Sunday, 28 April 2013

Killswitch Engage's 'Disarm the Descent' - Album Review

For fans of the metalcore genre, Killswitch Engage are essential listening. They helped to pioneer the genre throughout the previous decade along with bands like Trivium and Bullet for my Valentine. They successfully fused the sounds of classic heavy metal, the Gothenburg style of melodic death metal and hardcore punk to create a heavy yet catchy brand of metal that was more accessible than things that had come before. Disarm the Descent is the band's sixth album and the first since their reunion with original frontman Jesse Leach. Leach was the band's frontman from their formation in 1999 until 2002 when he was replaced by the enigmatic Howard Jones who helped take the band to even higher hights. When Jones left the band last year, Leach was brought back into the fold and the result is this album. Disarm the Descent feels like a culmination of everything the band has done up until this point featuring the best of all aspects of the band's sound over the years. It is a cross between the rawer, heavier sound of the band's first two albums (the one featuring Leach); and the more polished, melodic sound of the Jones era. While this new album does nothing to drastically change the band's sound, it tightens up the loose ends and creates an album that is in-your-face, yet melodic and heartfelt at the same time. To be honest, this is probably the album that Killswitch fans have been waiting for ever since 2004's The End of Heartache - often seen as the watershed of the band's career so far.

The album gets underway with probably the heaviest track on the album The Hell in Me. This is a short, punchy track that owes much to the sound of Swedish death metal pioneers like At the Gates. One thing that is evident from the outset is just how much Leach has improved as a vocalist during his ten years away from the band. His harsh vocals were always good but his clean singing has improved tenfold. I always thought that clean vocals were Jones' strong point and it is good to see Leach has upped his game to be able to handle those songs live. The guitars are heavy, yet great melodic leads weave their way around the riffs creating a tuneful masterpiece. Beyond the Flames follows and this is more classic Killswitch Engage territory. The mixture of harsh and clean vocals has always been the band's trademark and is used to great effect here. The soaring chorus here shows off Leach's refined clean vocals and helps to add a tonne of emotion to the track. A breakdown slows the pace of the song, adding variety and giving the vocals a chance to shine. The New Awakening is the catchiest song of the album up until this point. The verses are mid-paced with some gut-wrenching vocals from Leach and some machine gun drumming from Justin Foley before an anthemic chorus and a breakdown add to the overall heaviness of the song. There is also a guitar solo from Adam Dutkiewicz, something rarely heard in Killswitch songs - and this album is full of them! Single In Due Time follows and this is one of the best songs on the album. The song is built around a great riff that highlights the great interplay between Dutkiewicz and fellow axeman Joel Stroetzel with some great counter melodies and harmonics. The chorus is probably the strongest on the album and will no doubt be great live.

The next highlight is Turning Point. The harsh vocals in the verses really contrast with the fluid lead work in the intro and create a sinister atmosphere. The chorus is another fist-pumper and the guitar work throughout this song is stellar. While Dutkiewicz is always seen as the lead guitarist, and for good reason, I think it would not be right to not also commend Stroetzel on his snaking rhythm work and harmonies. You Don't Bleed for Me is the next highligt. After a discordant intro, a rather simple yet effect drum patten helps to propel the verses along. The bass guitar dominates the sound in the verses and there is some great work from Mike D'Antonio here (he must also be congratulated on his excellent artwork for the album cover and booklet). The chorus is another earworm that is bound to get lodged into your head and stay there for days. While the second half of the album does not contain as many great tracks as the first half, it does contain one of the album's best in Always. This is a refreshing change of pace towards the end of the album that brings out the band's most heartfelt side. It is part slow-paced rock and part ballad that features one of the best choruses on the album. Leach really pours his heart and soul into this song and it really bleeds through the speakers into you. Killswitch have always excelled at songs like this and it is great to have another! The album comes to a close with Time Will Not Remain. It is fast, furious and melodic and a great way to end a reasonably varied album. Overall, this is a great album from a band who have been defining a genre for years. Some fans thought that 2009's Killswitch Engage album was a weak one (not me though, I love it!), and I suspect those fans will be very happy with this album.

The album was released on 2nd April 2013 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional video for In Due Time.

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