Posted on January 7, 2010 -
Nearly ten years after releasing their first self-titled effort, metalcore’s most iconic and definitive band, Killswitch Engage, have arrived with another self-titled album. Not only is it their third effort with vocalist Howard Jones in tow but it is also their first to utilize the abilities of an outside producer, Brendan O’Brien, who has worked with everyone from AC/DC to The Offspring. Following up 2006’s “As Daylight Dies,” the new album has the dual task of living up to the already established, tried and true sound as well as bringing something new to the table for the fifth set of music in the band’s career.
The opening track of the album, “Never Again,” answers the question of whether or not a big name producer and heightening success has softened Killswitch Engage’s technique with a resounding “No.” Vocalist Howard Jones still howls, croons and shrieks in the same fashion that made the band’s breakthrough album — 2004’s “The End of Heartache”– such a success, and the band still pummels on, with co-guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz shredding and chugging along with the crushing rhythm section of bassist Mike D’Antonio and drummer Justin Foley. Five albums in, nothing much has changed, as the marriage between melody and brutality has remained as strong as ever for this Massachusetts five-piece. In essence, this is the same Killswitch Engage we have come to know and love, with perhaps a few tinkerings that only serve to keep their reliable sound fresh and viable.
The question over Brendan O’Brien’s influence still lingers in songs like “A Light in a Darkened World”, “Starting Over” (this album’s “Rose of Sharyn”) and “I Would Do Anything,” with slight pop flourishes peppered throughout. Thankfully, little tweaks here and there don’t change the band’s sound enough to make for sacrilege, and the album comes across less as an attempt to be Killswitch’s version of Metallica’s “The Black Album” and more like the band trying to retain their identity while expanding upon its already tried and true sound. “Reckoning” and “This Is Goodbye” (the album’s crushing closing number) serve as comfort-food for the faithful fan, while experimentation comes to fruition in one of the album’s strongest tracks, “The Return.” A slow-building, moody and textured piece, it serves as one of the few spots where the band breaks with their routine to deliver something truly outstanding. It works and it works well, but is unfortunately the only spot in the album where the band gets truly creative and steps outside of their comfort zone. More songs like this — or at least with its spirit — and the band’s fifth album would have been the better for it.
Although the album doesn’t break much from tradition, it’s still a mostly fresh experience. The band is in top form, delivering a set of songs that will no doubt sound even better when performed live. Jones, in particular, ups the ante, giving his finest vocal performance to date, giving credibility to some of the more restrained moments of the album while holding true to the Killswitch Engage name in the album’s heavier fare. “Killswitch Engage” (or perhaps “Killswitch Engage II”) is no doubt a crowd pleaser, an album that if you’re already initiated, will nestle itself comfortably in your ear-drums. New fans could look elsewhere for a better introduction, but as far as a band on its fifth album in its ten year long career, Killswitch Engage show no sign of slowing down and it can only get better from here.
The Special Edition/Digipak features four additional tracks as well as a bonus DVD. Three of the four tracks are live — “Rose of Sharyn,” “My Curse” and the band’s brilliant cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” — and capture the band at their best — in a live setting. “In a Dead World,” meanwhile, fits nicely along with the other eleven tracks that make up the album. The DVD is about a half an hour long, and covers the band’s stint on The Warped Tour as well as the making of the album and the album’s artwork. It also features some humorous interviews, and coupled with the live tracks, makes this package worth seeking out.