Reviewed: September 2003
Released: 2002, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Along with Shadows Fall and Lamb of God, one of the new American groups who are supposed to usher “real” metal back into your speakers is Killswitch Engage. These guys are from Massachusetts and play a mix of thrash/melodic death/hardcore with a modern twist. Clean vocals are mixed with death-like growling. You’ll find sharp, speedy riffs aplenty here but without sacrificing a nice melody.
ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING is the band’s second album and its first on Roadrunner. Before you run in fear of the dreaded “Roadrunner”, these guys are a standout from the pack of nu-metal “Kornfly” clones. Just one listen to tracks like “Just Barely Breathing”, “Numbered Days” and “Life To Lifeless” will get any self-respecting metalhead into things. “Fixation On The Darkness” and “My Serenade” are two of the more melodic tracks on the CD but are well-balanced with thrashy sections to keep things heavy. I even noticed a multi-tracked vocal on “To The Sons of Man” that begins around the 1:00 mark of the song that would make Glenn Benton proud. “Temple From The Within” and “Vide Infra” are welcome leftovers from KSE’s self-titled 2000 debut. Both songs were re-recorded and are among the best songs on the CD. Lyrically, the band steers away from death, destruction and carnage and focuses instead on more positive issues. Before you write them off as pussies, read the lyrics and you’ll see that it isn’t such a bad thing.
The real star of this recording is Adam Dutkiewicz! Not only is he the band’s regular guitarist, but he also played all the drums and produced and engineered the album, too!! Just listen to the double bass on “Vide Infra” and “Rise Inside”. Not bad for a guitarist!
**NOTE: Howard Jones (not the cheesy 80’s New Wave synth guy) replaced vocalist Jesse Leach just before the album’s release.
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