Release Date: 16 Aug 2019
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Beyond having one of the coolest frickin' band names ever conjured up, Killswitch Engage are also one of the few radio-friendly modern American rock bands I'm still able to enjoy. No, I'm not likely to be reviewing the new Slipknot or Korn albums and I'm not too likely to be listening to them either. This is a different matter. This bunch are a real metal band underneath the hardcore elements.
Regular readers know that I'm hardly the world's biggest metalcore fan, but this outfit do it right. They have all the energy and attitude required but they mix it up a lot too and don't see melody as a four letter word. Sure, there's a lot of that shouty metalcore vocal that tends to leave me dry, but it's not everything here. To accompany a variety of styles in the backing, there are clean alternative vocals as well, plus fast thrashy vocals, slow churning vocals and even what almost sound like death growls as The Signal Fire kicks off.
That latter may be because there's a notable guest on it. He's Howard Jones, who was the vocalist for Killswitch Engage during the decade between Jesse Leach leaving the band and returning to it; fans ought to thrill to hearing both of them on a single track. The other notable guest is Chuck Billy, of Testament fame, who appears on The Crownless King. He's only one reason why it stands out to me though. It stalks. It churns. The pit will find serious motion to this one!
This is Killswitch Engage's eighth studio album, their first since Incarnate in 2016, but they're almost as regular as clockwork. They've never gone less than two years between albums and never more than four. It seems to work for them and nobody's complaining so far. Well, not about that. I have a really odd complaint about this album. There's a 'Yeah!' that gets thrown out like punctuation in a James Hetfield manner; it's all over the album and it's an annoyance to me, albeit because Leach doesn't sound like Hetfield elsewhere. The 'Yeah' is a real distraction.
Otherwise, this is solid stuff for metalcore fans, with an agreeable amount of variety. The Signal Fire starts out thrashy, then gets all puffed up in the chest like metalcore so often does, then finds its groove in time to set up a melodic chorus. Know Your Enemy is a bouncy piece, just what metalcore is supposed to be. Bite the Hand That Feeds has some real energy to it with an attitude strong enough to spit through the speakers. Take Control is one of the more straight forward metal tracks and it's just as effective, with a decent solo to boot. I wouldn't change the radio station if this was on.
It's been really interesting to see just how nu metal split the wider genre onto two completely separate paths: there's modern American radio metal and there's everything else. With this album, Killswitch Engage continue to be a rare band to be able to walk, with head held high, on both those paths. I'm not seeing a need to atone for that.