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Arch Enemy, despite their obvious popularity and media exposure, are a band that I have remained somewhat ignorant of. One might chalk it up to just being a depressing oddball who only likes music that he discovered on his own, but my lack of interest in televised metal bands and particularly, Swedish melodeath outfits, has sort of left me at a loss with this scene to an extent. It’s not that I’m really hostile to the style, but just one of those quirky things where I just never really got around to it until recently. As such, despite my familiarity with Carcass, “Khaos Legions” is actually my first experience in dealing with this band, which according to some might be the equivalent of me discovering Dimmu Borgir through “In Sorte Diaboli”.
Suffice to say, this is a decent album that definitely moderates the aggression and catchiness factors into a nifty little, modernly tweaked package. Probably the only thing that separates this from In Flames during the “Colony” to “Clayman” era is a slightly stronger vocal job and a better technical display out of all members in congress. The overall melodic scheme of these songs isn’t out of line with some conventions first pushed by a handful of power metal bands on the heavier side of the equation, and occasionally there are parallels with some middle era works out of fellow Swedes Nocturnal Rites and Heed, right down to the tasteful keyboard elements and wild lead guitar elements, as unapologetically displayed on “Thorns In My Flesh” and “City Of The Dead”, which are among the stronger songs on a fairly evenly tempered expression of angst.
Perhaps a little bit more surprising, at least given my own experience with the lighter side of Gothenburg’s scene, is the overt thrash tendencies that interweave with the slowed down melodic and groove based passages, particularly in the cases of “Vengeance Is Mine” and “Bloodstained Cross”. Between the frenetic and highly virtuosic solos and the busy riff work, it’s hard to resist throwing the horns occasionally. The biggest pitfall of these songs is that often things will slow down just a little too frequently, to the point of making half the song a breakdown, resulting in a listening experience that’s a bit disjointed at times. Part of it may be the tenets of the style, which calls for frequent slow passages with a denser atmosphere, but here it works against the overt speed/thrash elements.
Basically, this comes off as a slightly faster version of the Gothenburg craze, particularly during the late 90s. The vocals are fairly one dimensional, though the fact that Angela Gossow is a woman might shock first time listeners given her work on here sounds manlier than Anders Fridén and Mikael Stanne combined, but the music picks up on any slack on her end of things. At times this sounds a little bit pretty and consonant for something that tends to be obsessed with chaos and suffering, but that tends to be the dilemma for most in this style. This will probably sit well with most fans of the genre, though any crossover appeal will probably be limited to power metal fans who don’t find the toneless shouting vocal aesthetic unbearable, ergo those who already listen to bands like Children Of Bodom and Kalmah.