Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review; Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent

Track Listing:

1. The Hell In Me
2. Beyond The Flames
3. New Awakening
4. In Due Time
5. A Tribute To The Fallen
6. The Turning Point
7. All That We Have
8. You Don't Bleed For Me
9. The Call
10. No End In Sight
11. Always
12. Time Will Not Remain

The new Killswitch Engage album has been watched by the metal community with baited breath. This was due to two reasons; Firstly, long-term fans of the band were hoping the new release would be better than 2009's Self-Titled release, which is widely considered as a disappointment. Secondly; this would be the first album to feature original singer Jesse Leach since 2002's "Alive Or Just Breathing", arguably the band's best effort to date. Sure enough, there are a lot of people, myself included, that will miss Howard Jones but it would be a lie to say that Jesse's return to Killswitch wasn't one of the best pieces of news to come out of the metal world at the end of last year.

It comes as equally exciting to be able to say that Disarm The Descent is not just a good KSE album, it's a great one! The album explodes right back into Killswitch territory that we all know and love. It's more aggressive than the 2009 let-down and taps into the energy that the band had on display back in 2002. The vocal capabilities of Leach have come on by leaps and bounds in his absence, and it's great to hear that he can still deliver great choruses like the one in the opening song, and the lead single "In Due Time". Hooks can be found aplenty in this album, and they're certainly better than most mediocre Metalcore attempts that come out of the woodwork left, right and centre.

The lyrical content of the album comes across as very transparent, open and honest to the point that Leach may well be spilling his guts on the floor at several points on the record. However, the personal favourite lyrics are found in "Beyond The Flames" which also boasts some brilliant riffs and rhythm work as well as a truly beautiful sense of melody. It would be a great moment live without a doubt.

The band's clear influence was always the catchy-yet-heavy approach of Swedish metal legends At The Gates, among others. This influence still shines through in everything from the guitar chops to the vocal styles. The mixture of clean singing and harsh screams or growls is hardly original these days, but when it comes to the Metalcore boom of the 2000's, Killswitch were always one of the more impressive bands to utilize that sound. This title remains firmly in their hands upon listening to this album. The songs are massive, memorable and catchy-as-fuck. Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel deliver constantly great guitar work, with some lead work that other bands in the genre couldn't touch if they tried. The album feels a lot faster than Killswitch generally go, and the shift into high gear serves them well, especially in "A Tribute To The Fallen" and "All That We Have".

The album feels a whole lot heavier and more musically punishing than most of the material of the Howard Jones era, as well. There are some genuinely punishing blast-beats coming from Justin Foley's drum-kit. Combine that with the production work laid down by Adam D and Andy Sneap, who lend their expertise brilliantly to the sound of metal, keeping it from sounding over-polished, and the album comes across as anything but bog-standard metalcore. This is a band that was once poised to be the biggest American band of their generation, racing for the throne against Lamb Of God, Trivium and Machine Head (Who won the race, no question). Now, we might just see Killswitch try to leap forward again to re-solidify their position as one of modern metal's luminaries.

Disarm The Descent does slow down on the track "Always", a ballad that may not be to some people's liking. It boasts a very moving melody and a couple of muted sections with the vocals coming in from the background in an almost haunting manner. It's a wildcard song, but should be to as many people's tastes as not. It seems to make sense to put the slower song of the album at the end though, as "Time Will Not Remain" brings everything kicking and screaming back to life for one last ride through the band's rejuvenated fury, complete with sing-along chorus, naturally.

The only weakness that Killswitch Engage have ever had is that their songs can end up sounding the same on each album, they are not the masters of variety, but those who like their sound will not have any complaints in that department. The major point of celebration on this album is of course the return of the prodigal singer, there's no denying that, but such things shouldn't make a band's music better out of a sense of nostalgia. It's good then that Killswitch reverse that idea; Disarm The Descent is full of musical performances that should make people even more glad that Jesse is back. This is exactly the record that the band needed to make after their recent slump period, and it's great to see them back on good form.

Rating: 8.5/10

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