Originally written by Tim Pigeon
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ll be hearing plenty about Killswitch Engage this year. Coming off of a successful run on the Ozzfest last year, as well as a string of big tours, they’ve managed to write a follow-up to 2002’s Alive or Just Breathing that slightly surpasses the high mark set by that album. It seems that, in the time since that one came out, a million bands have sprung up to nip away at the success they’ve enjoyed by playing a similar style of emotion-heavy, groove-laden, chunky metalcore. Now I’m not saying that KsE is the first band to ever mix screams, growls, and clean crooning with thick breakdowns and thrashy riffs, but they were among the acts that brought the sound to everyone’s attention, and in my humble opinion, they do it better than almost anyone else.
Now there really wouldn’t be a point to putting out an album if nothing had changed from the previous album. Most noticeably, there’s new blood in the band. Old singer Jesse Leach has been capably replaced by Howard Jones (Blood Has Been Shed), and Howard also brought along BHBS’s drummer, Justin Foley. But don’t expect a shift in the direction of his other act, The End of Heartache is KsE through and through. The songwriting core of Adam, Mike, and Joel remains unchanged, and that’s obvious as their core sound remains untainted, just dressed up in nicer rags. It should also be known that Adam’s production job turned out excellently, very much like AOJB. For the uninitiated, imagine a big jumble of tight, thrashy riffs, slow chunky grooves, artificial harmonics, lighter passages, and a great vocal performance that’s all over the map.
What strikes me as odd is that the first 15 seconds of the album sound straight from something of the nu, like Korn or the like. Fortunately, that wrong is righted immediately. This opening track, “Bid Farewell”, gets plenty heavy, but I felt was pretty choppy overall. Solid individual sections that just don’t mesh well, but all that means is that we can only go up from here. And indeed that’s where we go. “Take This Oath” is a classic KsE cruncher, although the chorus sounds ripped from a Trivium song. Smooth American Gothen-core. I’m sure you’ve all heard “When Darkness Falls” by now, due to it’s inclusion on the Freddy vs. Jason soundtrack, and this is where Howard really starts to assert his rightful place in the band. After seeing them live a few times with Howard singing the old material, these new songs are better suited to his voice and manner. “Rose of Sharyn” was a brilliant choice for the first video, as it simply kills, with some of their best melodic-death inspired riffage, and an addictive, heartfelt chorus. Want a ballad? You can have the next best thing with the title track – a song that’ll have the pit dancers singing along between bouts of the kung-fu mosh. While a few other tracks are worth mentioning, why go through the process when you can just buy this and hear for yourself?
Killswitch Engage have released an album that should put them in prime position to snatch back the audience that has spent the last year jamming to Lamb of God, Soilwork, Atreyu, Shadows Fall, and Bleeding Through. The End of Heartache is yet another worthy album in what is quickly becoming a great year for metal. The new wave of American metal is firmly upon us, and KsE just confirms that my homestate of Massachusetts is leading the way.