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The End of Heartache

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Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • I can’t believe I actually have to write a review defending this album considering how incredible it is. First off, let’s get one thing straight – this is metal. That point can’t even remotely be debated. I listen to everything from nu-metal to death metal, and this is definitely metal. Second, listening to obscure, fanatical death metal and/or grindcore doesn’t make you a metal expert or cooler than people who listen to more mainstream metal. Typically, it makes it so you can count your friends on one hand, as you write out your suicide note. I love the idea of metal elitists mocking this album, what makes them elite? Basically, when something becomes popular, usually it is because it is better than the stuff that isn’t popular. But I digress, back to the album review:

    This is just a killer album, blending elements of 80s thrash with late 90s hardcore, and then throwing in sweeping epic choruses for good measure. The production is flawless, yet it still maintains a raw sound, probably due to Howard Jones vocals. Speaking of which, they are nothing short of incredible. It’s hard to believe this is the same guy from BHBS, where he basically sounds like he is vomiting on the microphone for 35 minutes. At any rate, he learned how to sing AND scream better, combining the elements to create one of the most insanely schizophrenic vocal performances ever recorded. It fits perfectly with the music. The guitar riffs aren’t overly intricate, but they hit hard….. think about it, if this album was released mid-80s, they would’ve called it thrash. I don’t see why metalcore gets a bad rap, it is clearly the pre-eminent and best style of metal at the moment, why do you think so many bands try to copy this sound?

    And enough with the mainstream comments…. I played this for some of my friends, most of whom aren’t into metal even though they enjoy other mainstream metal such as Metallica and Pantera, they all hated it so much, complaining that the lead singer must be psychotic, how could I listen to such horrible music? LOL that’s all it takes for me to know that this isn’t mainstream. But for those of you with no lives who want to criticize popular metal, continue to knock away, even you have to privately admit to yourselves that Killswitch rules. In short, if you’ve ever liked metal of any type, you will enjoy this brutal yet melodic masterpiece.

    Posted on March 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I first got into Killswitch after hearing “When Darkness Falls” and buying their second album, “Alive Or Just Breathing”. It was a great CD and had many good songs. However, “When Darkness Falls” was on a soundtrack and had a new vocalist and I couldn’t wait to hear the new CD. Finally when it came out, the verdict was in. This album is something else entirely. This album is a modern masterpiece.

    From the opening of “A Bid Farewell” to the very end, this album is awesome. Highlights are “Rose Of Sharyn”, “When Darkness Falls”, “A Bid Farewell”, “Take This Oath”, “Breathe Life”, and the excellent title track. There isn’t one bad song on the disc, though. This is one of those albums that once you hear it, you know it’s something really special. New vocalist Howard Jones has a deep, rich voice and can also let out a powerful scream.

    There will be a lot riding on the follow-up to this brilliant album, but I know KsE will not dissapoint. Definately pick up this CD, I highly recommend it. You won’t regret it.

    Posted on March 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I got Alive or Just Breathing a little over a year ago, on a bit of a whim. I was very impressed, and it looked like Killswitch Engage had a very bright future. But then, I found out that vocalist Jesse Leach had left the band, particularly tragic since he was the standout figure in the band, and what I had heard of the replacement vocalist was less then impressive.(In his older band) Eventually I heard about their making a new album. The title was not encouraging, as it was accompanied by accusations that they had ‘wussed-out’ and a number of negative reviews. So I didn’t run out to pick it up immediately. Shortly thereafter, however, I read a very positive review from a highly respectable member of the community, which piqued my interest. So I decided to pick up, but I was still a bit leery. I’m pleased to say that my concerns were unfounded, and KsE have released an album superior to their previous.(which is still very good, by the way, though I’m not quite as enthused about it as I was when I wrote my review for it)As I said before, my gravest concern was the departure of Jesse Leach. Fortunately, Howard Jones proves to be a more than capable replacement. He’s equally versatile and has a fine voice for both singing and growling/roaring/etc. Overall, I don’t think he’s quite as good as Jesse, but the difference is negligible. Easily offsetting the very slight decrease in vocal ability is the notable improvement in pretty much every other area. The rhythm guitar work is much stronger on this album. On Alive of Just Breathing, there were only a handful of truly remarkable riffs, which was largely offset by strong vocals and nicely contrasting sections. Thus, the individual parts may not have been that extraordinary, but they all fit together very nicely. Now, however, the rhythm guitar work is consistently memorable, generally featuring tighter, thrashier riffs and more memorable melodic and harmonized sections. The songs retain the memorability they had before, and gain a fair amount of depth. Though I haven’t done a direct comparison, this album seems slightly less heavy than the previous, but it gained a lot of melody in exchange for it. Overall, it seems to have been a good trade.Nothing on here can quite match Just Barely Breathing or Numbered Days, but overall it is a more consistent and cohesive listen. Song structures are less predictable and more riff-oriented, which is always a good change.(Some of the weaker tracks on Alive or Just Breathing had remarkably similar structures, which made them blend together a bit) A Bid Farewell is a rock-solid opener, showcasing powerful riffing, a nice melodic tremolo-picked pre-chorus and an epic, show-stopping chorus. Classic KsE. Rose of Sharyn is extremely melodic and memorable, without being overly simplistic or poppy. More great melodic thrash-type riffs. Breathe Life is the apparent sequel to last albums Just Barely Breathing, and is another standout. The chorus is bit jarring the first time you here it, but it grows on you quickly, and the cocals during the verses are quite powerful. Declaration is perhaps my favorite track. The rhythm guitar work is stunning, and middle section is truly stirring, with the incessant build up and devastating vocals. Sadly, the quality dips a bit for the last two tracks. They are both good, except for their choruses, which don’t quite work. Still pretty good, but not up the standards of the previous tracks.On a closing not, KsE have maintained the strange, positive-minded lyrics of their earlier work. While I generally don’t decry the more stereotypical lyrics of metal in general, it’s nice to here something like this for a change.(Though I will admit that it sometimes is a bit strange to here such lyrics delivered in a such a manner) Fortunately, they still have a fair amount of anger in them, so they don’t come across as too wimpy. And you have to respect a band who is willing to write lyrics that may get them written off by some of the more lamer members of the community.(Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening very much.)Overall, I doubt that this album will disappoint many who liked their previous. No wild stylistic changes perhaps, but a nice honing of their already fine style. Definitely one of the best albums of the year so far.

    Posted on March 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Throughout my meandering of the website researching bands and seeing what my fellow users think of them, I have made a few observations that I’d like to share.First, I think that everyone who writes a review on this site should at least run his/her review through a spell-checker. Now granted, a lot of you are unemployed GED recipients living in your parents’ basement, and I know your grammar and diction are not at the top of their respective games. Nonetheless, a simple copy/paste from your browser into Word should do the trick. Second, I think that reviewers tend to make mistakes when they compare bands. For example, comparing Killswitch Engage to Nine Inch Nails is like comparing Smashing Pumpkins to Rancid; they’re not even on the same radar screen. At least make comparisons in the same genre. If Nine Inch Nails is a poser band, run them up against Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, or KMFDM. If Killswitch Engage is a poser band, run them up against Lamb of God, God Forbid, Machine Head, Atreyu, or Avenged Sevenfold. Apples to apples people; simple math.Third, I think my definition of brutal is VASTLY different from that of some users on this site. While “The End of Heartache” is an excellent album, and while it is definitely harder-edged than your standard Korn or Linkin Park CD, it is without a doubt NOT the most brutal, maniacal music I’ve ever heard. And it is FAR from being the most brutal album of the millennium. It definitely would take a band like Suffocation, Vital Remains, Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Decapitation, or Myrksgog to wrangle that title. Sad thing is, it’s 2004 and we’re 996 years away from the end of the millennium. Who knows? A more brutal band JUST MIGHT come along. Now that I’m off my soapbox, on to the meat of the matter. “The End of Heartache” is probably KSE’s most accessible release to date. Howard Jones’ vocals are on target, and display a versatility not often seen in the metal scene today (by versatile, I mean he can sing AND scream in tune, not oscillate between guttural growling and high-pitched screams). “Rose of Sharyn” and the title track demonstrate the band’s ability to write emotionally-charged songs with which anyone can identify while maintaining the album’s hard-edged appeal. The musicianship is superb and the album stands up quite nicely to repeated listenings. Killswitch Engage have definitely carved a name for themselves in the metal world, and it would be a mistake on the part of any fan of extreme music to write them off. They might be more “popular” than a lot of heavy bands out there, but that does not by ANY means diminish their ability to turn out a quality album.

    Posted on March 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Coming off the underground success of their previous album, “Alive or Just Breathing,” Killswitch Engage have released a follow-up that should only solidify their reputation as one of heavy music’s top young bands. These guys were already established as a leading band in the crowded melodic hardcore genre, and “The End of Heartache” sees their sound becoming even more focused and diverse. While still a notch below the truly great heavy bands like Burnt By The Sun, the Dillinger Escape Plan, and Meshuggah, KSE are definitely on their way up. Three albums into their career, they may well be peaking right now.What’s most impressive about this album is just how tightly written and played it is. Every song is calculated for maximum visceral and emotional impact, with the band deftly exploiting dynamics as they careen back and forth between balls-out aggression and soaring melodies. Yes, there are plenty of bands in the metal/hardcore/metalcore/whatever genre doing that right now, but KSE are still notable for the emotion, creativity, and musicianship they bring to the genre. Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel lead the charge with a devastating two-guitar assault, cranking out some complex and interesting riff structures without sacrificing the intensity that’s at the core of the band’s sound. Howard Jones also deserves a great deal of credit, stepping in on vocals for the departed Jesse Leach without missing a beat and somehow managing to raise the emotional stakes even higher than his predecessor. Howard’s screams are more jarring, and his clean singing clearer, making him a perfect match for the band’s unpredictable, wide-ranging sound. Throw in a pile-driving rhythm section, and you’ve got a band that’s getting very good at combining power with polish. While KSE may not be the most original band out there, they do show quite a knack for combining the sounds of those who came before them. While there is plenty of uncompromising hardcore stomp on display, much of “The End of Heartache” sees KSE expanding their genre-bending approach. The opening “A Bid Farewell” packs more sonic shifts into four minutes than many bands do on an entire album, starting out with some chunky, heavy rhythms before taking off at breakneck speed and then stopping dead in its tracks for a big, epic chorus. Alternating monstrous riffage and chugging basslines with hard-driving guitar harmonies, “Take This Oath” sounds sort of like Fear Factory crossbred with In Flames. The title track, featuring an abundance of singing and some slightly corny lost-love lyrics, may veer uncomfortably close to ballad territory for some, but it’s an undeniably powerful song whose melancholy mood is occasionally shattered by Howard’s piercing shrieks. There are a few nods to the old school to be found here, as well. “Rose of Sharyn” is reminiscent of Iron Maiden in its grand sweep, driven by some aggressive hooks and insanely catchy guitar interplay. The lightning-fast riffs and airtight double-bass drumming of “Declaration” show an ’80’s thrash influence, sort of like Metallica or Testament given a 21st-century update. And in something of a curveball, the tricky rhythms and abrupt time changes of “World Ablaze” see the band going in a more technical, “mathy” direction that could serve them very well on future albums. It’s not quite Meshuggah, but it’s a start. All in all, “The End of Heartache” is one immensely enjoyable album from a band that seems to be showing a real commitment to maturity and diversity. It’s good to see that heavy music’s recent resurgence hasn’t come to an end quite yet. If you want some metallic fury rocked with rage and intelligence, this is a good place to look. Come year-end, this album should wind up on more than a few “best-of” lists.

    Posted on March 16, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now