By fusing the best elements of American metalcore and European melodic death metal (i.e., the Gothenburg school), Massachusetts' Killswitch Engage achieved what hundreds of nu-metal bands only dreamed of: supplying American heavy metal with a viable facelift with which to set itself to rights in the new millennium. The fact that in order to do ...
By fusing the best elements of American metalcore and European melodic death metal (i.e., the Gothenburg school), Massachusetts' Killswitch Engage achieved what hundreds of nu-metal bands only dreamed of: supplying American heavy metal with a viable facelift with which to set itself to rights in the new millennium. The fact that in order to do this they relied on songs with actual substance, not fabricated image or false pretense, goes to the heart of 2002's stunning Alive or Just Breathing's success, as well as its masterful successor, 2004's much anticipated The End of Heartache. Indeed, little has changed from one album to the next, which can be viewed as a positive or a negative, depending on the listener. But with distinctive songwriting and that delicate but explosive dynamic balance between melody and abrasiveness still readily on display in pace-setting openers "A Bid Farewell" and "Take This Oath," the former seems more likely. Track number three, the excellent "When Darkness Falls," is where Killswitch will convince most lingering cynics, and the ensuing "Rose of Sharyn" is arguably the group's most accessible single yet (and also possibly a bone of contention for fans of their harder stuff). Next up, the mild-mannered interlude "Inhale" is actually a warning for the breathtaking power riffing of "Breathe Life," after which the all-encompassing title track really hammers one out of the ballpark. And so it goes; as riff upon riff are piled sky-high into each number that follows, it's the unpredictable rhythmic shifts used to build and then relieve internal pressure that fuel the Killswitch Engage power source. On a side note, much has been made of the replacement of former vocalist Jesse David Leach with relative newcomer Howard Jones (relative being the operative word since he toured with the band for two years prior to this recording), but, to be perfectly honest, the differences between them are totally negligible. Jones effortlessly matches his predecessor's talent for both clean singing and hardcore-style screaming, and additional highlights such as "World Ablaze" and the pulverizing "Wasted Sacrifice" prove his voice to be the perfect complement to his bandmates' technical proficiency. As mentioned previously, The End of Heartache only errs for making very few attempts to expand Killswitch Engage's general formula, good though it may be -- but there's always a next time. And as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is rarely a bad thing. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi