Killswitch Engage

Disarm The Descent

Written by: AP on 02/04/2013 21:41:42

On their previous two albums, "As Daylight Dies" (2006) and "Killswitch Engage" (2009), I felt as though these metalcore pioneers had hit a brick wall; the quandary brought about as much by then-vocalist Howard Jones' personal issues as by the saturation and stagnation of the genre. Jones has exited the band since, of course, and been replaced by original vocalist Jesse Leach, whose arrival was preceded by a due tryout process - just like every other person that hoped to occupy Jones' former position. But really, there was little doubt that as soon as Leach announced his intent to try out, his reinstatement was rather a formality. Having had the chance to witness the refreshed line-up live last summer at Copenhell, there was also little doubt that Leach's return was exactly the sort of re-energising Killswitch Engage needed in order to remain relevant, and in order to move forward as a band.

Over the past year-or-so, Killswitch Engage have been pre-occupied with writing new material for this sixth album, "Disarm the Descent", which, guitarist Joel Stroetzel assured me in an interview last summer, had sent the band scavenging for inspiration from "Alive or Just Breathing" (2002) and "The End of Heartache" (2004) in particular. And that, I suppose, is an apt summary of what "Disarm the Descent" generally sounds like: instrumentally it is most proximate to the latter, and vocally and lyrically of course to the former. As such, fans should neither expect nor fear a significant shift in stylistic direction or songwriting approach, as Killswitch Engage continue to sound every bit the great grandfathers of metalcore, swinging in their oak chairs condemning the neverending torrent of modern shitfests and reminiscing of days when the genre could still credibly be said to distill its influence from the Gothenburg greats.

What is different - or rather, a recurrence following a period of creative lull - is the vigour and childish ease with which the boys bust out instant metalcore hits like "Beyond the Flames", "The New Awakening" and first single "In Due Time". Expect groove-laden riffs à la "Fixation on the Darkness", "My Last Serenade" and "Temple from the Within" flirting with uplifting clean sung choruses in the vein of "When Darkness Falls" and "Rose of Sharyn" - and expect it in heaps, for there are very few adventures to be found across the 14 songs crammed into the effort. Whether or not that's a bad thing obviously depends on the degree to which you call yourself a Killswitch Engage fan. If that degree is high, then there is no reason why "A Tribute to the Fallen" and really every song that follows it shouldn't provide an equal fix of staccato riff based goodness; if it is low or moderate, then it is highly likely that the pressing lack of diversity on offer will begin to feel somewhat frustrating.

Of course, to call "Disarm the Descent" completely saturated would be to ignore the always inventive dual guitar playing of Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel; the pulsating role of bassist Mike D'Antonio; and the rhythmic variety courtesy of drummer Justin Foley. But these are minor textures audible only to a long-time fan of the band, and if your patience does not stretch far enough to embrace such details, then I cannot blame you for growing bored around the halfway mark with "All That We Have" or "You Don't Bleed for Me". There is also the notion that I mentioned in the opening remarks to this review: that Killswitch Engage sound younger and more enthusiastic than they have in 11 years, the profound understanding that exists between the various musicians and Jesse Leach bleeding through with remarkable clarity. The result is a collection of 14 songs that are as badass as they are catchy. And if you endure the halfway crisis, there are plenty of gems such as "The Call" to be appreciated later on, its thundering blastbeats and beckoning chorus proving every bit as exhilirating as some of the band's classic 2004 material. Not to mention "Time Will Not Remain" and "Blood Stains", which both sport hella cool lead riffs Killswitch Engage and profuse amounts of vocal memorabilia as well.

It is a welcome touch too that Leach's political ramblings that we grew accustomed to with his other project The Empire Shall Fall did not arrive at Killswitch Engage with him, as it is in large part the positive, life-affirming messages embedded in the band's lyrics that have created such a unique identity for them. There is something deeply satisfying about listening to music that by all accounts sounds quite furious, and knowing its lyrics are so spirited.

What is the verdict then, you ask? Suffice it to say that "Disarm the Descent" is the best album Killswitch Engage have released since "The End of Heartache"; a lengthy package of heritage metalcore songs that neither disappoint nor truly amaze. Leach's return is welcome, and proves to be key to revitalising the band's sound, his enthusiastic performance providing the rallying call for the other musicians to be able to triumph. My only real complaint is that the album could, and probably should have been stumped to 10 or 11 songs, as one must consider oneself a genuine diehard fan to find every song here as interesting as the next. Nonetheless it is a formidable return to form by a band whose career seemed all but over for the past three years.

8

Download: Beyond the Flames, The New Awakening, In Due Time, The Call, Time Will Not Remain, Blood Stains
For the fans of: older All That Remains, Times of Grace, Trivium
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.04.2013
Roadrunner Records

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