Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Metal Blade
Release date: 16th of August 2019
Adam Dutkiewicz – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals,
Joel Stroetzel – Rhythm Guitar,
Mike D’Antonio – Bass Guitar,
Justin Foley – Drums,
Jesse Leach – Vocals,
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
10) I Can’t Be The Only One
11) Bite The Hand That Feeds
Massachusetts isn’t the first place you would probably stop on your search for metal in the USA, however, that is where you find most parts of Killswitch Engage, who have been shaking the foundations of metal since 1999. Rising up in the tide of nu-metal bands was the very quickly seized-upon ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ in 2002, which was named in the ‘Top 100 Greatest Metal Albums Of The Decade’. Not bad for a first effort, and through their catalogue, KsE have gone from strength to strength with each album release. ‘Incarnate’ from 2016 saw them chart at number 6 and their is no reason to believe that Atonement will be any different. With over half a billion streams, there can be no denying that Killswitch Engage are one of the most popular metal bands of our time.
2019 represents another turning point for the band, sharpening every side of their signature sound for this, their eighth full album release. After a trying and turbulent couple of years after the release of Incarnate, the band started kicking ideas around as early as 2017, recording much of the material separately. However, in the middle of the process, Jesse, had a polyp that developed scar tissue which forced him to go under the knife. This in turn lead to an intense 3 month period of speech, vocal and scream therapies. At first, Jesse had doubts about whether he could continue, but the therapy process has left him with more confidence in his own abilities and a real determination to learn more techniques.
In recent interviews, Justin has remarked that, ‘This is just another honest record,’ and that ‘We’re just being who we are and writing the best material we can’. ‘People take themselves too seriously’, added Adam D, ‘We love metal, but also love melody and we want to have a good time.
Their first release with Metal Blade Records, sees KsE kick off a new chapter with a renewed sense of optimism. Opening track and first single, ‘Unleashed’ starts off with a brooding intensity and a thunderous howl. That signifies we have landed, ladies and gentlemen! The precision of the drumming is unquestionable and rightly there is a massive dollop of melody in amongst the crushing riffage on show. All of the elements that have become the signature sound of Killswitch Engage are evident. The consistency of this lead track has managed to capture everything that makes KsE one of the most enduring and adaptive bands within the metal scene. This song deals with the inner animal in us all and I can only envisage many a sell-out crowd chanting back the refrain.
‘This Signal Fire’ combines the two eras of Killswitch Engage on one anthem with Howard Jones guesting vocals. It starts as an airtight thrasher but then breaks down to the melody we all know and love. The interplay between Jesse and Howard reveals a chemistry never forgotten and a desire to show the fans the brotherly bonds that have developed. A nice touch to nod to Howard’s band ‘Light The Torch’.
‘The Crownless King’ features the indomitable Chuck Billy, from Testament, lending his legendary guttural growls. This song blasts out a raucous thrash sound with the vibe of ‘anti-corruption/corporation’ that runs through lyrics of Killswitch songs. Chuck seamlessly weaving his magic betwixt Jesse. As guest appearances go, it’s difficult to separate the favourite when both tunes are incredible!
‘I Am Broken Too’ is an emotive song dealing with the struggles of mental illness. Showing that there is a hope within the struggle and to ward off the suicidal thoughts knowing that someone else has been through it too. Lyrically, this is on point and the stigma surrounding mental illness is slowly being eroded with moments like this on record. Jesse’s own inner demons that have crucified him in years past, serve now only to drive him on. Clearly, this is a concurrent theme throughout the album and I guess, this is his ‘Atonement’.
There is a balance to the songs that despite the disjointed recording process, with Adam Dutkiewicz leaving no stone unturned in his desire to create that perfect Killswitch Engage sound. It seems to me that with every album those skills and idiosyncrasies that make the band a perfect blend of light and shade, effortlessly adding further to the KsE legacy.
This is a short, sharp, punchy album that gets its point across without any waffle(!). This is a must for anyone that liked any of their previous work. Suffice to say that ‘Atonement’ is yet another cracking album busting with all of the beautiful things that make us love Killswitch Engage. There are beautiful melodies, guttural howls, crushing riffs and blast beats, all mixed in a cauldron of ‘rise up/resist/fight the power’ and ‘fighting your inner demons’ lyrics. As a fan, I’m instantly drawn to their new music. My only complaint would be that there aren’t more songs.
Score: 9 out of 10
Review: Stefan Putwain