Killswitch Engage – Atonement review

Familiar, yet Fresh and Fantastic 9/10Killswitch Engage Band photo, Metal, Wooden Bridge Backdrop

Killswitch Engage, the metalcore band loved and respected by most genre fans due to their ability to literally engage and inspire legions return with their eighth studio offering. This is their third release since the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach. I will go so far as to say that Leach’s vocals are better than ever, with greater variety especially considering the vocal surgery he has recently undergone.

“At first, I was wondering if I was done career-wise,” he admits. “It worked out though. Out of everything came a real determination to learn techniques and get a second chance at becoming a better vocalist. I have so much more control of my voice and can scream properly. I don’t think the album would be what it is if I didn’t go through all of this.”

While there may be some dispute in the fanbase as to the preferred vocalist, the inclusion of Howard Jones demonstrates both unity and maturity in a track that should please all.

Emerging on the scene in 2000, Killswitch Engage with their heavy and melodic brand of metalcore, they seemed almost to be a gateway band for many- while generating swathes of loyal fans. Despite changes in personnel, their core remains strong.

Leach explains

“To me, the name Killswitch Engage means ‘Shut the system down’,” exclaims Jesse. “It’s anti-authority and anti-corruption. My lyrics are very spiritual and political. It’s a part of what Killswitch has been since the beginning. We carry the message through the live show. There’s a sense of fun, enjoying life, and emotional catharsis. I don’t even know if we meant to do it consciously, but this showcases all of our styles. It happened naturally. I’m proud of it.”

The album opens with first single and the ominous melancholia of Unleashed. Based on the inner darkness and primal animal we all harbour inside in a track as powerful as it is to relate to. Howls, tribal drumming and darkly choral backing vocals combine with inspired guitars to form a most promising start.

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The pace picks up dramatically for the pummelling thrash and euphoric chorus of The Signal Fire. Featuring a guest appearance by former Killswitch Engage singer and current Light The Torch frontman Howard Jones.           

I had an image from Lord of The Rings when they climb to the top of the mountain and light a fire to signal for backup,it felt powerful to me. At the same time, Howard’s Light The Torch was making new music. I thought, ‘‘Light The Torch’ and ‘Signal Fire’ make sense together.’ It needed to be a call-to-arms, and I wanted to invite him to sing on it. We hit it off for the first time, recently. Afterwards, we were texting back-and-forth. We needed a song with him to show the fans there’s solidarity. It’s a perfect ode to our bond as brothers and a nice nod to Light The Torch.”

The overwhelming conviction of ‘Nothing can ever tear us apart’ permeates Us Against The World. An euphorically uplifting, mid-tempo stomper of a number, that is certain to become a modern KE anthem. The dynamic switches once more with The Crownless King which is elevated ever further by the unmistakable vocals of Testament main man Chuck Billy! Faster, harder, heavier and inspired it is truly special with exemplary guitarwork.          

The incredibly poignant and powerful, almost grungey I Am Broken Too  is fairly gentle in comparison, with greater focus on Leach’s extraordinary clean vocals. Describing the mental health of a friend,

“It’s about someone that I love dearly who had a breakdown, and it was somebody who was living a ‘normal life.’ On paper, you would look at this person and think he’s got it made; he’s doing great.

That person would conceal those issues and drink it all away or numb it in some sort of way.”

Leach reveals that

This song is very near and dear to my heart. I wanted the listener to feel the urgency, the heaviness of the topic as well as a possible connection. Many people suffer from mental illness in one form or another. I want nothing more than for people to feel like they are not alone in this struggle. There is always someone there to help, to listen, and to be there for you. Don’t lose hope and don’t let your brokenness consume you. Broken can be fixed, or at the very least, maintained. No one is alone in this fight.

A portion of the proceeds of the track will be donated to Hope for the Day, a Chicago-based non-profit organisation that focuses on suicide prevention by providing outreach and mental health education through the use of music and art.

 

 

Another fantastically heavy, yet galvanising track follows As Sure As The Sun Will Rise with its air of encouragement and the urge to raise yourself up, there is hope! With the empowerment of the previous track, Know Your Enemy motivates a revolution to spur on resistance with groove and exultation.

Mindfulness, knowing yourself and the great learning curve to Take Control of anxiety. This more mellow and pensive song actually offers a stepping stone to the tools of strengthening your resolve. It’s a remarkable track, with many hidden depths and a wonderfully powerful message.

With a roar, the primal Ravenous ferociously pummels with contrasting melodic breathers that allow you to regain both thought and breath. I Can’t Be The Only One commences as a more traditionally fist pumping metal track affirming that you are not alone, it’s a monster of a track and I hope will reassure many. Bite The Hand That Feeds closes the album powerfully, complete with a beast of a breakdown and an overwhelming sense of hope and positively directed rage

“I want to take all of that energy, negativity, and shit I suffer with and turn it into something positive to make people feel a sense of hope,”

I was not aware that Killswitch Engage needed to repent for anything, but their Atonement is quite simply brilliant. Harking back to an age where metalcore was fresh, this album provides the energy, rage and resolve in  a positive and constructive manner. Well done!

Atonement is available for pre-order here

  1. Unleashed
  2. The Signal Fire [featuring Howard Jones]
  3. Us Against The World
  4. The Crownless King [featuring Chuck Billy]
  5. I Am Broken Too
  6. As Sure As The Sun Will Rise
  7. Know Your Enemy
  8. Take Control
  9. Ravenous
  10. I Can’t Be The Only One
  11. Bite The Hand That Feeds

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE IN EUROPE:

Mon 14th Oct – NORWICH (UK) UEA
Tue 15th Oct – BRISTOL (UK) O2 Academy
Thu 17th Oct – GLASGOW (UK) Barrowland
Fri 18th Oct – MANCHESTER (UK) Academy
Sat 19th Oct – BIRMINGHAM (UK) O2 Academy
Sun 20th Oct – LONDON (UK) O2 Academy Brixton
Tue 22nd Oct – BRUSSELS (BEL) AB
Wed 23rd Oct – AMSTERDAM (HOL) Melkweg
Fri 25th Oct – OBERHAUSEN (GER) Turbinenhalle
Sat 26th Oct – BERLIN (GER) Huxleys
Mon 28th Oct – HELSINKI (FIN) Circus
Wed 30th Oct – STOCKHOLM (SWE) Fryshuset
Thu 31st Oct – OSLO (NOR) Rockefeller
Fri 1st Nov – KARLSTAD (SWE) Nojesfabriken
Sat 2nd Nov – COPENHAGEN (DEN) Amager Bio
Mon 4th Nov – WARSAW (POL) Stodola
Tue 5th Nov – LEIPZIG (GER) Werk 2
Wed 6th Nov – MUNICH (GER) – Tonhalle
Fri 8th Nov – LAUSANNE (SWI) Les Docs
Sat 9th Nov – PRATTELN (SWI) Z7
Sun 10th Nov – NUREMBERG (GER) Loewensaal

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