Music Review: Killswitch Engage – Incarnate

Loud Feedback Killswitch Engage Incarnate Album Cover

Killswitch Engage is in the Zone on Incarnate

By Jeff Feuerhaken

Here’s me, listening to the new album Incarnate, by Killswitch Engage: First song…”Not bad, not bad”…a few songs in…”this is actually really good”…halfway through…”damn, this album is way better than I was expecting”…album ends…”this album is f#cking sick!” That’s coming from someone who wasn’t sure what to expect from this new offering from the metalcore forefathers. The band’s original singer, Jesse Leach, has been back in the fold for the last two albums after infamously bailing out after the band’s first album, Alive Or Just Breathing. But unlike his homecoming album, 2013’s Disarm The Descent, which was generally positively received but not exactly on everyone’s radar, Incarnate is an exhibition of a band that is completely “in the zone”. And people are taking notice, as Incarnate has cracked into the Billboard Top 10 in its first week. There is a definite formula when it comes to Killswitch Engage’s brand of metalcore, and it can be said that the legions of copycats that emerged on the scene in their wake have followed this formula religiously to a fault, but Incarnate shows just how versatile the original can be when they push the envelope a little. The album is incredibly well produced by Adam Dutkiewicz, who just so happens to also be one of the band’s guitarists. Dutkiewicz has produced other bands’ albums as well (Underoath’s Divide The Great Line comes to mind), but here working with his own material he is clearly in his element, and it works spectacularly.

The riffs, courtesy of Dutkiewicz, guitarist Joel Stroetzel, bassist Mike D’Antonio, and drummer Justin Foley are highly intricate and zipper-tight. The rhythmic sections display utter precision, as all the musical elements lock into place perfectly. Foley’s feet earn special commendation here, as his double-bass work is out of the park. Unlike many of the soundalike bands that have attempted to follow in their footsteps, Killswitch Engage focuses not only on tight heavy chug-riffing, but also on writing interesting riffs that haven’t been heard thousands of times before. The blazing riff in the bridge of “Cut Me Loose” is a good example, as is the hair-metal-on-steroids approach to the verses on “Until The Days”. “Just Let Go” opens with a syrupy, clean guitar and synth section that builds into heavier and heavier parts as the song progresses, and the acoustic intro to “Quiet Distress” would be right at home on modern rock radio. These mellow sections don’t sound out of place, however. If anything, they help through contrasting dynamics to show just how incredibly heavy this album is. And I mean it, this album is straight up heeeaaaavy. If you need a soundtrack to get you through your most pissed off emotional periods, then by all means, this is it.

I knew going into this record that I’d be making singer comparisons. Howard Jones, who took over for Leach and sang with the band from 2002-2012, had a very distinctive voice that had become synonymous with the group. Bordering on operatic, his powerful vocals were unlike anything else heard in metal. With Leach back in the band, I was wary at first. But after several listens to this album, I’m convinced that he has the perfect voice for this music. No offense, Howard, you still kick ass, but Leach’s voice is the yin to the band’s yang. His performance on this record is dynamic, memorable, relentless, and appropriate. The only drawback I have to this album is the super deep, growling vocals that appear in some of the songs. I can’t shake this mental picture I have of a grizzly bear grabbing the mic and barking into it. I know some people are fully down with this trend, but I guess it’s just not my thing.

Overall, this is an exceptionally solid album, and it proves that Killswitch Engage are still the gold standard in metalcore, perhaps even more now than ever before. If you’re in the mood for some good old fashioned metal brutality, than please go check this album out. Trust me, you can’t go wrong with Incarnate. I’ll be looking forward to what Howard Jones will be up to next, but this band indisputably belongs to Jesse Leach now. Go listen. You won’t be disappointed.


Score: 7/8 stars

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