Released: 2009, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Anytime a band achieves a level of success that pulls them out of the underground and into the mainstream spotlight, the naysayers, haters, and purists get in line to bitch and moan about how the band is just not the same anymore, man…Killswitch Engage has unfortunately become one of those bands, having a persistent audience that feels that the band ceased to be relevant after ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING. But naysayers, haters, and purists be damned, the new self-titled Killswitch Engage disc is really, really good.
The new disc follows up 2006’s AS DAYLIGHT DIES. While that album brought the band to new commercial heights and spawned the now infamous cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” it felt a little safe compared to the band’s previous efforts. 2009’s KILLSWITCH ENGAGE brings back the heavy with 11 new tracks firmly rooted in the KSE tradition, but featuring a more aggressive attitude. Most of the songs are within the two to three minute mark, giving the songs a decisive sense of urgency – get it, rock it, and get out with as little filler as possible. The band sounds fired up and inspired and it shows in the performances. The guitar tones are thicker and grittier than they’ve been in a while, but there’s still plenty of the expected KSE melody interspersed within. And vocalist Howard Jones has arguably grown to be one of the most recognizable new voices in metal. He’s found a comfortable middle ground on the disc here, successfully finding a comfortable niche between his soulful crooning and his caustic roar.
The hallmark of a good album is a collection of memorable songs that keep you coming back to listen again and again. And as such, the songs captured here certainly meet those criteria. Each tune has its own vibe but remains distinctly KSE, with huge, sing-a-long choruses and memorable riffs. The opening one-two salvo of “Never Again” and “Starting Over” set the tone for the album immediately; the former being a ripping, melody infused thrasher, while the latter contains those same elements but in a more disciplined and calculated manner. The rest of the disc keeps in step, balancing the ride between more direct numbers like “Reckoning” and “Save Me” and the emotive crunch of tunes like “The Forgotten” and “Take Me Away.” The album loses some steam with “Lost” being so close to the end of the disc, but recoups with “This is Goodbye.”
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE clocks in at just under 40 minutes, so it’s a digestible length to enjoy from start to finish in one sitting (which I’ve found myself doing repeatedly). There’s also a deluxe edition of the album available that features an additional new studio cut, some live tracks, and a bonus DVD detailing the making of the album. To reaffirm my original statement – naysayers be damned, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE is a powerfully strong release from a band that’s quickly become a leading force in the metal scene. Harnessing some of the fire from the past while expanding the melody that they’ve become famous for, this is likely to be one of the biggest metal releases of the year.