Exclusive Album Review: Killswitch Engage 'Atonement'

By John Indiveri

KillswitchEngage-Atonement.jpg

Killswitch Engage. There isn’t enough I can say about the quintet consisting of frontman Jesse Leach, Lead Guitar/Antics man Adam Dutkiewicz, Rhythm Guitar Joel Stroetzel, Bassist Mike D’Antonio and Drummer Justin Foley. From the moment I listened to their 2002 record Alive or Just Breathing I was hooked - with crushing breakdowns and brutally honest lyrics - it was quite different from the mainstream type metal records out at the time. “New England Hardcore”  is the perfect description for KSE’s sound and of course, unique to the area (think Hatebreed). 

With the departure of Jesse prior their 2004 record “The End of Heartache” and the debut of Howard Jones, I wasn’t sure what direction the band would take. While I did highly enjoy the records Howard was on and he being an amazing lyricist and singer, something was missing. It was definitely a turning point for the band. 

Fast forward to 2019, Killswitch Engage is set to release their 7th studio album entitled Atonement, on August 16th , their 3rd since the return of Jesse Leach, via Metal Blade Records - their first with the label. After listening through the record a few times, I can describe Atonement as crushing and brutally honest. With melodic guitar arrangements paired with bruising rhythm progressions, pounding double-kick drums and poetically crafted lyrics - this is KSE’s triumphant return to what they envisioned two decades ago. This record is a testament to their growth musically as well as personally. 

“This is another honest record,” says Justin. “We’re just being who we are and writing the best material we can.” 

“People take themselves way too seriously," adds Adam. "We love metal, but we also love melody and we want to have a good time.  That's who we are; we don't act like your typical 'metal band.' *

The creation of this record proves just that. With the unfortunate vocal cord issues frontman Jesse Leach battled in the middle of the process, it seemed the future of this record was up in the air. With surgery and three months of intense of vocal cord therapy, the guys were able to finish the album. Says Jesse Leach “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.”* I couldn’t agree more. 

There are so many great tracks off this record, each unique in their own right. I broke it down to the top 5 I thought stood out. 

Top stand out tracks:

The Signal Fire: This song hits you straight in the gut without any mercy. The second track of the record featuring former KSE front man Howard Jones (now of Light The Torch) unleashes punishing double kick drums, hard and poignant guitar riffs and a low growl that will send your dog running out of the room - reminiscent of the Alive or Just Breathing days. Despite this, the song progresses through melodic choruses featuring Howard, conveying strength, aligning ideas and hope - the signal fire is the light. 

Us Against The World: A song of unity, Us Against The World kicks off with an incredible metal yet melodic progression. The song talks of not being torn apart and being there for one another. “The spirit is never ending, I’ll be the protection when you fall, the spirit is never ending, so it’s us against the world”

I Am Broken Too: The second single released off the record, I Am Broken Too shows clearly how deeply personal this song is to front man Jesse Leach. With it’s anthem like composition and commanding vocals, Jesse’s lyrics speak to those that are going through mental illness - uplifting those that are listening: “I see myself in you, I know you can make it through. If you need proof I’ll reopen my wounds in all the right places for you..”

Take Control: One, if not my favorite track of this record, Take Control  leads in with a chorus of metal guitar progressions that just give you goosebumps. It then dives right into more of a groove-rock beat, hard riffs and Jesse singing right away. The songs message is to take control. Through fear, panic, depression and loneliness - you need to pick yourself up. Work on your issues, don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek the strength within you. 

I Can’t Be The One: A song that seems to speak about the current social environment, political and otherwise, has the message of unity. Not your typical politically influence song, it’s message is: don’t lose your passion and love, despite there being a divide we need to come together, have faith and be more proactive. 

Full Track List for Atonement *

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”

 

Atonement is set to be released Friday, August 16th via Metal Blade Records. You can pre-order here

*Atom Splitter PR