ARTIST: KILLSWITCH ENGAGE
LABEL: METAL BLADE RECORDS
WORDS: JAMES HOLDER
People often say that great music comes out of great struggle. So maybe that is the key behind what will go down in history as one of best albums in Killswitch Engage’s long and storied career. From the breakdown of front man Jesse Leach’s marriage, the throat surgery, feelings of depression, ‘Atonement’ feels like Leach’s one-man mission to make amends, make up for lost time, and show the world what the word defiance really means.
There’s an urgency and an energy around the band’s 8th album which has been somewhat missing from their work, but it’s present here in spades. From blistering opening track ‘Unleashed’ to the frantic, thundering beauty of the Howard Jones assisted ‘The Signal Fire.’ Even though Jones’ departure from the band back in 2012 wasn’t acrimonious there feels something strangely therapeutic about hearing him and Leach on the same track going verse for verse.
“‘Atonement’ feels like Leach’s one-man mission to make amends, make up for lost time, and show the world what the word defiance really means..”
‘Us Against The World’ ramps up the defiance mentioned earlier, before the brutal ‘The Crownless King’ punches you straight in the face, this time with Chuck Billy helping with the heavy lifting. However, it’s ‘I Am Broken Too’ which makes the biggest impact. Lyrically this is where Leach really channels all of the hardship of the last few years. “You carry this weight, Trying to cover your mistakes, To make it seem like nothing could ever break you, But I see right through, ‘Cause I am broken too, In all the same places as you.” And that’s only the first verse. Lyrically the album goes to this dark place a few times but it’s here where it’s most impactful.
Down the years Killswitch have always championed rebellion and fighting your corner and that’s something that comes to the fore once more on ‘Know Your Enemy.’ It’s angry, powerful, heavy hitting and cuts to the core of what the band are all about. It ties the aforementioned ‘I Am Broken Too’ as the real standout moment of the record.
Although these are the high points there aren’t any filler tracks either. In places some of the riffs do blur together a little and aren’t especially the most original, but this was never an album that was going to live and die on the quality of its riffs. They are merely a foundation for Leach to right some wrongs, clear his head, and take the world to task one more time. And as a result, the album is more about what it says lyrically than how it ultimately sounds sonically.
“making amends for their past sins and pushing forward with a fresh perspective”
That being said there’s a great little guitar solo on ‘Take Control’ and in places the riffs on ‘Ravenous’ and ‘I Can’t Be The Only One’ get your head banging like only quality metal can. While closing effort ‘Bite The Band That Feeds’ might not be the strongest track on the album but it does enough to justify its place.
The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘Atonement’ as “the act of showing you are sorry for doing something wrong in the past” and that’s exactly what this record is. It feels like 39 minutes of the band and especially Jesse Leach making amends for their past sins and pushing forward with a fresh perspective. They have overcome their struggles and the result is their best work in years. Killswitch Engage are building a legacy, and its legacy that’s being built to last.