Last year, Killswitch Engage announced that Howard Jones had left the band. The singer – who had been with the US five-piece for nine-years – left a great legacy among Killswitch fans, but it was a twist in the tale that many weren’t quite expecting. So you can imagine their surprise when original vocalist Jessie Leach – who performed on Killswitch’s seminal debut album – stepped in to fill the enigmatic frontman’s shoes.
Howard vs Leach has the thrilling potential to whip up a similar whirlwind debate that has existed amongst fans of US thrashers Anthrax, with the fiercely contested Bush vs Belladonna bickering. At the moment, it’s at least a talking point for Killswitch Engage. But with the release of this sixth album by the US metalcore giants, it certainly turns a bit of light topical debate into a bone of contention and that’s because Leach’s performance is more than impressive. ‘Disarm the Descent’ is definitely a career highlight for the US band.
Killswitch Engage do have a typical verse-chorus-breakdown formula on previous albums, but even so, ideas are flowing much more fluently on ‘Disarm the Descent’. Let’s face it, Killswitch fans don’t take solace in the band for their groundbreaking lyricism nor worship them for unique musical structures. Nevertheless, it takes nothing away from previous albums or indeed this one. ‘Disarm the Descent’ is full of impressive transitions backed by Leach’s brilliant vocal versatility – menacingly barking a hardcore-influenced verse one moment, then bursting into melodic metalcore choruses with a huge, accessible rasp.
‘A Tribute to the Fallen’ has the kind of catchy hooks and vocal harmonies that confirms why their popularity will only soar, whilst later in the record, ‘All That We Have’ shows how Killswitch can still craft a simple yet effective circle pit-inducing, almost thrashy set of verses to appease those who appreciate the stoic, concrete-tough approach of their Jekyll & Hyde-styled balance of hard-nosed metal and melodramatic pop metalcore. ‘The Call’ tries to merge the two worlds together with some rapid-speed blastbeats introducing a section of soft, lucid vocals. It doesn’t really work and if anything, it only confirms that Killswitch are at their best when the two sides of their sound are separated. Killswitch isolate their melodramatic side to produce an airy, cheese-ridden ballad with ‘Always’, which is great, if you’re looking to equip the lighter, wave your hands in steadied motion and experience a strangely uplifting guilty pleasure. Andy Sneap’s skills behind the desk are also a bonus, as he brings his experience and vision to the production of this album. There’s more focus than there was from the self-produced, self-titled last record of 2009, with Sneap adding that extra dimension to Killswitch’s heavier songs – making solos juicy and catchy choruses breath with more expansive quality.
It might not have taken as much effort to do so than on previous occasions, but Killswitch Engage have made an album that easily topples last album ‘Killswitch Engage’. Overall, ‘Disarm the Descent’ has a clearer vision, better ideas, superior production and essentially feels like there’s an assertive direction to produce a means to an end and make a solid dent in 2013’s metal mainstream.
Initially published at SoundShock Webzine: