Review: “Atonement” by Killswitch Engage

Produced by the bands own guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz (The Agony Scene, The Acacia Strain, As I Lay Dying) as perhaps you might expect, Metalcore survivalists Killswitch Engage have returned with their eighth studio album. After some delays due to vocalist Jesse Leech developing some scar tissue on a polyp in his throat that meant three months of vocal and speech therapy, it has ended up being two years in the making.

First single “Unleashed” gets things underway with a gutteral roar and some stuccato riffage with Jesse Leech showcasing the full range of his vocal capabilities in the first 60 seconds. The cleans are amongst some of the finest he has delivered while the uncleans are savage. Musically the band have refined their sound with their hooks and build ups being polished like stainless steel and the application to the craft is second to none. Joined by former vocalist Howard Jones, now in Light The Torch for “The Signal Fire”, Killswitch Engage unleash a killer track. The pair of vocalists voices intertwine perfectly and while you might have expected a more melodic tune, you instead get a highly energetic electrically paced one. It crosses over Metalcore with more classic Metal elements, lead flourishes and riffs while keeping that bounce and drive. The chord progressions after the chorus into the solo are headbang heavy and the solo isn’t over the top. A track of perfect balance within the Killswitch Engage sound. “Us Against The World” starts with a classic Metal riff before building in some heavier parts. A classic slow burn anthem of fist pumping lyrics and defiance, it airs positivity despite the hardships endured. Going all out Thrash and getting Chuck Billy of Testament who is no doubt one of their heroes, “The Crownless King” changes up the gears with adrenaline fueled riffage and one of Justin Foley’s finer kit performances on the album. A fearlessly political thunderbolt of a cut, it is a display of intense and ferocious aggressiveness that the band have perhaps not show to this level in a long time.

The second single “I Am Broken Too” is dark and introspective tune that balances off some beautiful and heartfelt clean vocals against some unclean edges. A reflection of the passion and perseverance to carry on, the message is a simple but effective one. “As Sure As The Sun Will Rise” is a shorter and punchier tune that features a surprisingly complex musical arrangement including a wonderful blast beat section. Despite being less than 3 minutes, it sounds complete with a wonderful rise and fall between the heavier and melodic elements. It should be obvious that “Know Your Enemy” isn’t a Rage Against The Machine cover. What it is, is another thunderbolt of a tune with a high energy drive and venomous lyrics. The use of a gang chant which sees both guitarists provide some fury is a nice touch and again the politically aware content is clearly something the band have at their collective heart. It has an anthemic quality and it simply deserves to be heard.

Pointing at the darkness within and offering some positive steps to free yourself, “Take Control” is an anti negative thought process tune that manages to squeeze in one of the finer solos that the Adam Dutkiewicz has produced in a long time. Whether it’s a self motivating lyric or an instructive one, it’s something we can all learn from. Stepping up a notch, “Ravenous” sees Justin Foley smash through a decent amount of double kick footwork to accompany Metalcore riffs a plenty. Leech again outdoes himself in the vocal department and with the quality of the material here there is no doubt that it was worth the wait. Taking things in a more melodic direction “I Can’t Be The Only One” has the big sing-a-long clean vocals but also manages to squeeze in its fair share of heavier parts, adding unclean vocal highlights in a separate vocal layer behind the cleans. An anthem about the call for change and the divisions both within and outside, it’s a solid piece of thought provoking Metal. Closing on a heavier note laiden with breakneck speed riffs that aren’t too far off Black Metal, “Bite The Hand That Feeds” is a killer closing track. For a Killswitch Engage tune, it’s front loaded with a who can play faster attitude, some epic rhythm changes and tempo shifts and some crazy ranted verses. It asks the question what would you die for, what would you kill for with poinent aggression and is an epic ending to what could only be described as one of the finest offerings from the Westfield Massachusetts Metalcore quintet in their 20 year career to date [8.5/10]

Track listing

  1. Unleashed
  2. The Signal Fire (Ft. Howard Jones of Light The Torch)
  3. Us Against The World
  4. The Crownless King (Ft. Chuck Billy of Testament)
  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” by Killswitch Engage is out now via Metal Blade

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