Killswitch Engage helped champion the New Wave of American Heavy Metal in the mid-2000s, with their melodic metalcore stylings taking them to such highs as a gold-selling record in 2004’s The End of Heartache, with the title track netting the quintet a Grammy nomination in 2005 (they may have lost out to Motorhead, but is that such a bad thing, really?). Between current singer Jesse Leach and former singer Howard Jones, the band set the vocal tone for modern American metal, blending clean singing, death growls, and screams to great success. When it was teased that the two would come together on a track for this new album, Atonement, longtime fans of the band were hyped for what would be their first album under the Metal Blade label.
The dual guitars of Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz, the latter of which produced the disc, have always been at the forefront of the band’s sound. Whether one axeman or the other takes the lead with a melody, or dual guitar harmonies that remind one of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, the six-string sensations these two create have yet to falter in the band’s twenty year history. Said harmonies are on full display in the album’s opener, “Unleashed,” as well as in its closer “Bite the Hand that Feeds.” The riffing in tracks like the crushing “Us Against the World” and the melodic “I Am Broken Too” is something to behold, a reminder that when the ten-pound hammer needs brought down, Joel and Adam will swing like no other.
“The Signal Fire,” which sees Howard Jones share vocal duties with Jesse Leach, is a metal morsel. The intro is everything one needs in a metal track, and the “heavy shitkicker” of a track, as Jones suggested it was in an interview, is the one track that, if you listen to any single track from this record. That being said, old school KSE fans will revel in songs such as “Ravenous” and “As Sure as the Sun Will Rise,” the former of which features a breakdown that is sure to open up many a mosh pit when the band goes on tour this spring, should they feature the track in their sets.
Atonement lit up the charts upon its release this past August, and it isn’t hard to see why. With a new record label, the band has new life, yet their sound remains largely unchanged in the last fifteen or so years. But considering that some, including our own Nik Sullivan, have equated this record to the aforementioned End of Heartache, it could be said that if it isn’t broke, there’s no need to fix it.
Killswitch Engage will be touring North America beginning in March 2020, with August Burns Red as support. For more information, see our coverage of the tour announcement HERE.