Posted by: pop-break | April 9, 2013

Garden State Headache: Killswitch Engage, ‘Disarm the Descent’

bobby olivier is a fool for this album ….

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This was worth the wait.

Metalcore kings Killswitch Engage at long last released Disarm the Descent on Tuesday, the band’s first album since original lead singer Jesse Leach rejoined the group early last year. One of the genre’s most anticipated albums of 2013 does not disappoint, offering one of the most dynamic records the guys from Worcester, Mass. have released to date.

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Twelve tracks merge Killswitch sounds of new and old, melding the sincere, empowering lyrics of Leach, which lifted the band to super-stardom with 2002’s genre-bending Alive or Just Breathing, with superb, well-matured instrumentals led by the guitar work of lead shredder Adam Dutkiewicz. The record is a fun, forceful work of metal and a testament to the band’s signature sound, meticulous melodic development and a level of talent not seen with most groups.  

But let’s get down to specifics:

The album is packed to the teeth with the fastest, most ravenous tracks Killswitch has ever released. In metalcore, bands are often defined by where they fall in the genre spectrum, with one end favoring speed-driven, thrash metal and the other leaning on the breakdowns of melodic and traditional hardcore punk. Killswitch usually falls somewhere in the middle, but the new record undoubtedly teeters more toward the thrash side, trading slowed-down sections and heavy, rhythmic breakdowns for solos and blast beats.

And what fine solos they are. Killswitch has never relied so heavily on solos, but in tracks like “The New Awakening,” “A Tribute to the Fallen” and the infectious single “In Due Time,” the singular melodies concocted by Adam D. and rhythm guitarist Joel Stroetzel are sensational. They are great enough to make a fan wonder why this brutal style wasn’t used more often over the past decade.

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Beyond the solos, the riffs in general are very quick, as are the pounding drum beats, which drummer Justin Foley has said pushed him to his playing limits, speed-wise. The sprinting double bass in chorus of “The Call,” is fantastically furious.  Coupled together, the music gallops along at a beautifully manic pace, providing a fierce canvas for Leach’s powerful lyrics.

Unlike Leach’s Times of Grace side project with Adam D., Hymn of a Broken Man, which dealt with topics of pain, sorrow and death, the content of the new/old singer’s words in this showing are often more positive. The lyrics in “The Call,” “Turning Point” and “The New Awakening” are a call to action: marching orders to rise above the negative influences that surround us all, while “All we Have” begs us to forgive and forget grudges locked in our hearts. “Are you willing to just let go?” Leach asks.

A resurgence of Adam D. as backing vocalist, who wasn’t used in that regard at all on Killswitch’s last album, is a welcome return to form. He was always a nice, smooth compliment to former vocalist Howard Jones and his impact injects a wonderful dynamic that was missed in recent works.

The dual vocals take a page from Times of Grace, but the comparisons largely end there.  

As the album neared its release, a topic of discussion among fans was the question of how similar this album would be to the ToG album, which dropped January 2011. While Disarm is considerably different in most lyrical and instrumental structures, there are a few tracks that could have absolutely appeared on the ToG record, including the opening track “Hell in Me,” “No End in Sight” and the haunting “Always,” the slowest song on Disarm.  Those tracks seem to fit either album, but some overlap is to be expected, considering the overlap in personnel.

Time will tell where Disarm the Descent ranks among Killswitch’s best work, but as a fan, I can say without any doubt that this album is head and shoulders about the group’s 2009, self-titled LP – the final album of the Howard Jones era. No KsE album will ever eclipse AOJB in pure impact, as it was the band’s break-out, but instrumentally and lyrically, this new record is a close second.  From start to finish, the record is all a Killswitch fan could have realistically hoped for – soaring vocals, instrumental prowess and one of the more complete metalcore works of the last few years.

Disarm the Descent is must-own for any Killswitch fans and absolutely worth a download for any metalhead. But don’t count on seeing KsE play these songs live any time soon – they are tearing up Europe all summer.

ALBUM RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

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