Disarm the Descent
Back in 2003, when Killswitch Engage dropped ‘Alive or Just Breathing’, it marked the dawning of what some described as the NWOAHM – the New Wave of American Heavy Metal – as bands such as KsE, Lamb of God, Chimaira, God Forbid and more surged forth into mainstream consciousness and helped to recover the genre from the precipice of nu-metal. While most of the bands of that time haven’t managed to sustain the momentum from that surge, Killswitch have remained up there at the top, despite losing then vocalist Jesse Leach. With Howard Jones at the fore, they still managed to shift records and build an astounding fanbase. Yet personally, I found Killswitch Engage becoming staler with every record, as they moved further away, it seemed, from the sound that won them their original admirers, becoming more and more formulaic in structure and sound. I personally didn’t find anything memorable about their second self-titled record at all.
Yet Leach’s return to the band after ten years away marks something of a watershed moment, a new dawn etc. for the band, and I certainly hoped ‘Disarm the Descent’ would recapture some of the fighting spirit of the band that seemed to have been lost in recent years. It does just that and more in spades. Leach has not been quiet over the last ten years, having plenty time to develop his vocals on last year’s Times of Grace album (with KsE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz) and prior to that with the criminally underrated Seemless. His vocals are markedly stronger than they were back on ‘AoJB’, and while only time will tell whether this album will produce anthems the size of ‘Life to Lifeless’, ‘My Last Serenade’ et al, you can’t argue they haven’t tried. Musically, this is the most intense Killswitch have been for a while, particularly on tracks like ‘The Hell In Me’ and ‘A New Awakening’, the latter of which Leach counts in with an aggressive ‘1, 2, 3, 4!’ which alone is sure to liven up any future circle pits, itself providing an extra level of intensity to the song. The more melodic side has been reupped as well – ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ and ‘A Tribute to the Fallen’ are all worthy singalongs but by no means guilty for doing so, each brewing with thunderous beats. Sure, they can’t resist digging out the metal lighter anthem in ‘Always’, but its far from turgid and to be honest, it sticks with me more than Killswitch have in recent years, in a good way.
Even if you threw the towel in on this band years ago, now is the best time to start rediscovering them, just as with Leach on board, the band seem to have rediscovered their best form, mucking around far less and really getting their teeth into the shred. As my tastes expanded I seemed to enjoy the relative simplicity of metalcore less and less, but its undisputed flagbearers have shown there’s still a fire inside the veterans of the NWOAHM charge. For all the hype Roadrunner pump into their releases, ‘Disarm the Descent’ pays it back gratitiously, and then some.
Killswitch Engage – In Due Time