just got them stuck on repeat.
Arch Enemy’s strength comes from the melodies in their riffs, a result of combining the talents of Michael and Christopher Arnott, two of the founders of the “Gothenburg style”. Khaos Legions is certainly no exception, grabbing you right from the first note of “Khaos Overture” and carrying you with unrelenting energy until the end of “Secrets”. My favorite track on the album, “Under Black Wings We March” has a power metal feel about the riffs and structure, obviously with death vocals instead of the usual . This is an interesting departure from Arch Enemy’s usual style, and (here’s my power metal tendancies coming through) I like it.
“No Gods, No Master” also carries this power metal feeling, but it’s more mid-tempo with mellower themes. Sans vocals, it could be ripped straight from a Stratovarious record. Again, not a bad thing. It has a real “stadium hit” vibe. The riff is just awesome! (there’s no other way to describe it). It doesn’t seem suited to Angela’s vocal style, however, and this makes her vocals weaker than they actually are.
“Through the Eyes of a Raven” gives an Arch Enemy twist on the popular viking myths, and is another of my favorites.
I don’t like “bloodstained cross”, which sounds too much like a Cradle of Filth song for my liking. And, compared to the interesting melodic elements of earlier tracks, the second half of the album sticks with the tried-and-true formula of the band’s earlier albums. It’s here Angela’s vocals feel most at home. I don’t feel the same intensity as Burning Bridges or even Anthems of Rebellion. The guitar solos are what really bring these songs to life – but if you’ve never heard Arch Enemy before, I think you’d love them.
Overall, I don’t think Khaos Legions has quite the same raw energy as some of their earlier efforts. Partly this is because the songs are stripped back a bit – the melodic elements take over from the “death”, but also I think after eight albums, the impact of Arch Enemy’s distinctive sound has worn off. I think the first half of this album is definitely the stronger, with some interesting new themes developing I hope the band chooses to pursue further. I wouldn’t call this the best Arch Enemy album of all time, but it is their best since Anthems of Rebellion. I fucking love listening to it and I think, especially if you’re not familiar with this band, you’ll love it too.
If you’re quick, you can catch the whole album streaming LIVE from Arch Enemy’s myspace (till June 6). Or, shoot over to the Arch Enemy website and pick yourself up a copy.