Despite the decline in the quality of mainstream (so called) rock music in recent years there is a silver lining. Since the beginning of the 00s modern metal has scaled dizzying heights with bands like Machine Head, Lamb Of God, Trivium, Mastodon and many others releasing stunning albums. Killswitch Engage are one of the bands at the forefront of this. Since 2001 they’ve grown colossally both musically and in popularity. Every album has been better than the last with The End Of Heartache becoming certified gold.
However there is another black cloud. KSE pioneered the sound that would become known as metalcore; a name once associated with innovation is now so with watered down, cookie cutters copy cats. But the Massachusetts metallers proved their worth, once again, with last album, 2006’s As Daylight Dies, a phenomenal album which kicked all the asses of their imitators.
Now in 2009 Killswitch find themselves in a similar position. They had to reignite the flame that has burned so bright for them all these years. For their prior releases guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz has handled production duties and done so immaculately. This time around those duties have been relinquished to Brendan O’Brien (AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Mastodon, Korn, Bruce Springsteen to name a few). Adam D still managed co-production.
In many interviews the band stated they’d left their “comfort zone”, while this may not be dramatically true, it is still true. New riff styles and vocals arrangements are among the new sounds explored on Killswitch Engage, the band’s second self titled effort.
Throughout, every member is firing on all cylinders. Vocalist Howard Jones rips and roars as well as gently croons and vastly serenades. “Never Again” hints at the lyrical shifts, visceral in its delivery and unrelenting. But then, tackling some traditional KSE themes, “Starting Over” covers Jones’ lovelorn side. It’s the first single and a great one at that, made beautiful with soaring riffs and a huge sing along chorus.
“Reckoning” has Jones spitting out some of his most enraged vocals ever – “you are no god to me, you are nothing to me”. It’s a pissed off song until he hits that spine tingling chorus and proves, again, that he has one of the most gifted pairs of lungs out there today. Similarly drummer Justin Foley pounds his kit into oblivion on “The Forgotten” and “I Would Do Anything”.
All the riffs are still so catchy, with still some new styles explored despite the same guitar tone being more or less retained. “A Light In A Darkened World” and “Take Me Away” attest to this. Adam D receives much more attention for his goofy on stage antics then fellow guitarist Joel Stroetzel does for his ability, but the latter is astonishing and a criminally underrated player. Meanwhile every track’s bass in held down effortlessly and clearly by Mike D’Antonio, another largely under appreciated component.
Melancholy stands into the fray on “The Return”, its tales of desperation are told harrowingly and elegantly through Jones’ eyes. Likewise, opening in some dejected fashion Lost pulls mercilessly on your heart strings, with Jones towering with his emotive and heart stopping vocals in a breathtaking chorus. “This Is Goodbye” pulls the curtain on this record in similar fashion while still being astounding and hammering. By this album’s conclusion you’re just plain overwhelmed.
Top to bottom Killswitch Engage is just as solid and impressive as the rest of KSE’s back catalogue, but would you expect anything less? The songs are bursting with real emotion, the band play their hearts out and the production is faultless. Fans will lap this up and more will be made because Killswitch Engage have once again schooled the half wits ruthlessly.