Killswitch Engage - Incarnate

Metalcore by design

Killswitch, Killswitch, Killswitch. What happened to you guys? Being one of the bands back in the early '00s to captivate the mind of a young (all be it much longer haired) Orin, I have a bit of a bone to pick with this latest entry.

With early work on their self-titled album (I am only counting the first one they put out... and so should anyone else, but more on that later), to their metamorphosis into the metalcore template that would serve to spawn hundreds of copy-cats and sound-alikes. Aggressive, melodic and yet soulful and positive. From the early days of Jesse Leach and his abrasive harsh screams and emotive choruses, to the crooning power-house era of Howard Jones, it seemed like they could do no wrong. No joke, a friend and I would legitimately watch their live DVD "Set this World Ablaze" almost every week, they were a big thing for us. With the massive release of As Daylight Dies, they dominated the genre of melodic cheesy music. Then the late '00s happened... And things all changed. With the release of their second (yeah... second) self-titled, fans could sense the formula had run its welcome. So I rejoiced to hear that original singer Jesse Leach would return for their 2013 output Disarm the Dissent. That album ripped. Bringing back some much-needed grit and riff prominence that was lacking from their more melodic (second) self-title. If you are a fan of that style of melodic hook driven metalcore, I still recommend it to this day as one of their better albums.

Now on to this album... Oh boy. So now the second album with their veteran singer, and it seems that jolt of energy may have been short lived. This album, at its core is just... Dull. We start with the track "Alone I Stand", very much in the same temperament as the last album left off (not at all a bad thing), and this left me with good hope for the album. Riffs and harmonies for days and soaring choruses, so no complaints here. The problem I have with the album really starts to rear its head around song three "Cut Me Loose", where Leach seems lit to mutter random incoherent platitudes about positivity and moving on to dull chugging. Then it dawned on me... Jesse Leach is literally singing about nothing. Sure you could find interviews where he claims to be singing about this or that, but listening to lines without any context given holds no meaning. I mean, his lyrics have never been particularly narratively driven in the first place (you could play the drinking game where every reference to the act of "opening your eyes" for the first two albums he was on, and end up in a pretty weird place that's for sure), but they just seem to be about nothing. Vague enough to pander to youth, but general enough to belt out as though they are some grand statement. Additionally, this album is very heavy on the clean singing. Though I have no problem with bands opting to be more melodic, this was not the strength Leach had brought with the previous album. I mean, seriously, he even rips a vocal melody from a Tool song (don't believe me? Skip to 3:48 on "Embrace The Journey... Upraised", and tell me you don't start singing the verse to Sober). Howard Jones, he is not.

Thus far my gripe has been predominantly with the vocals, and I want to stress: they are not what make this album dull (on their own). I am looking at the autopilot formula used by Adam Dutkiewicz on this one. Far too often does this album just piddle along at medium tempo chugging, aulternating with fast-picking, only to lead to a predictable clean-chorus break. I was always under the impression he just saved his most derivative pattern laden work for when he writes entire All That Remains albums, but I fear they may have finally seeped over to the main project.

All in all, I can't say much more about this album apart from that I am disappointed. Perhaps this album will grow on me, though I honestly doubt it (it became a chore to listen to it in its entirety). If you are jonesing for Killswitch, just go back to their last album, or As Daylight Dies... Or any album not this (or the second self-titled).


--Orin hosts The Noisy Loft, Sundays at 8PM on CJLO. Expect loud things. Very loud things.