Unleash your Arch Enemy, and the result is Khaos Legions. The group’s first studio album in four years, Khaos Legions and its 14 tracks are an outpouring of creativity and adrenaline from one of metal’s fiercest acts.
At the core of this black-hot energy is drummer Daniel Erlandsson, who lays down a feast of powerful athletic beats from end to end. While his athleticism and musicality are always consistent, each song is full of surprises, as Erlandsson challenges himself, his band, and the fans to hang on for the ride. “Khaos Legions is a focused effort on all levels, musically and lyrically,” Erlandsson says. “We really thought about the details and how we wanted to present this material.”
All the better to hear his heady work on track #8, “Cruelty Without Beauty,” an aggressive five-minute metal journey with no-holds-barred guitars and space to support Angela Gossow’s shredding vocals. “I had a less-is-more approach,” Erlandsson says, “as the band had a more-is-more approach to the song.” Rest assured, there’s plenty to digest in Erlandsson’s “less.”
Indeed, Erlandsson displays plenty of patience in the first 34 seconds, with just foot-on-the-hi-hat counts and cymbal rolls under the guitar, followed by a build at :35 culminating in a polyrythmic fill to really kick things in at :41. “The idea of the intro is to set the vibe of the rest of the song, and create that atmosphere,” he says. “It’s a slow buildup — I just tried to add some textures to the cymbals and build it up smoothly.
“The buildup there ends with that fill. I wanted to sort of abruptly end that atmospheric part, and head into the new part. The fill is a triplet kind of feel. The sticking is: three on the hands on my 12” rack and 14” rack toms, three on the feet, three on the hands, three on the feet. The most usual way to do that is 4/2 [hands/feet] + 4/2, but I switch it up to add a little variety.”
Erlandsson is hands-off from :42–:48, before a quick fill that leads into the verse’s straight-ahead rock beat punctuated only occasionally by tight double bass bursts. “You just want to let the guitar do the talking a little bit before I kick in,” he says. “The beat I kick in with after that is the straightest you can play: just four on the floor. The double kicks are about accentuating some parts in the riff.”
After another breather of drum space, Erlandsson and his bandmates display a sudden increase in velocity at 1:05. “Usually, when we write songs, we piece different parts together — we try out some riffs, and match it with another riff,” Erlandsson says. “When that happens, there can be drastic tempo changes in between. I think it switches 50 bpms up, then the verse part kicks in. It opens up with crazy guitar picking, and again I’m letting the guitar do the talking.”
A 14" HHX Power Hats
B 18" HHX Stage Crash
C 17" AAX X-Treme Chinese
D 18" HHX X-Plosion Crash
E 10" HHX Splash
F 12" HHX Evolution Splash
G 18" HHX X-Treme Crash
H 22" HH Power Bell Ride
I 18" HHX Chinese
J 18" HHX Evolution O-Zone Crash
K 14" HHX X-Celerator Hats (closed)
Drums Pearl Reference (Piano Black)
1 22" x 20" Bass Drum
2 14" x 5" Daniel Erlandsson Signature Snare Drum (Europe only)
3 8" x 8" Tom
4 10" x 9" Tom
5 12" x 10" Tom
6 14" x 11" Tom
7 16" x 16" Floor Tom
Daniel Erlandsson also uses Pearl Demondrive pedals, Pearl rack system, and occasionally, Pearl Reference and Pearl Ultracast snares; Evans heads (EC2 Clear toms, G2 Coated snare, and EQ3 kicks); Wincent 55XL sticks (666BPM Daniel Erlandsson signature); and Roland triggers and TD-20 module.
But you can’t keep a good drummer down, and at 1:13 Erlandsson breaks out with a more determined double kick attack. “The danger in the kind of music that I play is that you can overuse double kick, and that really, really takes away from the impact that you get. If you add it carefully, it adds a crazy impact to it,” he says. “To be able to play sustained double kick patterns cleanly and evenly, the crucial part is the start. You’ve got to have your body balanced, and I try to be as relaxed as possible when I’m entering one of those parts. I’ll focus on not playing too hard in the beginning of that part. I’ll distribute the hits evenly, because it’s easy to go into with too much intensity.”
Hang on at 1:24 for the ultra-hard-and-fast machine gun Erlandsson busts out. “I would refer to that beat as a ‘blastbeat,’” he laughs. “My right foot is playing eighth-notes, and the snare is doing this subdivision, playing the gaps. So it creates this sixteenth-note feel. This song is a good example of how we use it: a short little section before the chorus kicks in. I think it’s really effective that way.”
The first chorus, from 1:34 to 1:56, hears Erlandsson laying down a patient but heavy double kick foundation. “The guitars are basically playing an eighth-note feel. I’m just following that with my kicks, and creating the pulse of that part. That part to me sounds like a steady, forward-moving train.”
Erlandsson continues on with fast hat sizzles, an evolving verse beat, more tricky fills, a chorus, and extended space as “Cruelty” becomes increasingly intense and cinematic. At 3:21, an intentionally junky tom fill capped with a flam catches your ears. “That’s my take on a traditional Bonham fill,” he says. “Doing triplets — three on the hands ends with one on the foot — creating that fast triplet feel that he loved. He’d spread it around, starting on the snare and ending on the kick, while I start on the toms and end on the kick. And the flam is the most powerful hit you can produce, basically. I pay a lot of attention to how much space is between the notes, and a really broad flam just sounds so good.”
Appropriately dialed down, the band cruises on a pair of relatively relaxed-but-tough straight rock beats (“I really enjoy the AC/DC approach”). After a tricky snare/tom/kick triplet combo at 4:11 and ever-increasing intensity, Arch Enemy rockets into the ferocious home stretch at 4:50. “The closing part is meant to build up until you think it can’t build anymore,” he says. “It ends with a blastbeat, but I’m moving my right hand to the right China cymbal, which really brings it up. I think it’s a great way to finish a song. There’s a lot of ups and downs dynamically, and it definitely ends on a high.
After all that, a cymbal choke is in order to bring this sonic assault to a halt. “The plan was for the song to build up to an extreme intensity, and just end,” Erlandsson concludes. “I love that: It just goes from 100 to 0 in a moment when you choke that cymbal.”