Killswitch Engage fist came to my attention as part of the soundtrack to a video game; believe it or not. I was playing the PS2 game “Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel” with my girlfriend, and I kept noticing the incredibly heavy riffs in the background music during boss fights…after finishing the game, I learned from the credits that Killswitch Engage were one of the bands involved in the soundtrack for the game. I picked up “Alive or Just Breathing”, and the rest is history for me; they have become one of my favorites in today’s burgeoning metal scene.
With the resurgence of metal’s popularity these days, there are many different styles or sub-genres, Killswitch have been defined as one of the important “metalcore” bands. It’s interesting for me to see how much hairsplitting is done with the younger, new metal fans, since I have been a metalhead (and metal guitar player) since the early ’80s. As far as I can tell, being metalcore means that you have heavy riffs, both death metal-style growling vocals and clean, anthemic choruses, and lots of “breakdowns”, where the song shifts into a slow, heavy riff (by the way, it’s called a bridge, dudes)- and if that defines a style, than Killswitch are surely the apotheosis of metalcore.
Definitions aside, Killswitch play tight, ultra-heavy metal riffs that shake the walls- and the almighty riff is what metal is all about. The alternating vocal style is effective and actually adds a lot to the dynamics of the music; I have really grown to appreciate it, and both are very well done- the death metal growl sounds ferocious, and the clean (sometimes harmonized) vocals sound absolutely epic. What I have enjoyed about this album even more is the addition of a more progressive playing style, both from a drumming/time-signature standpoint and from the added guitar complexity of this release when compared to the band’s previous efforts. Even better than I had hoped for…not a change in style for this band in any way shape or form; just a distillation of the band’s strengths. Recommended for any metal fan.