Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Killswitch Engage-The Howard Jones Era (2003-2012)

Post #231
Killswitch Engage are perhaps the most influential band of the metalcore/melodic metalcore genre, in part due to guitarist/producer Adam Dutkiewicz's prolific involvement as a producer for several other bands within this genre. In spite of his numerous efforts behind the production board, his top priority remains Killswitch Engage, and over the years this band has grown into an essential corner-stone for the metalcore sud-genre within heavy metal.

Their first album with Howard Jones as their lead vocalist was The End Of Heartache, and this, in my opinion, is one of the greatest defining works of the melodic metalcore sub-genre. Released in 2004, it truly displays mastery of a signature sound that other bands would come to emulate. Killswitch really took their sound to a higher level with the addition of Jones on lead vocals. His ability to sing clean melodies while maintaining a powerful vocal element, then switching to hardcore screams when the song calls for it, is a testament to the level of his talent. Few singers display as much control of both vocal styles as Howard Jones. Musically the band also expands their boundaries a bit on this album. There are still many songs based on heavy riffs, and catchy rhythms, similar to those on their previous album, Alive or Just Breathing, but this time around the musicianship seems of a higher quality. Softer, acoustic elements are a little more prominent too, and though they are used sparingly, they serve to enhance the listening experience and add a critical dimension to this album.

Favorite Tracks:
-A Bid Farewell
-When Darkness Falls
-Rose of Sharyn
-Breathe Life
-The End Of Heartache
-World Ablaze
-Wasted Sacrifice

KsE's next release, As Daylight Dies (2006), was a strong effort again. Following the breakthrough success from 'Heartache', this album proves Killswitch were at the top of their game in the mid 2000s. This album features KsE's best ballad, 'My Curse', a concert favorite and successful single. As the band again flex their muscle with heavy riffs, and hardcore vocals, they keep the balance of soft and clean elements as even as they did on Heartache, if not more so.

If 'Heartache' was a cornerstone for the genre, then As Daylight Dies is the cornerstone for Killswitch themselves. I keep looking over the track list for this album, and I can't find a bad song. This is probably a snapshot of KsE at their creative apex. The title-track and 'This Is Absolution' have always been two of my all-time favorites from Killswitch. The special edition version of this album includes 4 bonus tracks and a DVD with 3 music videos (2 of which include 'the making-of' features). One of those bonus tracks is KsE's studio version of Dio's classic 'Holy Diver'...

Favorite Tracks:
-Daylight Dies
-This Is Absolution
-The Arms of Sorrow
-My Curse
-Still Beats Your Name
-Let The Bridges Burn
-This Fire
-Holy Diver

Their second self-titled album is one that came at a time when KsE had reached a plateau in their stylistic evolution. This album maintains a precise balance of their well-established melodic metalcore style. I cannot necessarily say this album brings any new elements to their sound that were not present on the previous two releases, but that is not to say this isn't a quality metal album- it is! Killswitch Engage was released with a special edition too, which included 4 bonus tracks and a DVD of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

This is a nice touch, and a good collector's piece for die-hard fans, especially since Howard Jones has since left the band, on good terms, citing medical issues combined with loss of enthusiasm. The DVD provides a snapshot of what the guys in the band are like off the stage, and how their personalities blend together. A nice way to see them together, still at the peak of their career.

Favorite Tracks:
-Never Again
-Starting Over
-The Return
-A Light in a Darkened World
-I Would Do Anything
-Rose of Sharyn
-My Curse
-Holy Diver

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