ALBUM REVIEW: Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
Having reinstated original vocalist Jesse Leach after a decade-long absence, Killswitch Engage struck gold with the thrashy riffola of 2013’s Disarm The Descent, an album that was a far cry from the dreariness of the band’s 2009’s self-titled release. Based on this, fans would be unlikely to complain if their next release maintained their new, pacey direction, but when rumblings from the Killswitch camp suggested that new album Incarnate would feature ‘a different kind of heaviness’ and an air of moodiness, eyebrows were raised.
So how does this new sound play out? Well, from the opening salvo of Alone I Stand, it is clear that the Killswitch we are most familiar with is alive and well. Kicking off with an uplifting spoken word reminiscent of the opening track from Alive or Just Breathing before ramping up the pace, this track picks up where Disarm The Descent left off. From here on in, one of the most apparent strengths of this album is its hooks, with Leach delivering a career best performance song after song. Having improved almost beyond recognition from his stint with the band in the early 00s, Leach continues to hone his abilities here, with tracks such as Hate By Design and Quiet Distress providing some of Incarnate’s standout choruses. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz’s backing vocals are also used to maximum effect across the board, chameleoning from over the top growls to more hardcore-esque shouts, ensuring the duality present in the band’s music is more prominent than it has been for many years. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the songwriting is at its peak throughout: cuts such as It Falls On Me and Until The Day I Die feel like filler, while the somewhat forgettable riffing on Strength of the Mind does the strong chorus a disservice.
Lyrically speaking, the album appears to be predominantly based around the personal tribulations of Jesse Leach. Someone who is not afraid to lay bare his innermost emotions, Leach’s lyrics paint a clear picture of who he is, and while occasionally his words slip into platitudes, it is difficult to question the sincerity that lies behind them. It is also within this facet of Incarnate that the moodier elements hinted at become apparent, particularly on penultimate track We Carry On where a blend of post rock guitars melded with the band’s familiar chugging. A criminally short track, it is hard not to will for it to break free from its metalcore tropes and explore the ambient textures flirted with throughout.
There are some great songs on Incarnate, and plenty of moments that are likely to stir something in those that have fallen away from the band: it is to their credit that the band do no damage to their legacy as they reach their 17th year. Killswitch Engage certainly show glimmers of promising new direction here, but if they are to ever reach the heights achieved on Alive or Just Breathing and The End of Heartache, they must strive to reach beyond their comfort zone.
Standout Tracks: Alone I Stand, Hate By Design
For Fans Of: All That Remains, Unearth, Times Of Grace
Written by: Josh Graham