29 June 2009
by Mike Strata
Remember that pair of trainers you bought years ago? The ones that you’ve worn irrespective of the occasion, the weather and the ever -fickle finger of fashion? The ones that just feel so comfortable when you slip them on that it doesn’t really matter that they’re a little past their prime? Killswitch Engage are those trainers – in a metaphorical sense at least.
Over the last nine years or so the Massachusetts bruisers have pummeled us with album after album of melodic metalcore, becoming one of the genre’s leading lights in the process. They’ve spawned legions of imitators, who have in turn flooded the market, and yet KsE have always been able to keep their heads above water in the sea of mediocrity that is late noughties metalcore. Until now, that is.
Ostensibly there is nothing “wrong” with KsE’s latest offering, it has all the characteristics you’d expect of such a record in 2009. Brutal verses with soaring choruses? Check. Twin guitar harmonies with searing solos? Check. Song names using words such as ‘lost’, ‘never’, ‘forgotten’ and ‘dark’? Check. It’s just that just like those favourite trainers, the sole (SOUL – geddit?!) has worn away to the extent that it all just seems a little bit flat.
The album opens in typical KsE fashion with ‘Never Again’, all dramatic octave chords, blistering leads and Howard Jones bellowing his lungs out. Bless him. Unfortunately things don’t get much better than this, in fact they get quite a lot worse. Sure, ‘Starting Over’, ‘Reckoning’ and ‘A Light In A Darkened World’ are classic Killswitch, taken on their own they’re great tracks, but the rest of the album is so lacklustre that it completely dulls their effect. ‘Take Me Away’ is undoubtedly the lowest point, with the band pushing the loud/quiet/loud dynamic to breaking point and ending up sounding like pale imitations of their former selves.
Watch the video to ‘Starting Over’ by Killswitch Engage
The decision to switch producers from the band’s own joker in the pack, Adam D (he apparently co-produced), to Brendan O’Brien doesn’t really seem to have paid off either – this is still recognizably KsE, alas not sounding any fresher than you would expect. In fact, the guitars in particular sound a little worse than on past excursions, a little “buzzy” and trebly where they should be crushing.
There is one light in this darkened world however, and that is the vocal performance of Howard Jones. He screeches, shouts, screams and grunts in all the right places, but it’s his towering melodic vocals that rescue what would otherwise be a less-than-average album. Solid not spectacular, In truth this is less Nike, more Hi-Tec. Sorry boys.
Sounds like: All the metalcore you’ve ever heard
Top tracks: Starting Over, Reckoning
Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage tracklisting
A Light In a Darkened World
Take Me Away
I Would Do Anything
This Is Goodbye