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The End of Heartache

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  • 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