Guitar player Michael Amott was a key factor in Carcass' morphing from Goregrind to melodic death metal. After his departure from that band, he formed Arch Enemy in 1995, playing a similar sounding breed of melodeath that easily compares to the early In Flames and Dark Traquillity stuff. Along 2000, the band acquired a female singer named Angela Gossow, and suddenly they got a great deal of attention. The reason for this, is Angela sounds plenty brutal - her gender difference nearly undetectable by the uninitiated. My beef has always been that her vocals sound overly processed - like they doctored them up to sound more "male" in the studio.
Stepping away from the vocal gimmick for a second, Arch Enemy is a Swedish melodic DM band with a allegiance to the heavy aspects of the genre. While their genre mates were going softer and softer, Arch stayed allied with the thrash and DM camps. This brings us to the 2011 album, Khaos Legions. By this point, the band were a commercial success and thus in the crosshairs of critics and genre purists. I can't profess to be an expert on this subgenre, particularly post 2000, because I haven't heard enough of it. That being said, there are enough old school nods to make this particular record enjoyable. There are guitar flourishes juxtaposed with good ol' fashioned thrash riffs (similar to that mid-era Carcass stuff, come to think of it). Amott is a guitar hero in the traditional sense - playing leads that would work on a Skid Row or Motley Crüe record. The cool part is when they go from that to a ripping riff like the openning riff on Vengeance is Mine.
I will never like Angela's voice, but I think the band gets far too much hate / love based on her - there is certainly more going on here. This is definitely market-friendly with an aim to please the mainstream metal audience. It is instantly accessible and appealing. What I like about this over a great deal of other recent melodeath, is that Arch aren't afraid to kick the speed up. Hell, is that a blastbeat on Cult of Chaos? Yup. On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of market-friendly songs here - No Gods, No Masters, Secrets, and Through the Eyes of a Raven are all bit much for me. Again, Khaos Legions is mainstream metal made for the masses, but I still find it more palatable than anything In Flames has done in the past 10 years. Those lush leads alone are enough to warrant a listen or two. 3 out of 5.