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Alive or Just Breathing

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  • I got this cd on a bit of a whim. I was just wandering around a cd store with some cash but nothing particular in mind to buy, and I found this. I remembered hearing “My Last Serenade” on the radio a week or so ago, and really liked it, so I gave it a shot. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting into, but it was well worth the risk.Killswitch Engage is commonly referred to as being a metalcore band, which in their case means that they’re a mix of hardcore and melodic death metal. This means you get fairly short, relatively straightforward and solo-free songs, combined with surpisingly melodic yet extremely metallic crunch and unconventional song structures. The riffs vary from being more hardcore and driving,(like in My Last Serenade) to choppier, and more staccatto, as in Numbered Days.2 particular things really make this album standout; the production and the vox. The production is perhaps the best I’ve ever heard on a metal album. The distorted bass rumbles thickly and clearly much of the time, and it has some very, very powerful drumwork with out making the guitars sound weak or under-emphasized. Some might claim it is over-produced, but I disagree. I suppose it could be more “raw”, but the outstanding mix makes up for this slight deficiency. As I mentioned before, the vocals are just great. Leach has got probably the best “extreme” vocal style I’ve yet heard. It’s kinda a mix of hardcore styled howling and death growls. This means it’s got the emotion of punk vox (something death growls usually lack) with the extra power and extremeity of death vox.(He occasionally uses black-metal screeches as well, though they aren’t as good) Leach has got a good singing voice too. He’s no highly complex pseudo-operatic guy, but he fits the music well and has reams of emotion. Sadly, he has since left the band.This album is very consistent. There is a fair amount of variety, though many of the songs follow a basic pattern of having pounding verses and pre-choruses mixed with gentler, more melodic choruses. The opener, Numbered Days, is probably my second favorite track. It’s thunderously heavy, with some outstanding vox and a great melodic yet crushing bridge. My Last Serenade also stands out, with some ferocious, driving metalcore riffage giving way to one of the more transcendantly beautiful choruses on the album. Just Barely Breathing is definitely my favorite track. It has a good atmospheric intro giving way to a slow, grinding opening riff, giving way to speedy death-metal, giving way to another great, cleanly sung chorus. The closing section, with the slow, atmospheric yet powerful riffage combined with clean vox backed by death vox is also especially powerful. This song is simply awesome. To the Sons of Man stands out, as it starts out the heaviest and fastest of all the songs, leading up to an immensely heavy mosh-type breakdown with demonic choir vocals. Another great track. I’ll stop with the specifics, they’re all good, many of them great.So, anyway, go get this album. It’s definitely one of the top 3 from last year.

    Posted on February 1, 2010