ARCH ENEMY: KHAOS LEGIONS (2011)
1) Khaos Overture; 2) Yesterday Is Dead And Gone; 3) Bloodstained Cross; 4) Under Black Flags We March; 5) No Gods, No Masters; 6) City Of The Dead; 7) Through The Eyes Of A Raven; 8) Cruelty Without Beauty; 9) We Are A Godless Entity; 10) Cult Of Chaos; 11) Thorns In My Flesh; 12) Turn To Dust; 13) Vengeance Is Mine; 14) Secrets.
Each formula can only live for so long before its manufacturers run out of oxygen. Technically, Khaos Legions finds Arch Enemy at their ballsiest — loud, brutal, evil — but no matter where I look, there does not seem to be a single new idea, and that does not just concern the lack of experimental moments: much worse than that, there is not one single riff on here that would seem as if I have never heard it before. And even if I acknowledge some of these riffs as variations on past successes — after all, each composer is entitled to variations on his own compositions — they are dull, un-evocative variations.
One direction in which they could have headed at this time, with a small bit of hope of getting out of the rut, is «moody». ʽNo Gods, No Mastersʼ, with its stern mid-tempo and genuinely melodic guitar and keyboard lead lines, actually ends up more memorable than the «thrashy» anthems on here. The Amott brothers are talented enough to master «subtle» if they really feel the need for it, and I am fairly sure that Angela could accommodate her by-now all-too-familiar growling style to fit that subtleness. But, by and large, this does not happen on Khaos Legions.
Instead, what we get is lots and lots of fast tracks, normally a plus for hard-rocking albums, but in this case they just merge into one lumpy blur, with nothing to distinguish ʽYesterday Is Dead And Goneʼ (album opener) from ʽSecretsʼ (album closer). In the end, the most successful track is probably ʽWe're A Godless Entityʼ, due to the provocative title and some nice ominous minimalistic bass plinking from Sharlee D'Angelo. That's just one and a half minutes, though.
In short, this is a serious step down even from the level of Rise Of The Tyrant, and that record was no great shakes, either; but at least it had one stone cold death metal classic (ʽBlood On Your Handsʼ), whereas this album will, most probably, just go down stone cold; I cannot imagine any of its songs surviving for long even in the heads of the most devoted metal forgers. Curiously, the album is said to have sold more copies (in the US at least) than any previous Arch Enemy record; but I will put that down to the band's general workhorse attitude — keep it up for long enough, and eventually you'll get what's coming to you. Besides, who would mind the guys finally making a little bit of money after all these years of finger-tearing and throat-wearing?
In any case, my thumbs down will hardly make a difference: hardcore fans will thrive on this stuff as usual, and bypassers do not need to hear more than one or two albums by this band anyway. Just out of curiosity, I actually browsed through a half-dozen reviews of Khaos Legions on various metal-related sites — just to let you know that we probably are in trouble when the review in question (and most of those were like it) simply gives you some back story («this is the first album of original material in five years...»), a list of the players and producers, something along the lines of «to all those who think they lost it, well, they still kick ass», and a heavy splattering of terms like «sharp riffs», «clear sound», «melodic shredding», and «power growl». Yeah, it's all here, I guarantee you that. For some reason, though, none of these reviewers ever ask themselves the obvious question: «And what next?».
Check "Khaos Legions" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Khaos Legions" (MP3) on Amazon