Killswitch Engage – Atonement (Album Review)

Killswitch Engage – Atonement
Released: August 16th, 2019

Lineup

Adam Dutkiewicz | Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Joel Stroetzel | Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mike D’Antonio | Bass
Justin Foley | Drums
Jesse Leach | Lead Vocals

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For at least six years, mainstream metal pioneers Killswitch Engage have redefined their sound with Jesse Leach’s returning voice, fused with the evolution of their Howard Jones era brand. But of course, Leach is no longer considered new after the band have recorded three monster records with the beloved frontman.

The band are set to release their next album shortly and it’s a combination of what you’d expect it to be plus a few pleasant surprises. Atonement defrosts all the great-grandmother recipe ingredients that makes the band’s records all showstoppers. What am I talking about? Well, you know, the metalcore climbing riffs, the core rhythm backbone, and of course the hearty vocal symphonies and boundless screams. The head-banger-of-an-album commences with ‘Unleashed’, the drum-pounding intro that starts where Incarnate left us in 2016. The song warms you up into that ‘Killswitch’ mood, even if haven’t streamed the band in quite some time. The backing harmonies of the band sit orchestrally behind Leach’s opening effort to pour his heart out, what he does best – and all of a sudden you reignite the love for this band that you’ve always had, but it might’ve sat at the back of your mind while keeping up with the latest contemporary metalcore outfits. 

The band roll straight into prolific track ‘The Signal Fire’ that features no other than former-vocalist Howard Jones – a Killswitch fan’s wet dream?! It’s fast, it’s exciting and Leach gets you pumped with his opening bellow ‘Yeah!’ It’s also heavy, almost forgot that. The guitarists are in overdrive as Jones steps in with his nostalgic vocal style, which should be noted isn’t completely congruent with his style with Light the Torch, accentuating his effort to please long-time fans. As much as the band have been clear about how good mates they are with Jones, the song definitely cements it. Leach maintains the song’s melodic boom that compliments the guest voice suitably. Just a few songs later we have ‘‘The Crownless King’ featuring Testament’s Chuck Billy, which begs genuine curiosity. The dual sound worked well, in a different way to that with Jones a little earlier. Billy actually strongly resonates Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe in his line-by-line verse delivery. The song is the start of what’s more of a thrashy sound and definitely a mosh-track. 

Mid-album tracks like ‘As Sure as the Sun Will Rise’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ venture into ‘deep-cut’ territory, which works because the band have enough hits to play live. Songs like these are somewhat experimental as the backing vocals take more of a front-seat in choruses which is a pleasant variation. ‘Know Your Enemy’ reinstates the thrash style metal that the band played with earlier on, and it also works well. Instead of the elongated strums to Leach’s closing lines to each chorus, the band instead keep the pressure on and keep the verses waiting for no one – the pace is energising. Towards the end of the record we have ‘I Can’t Be the Only One’ which mixes the thrash with their signature noughties metal direction. And then finally, there’s ‘Bite the Hand That Feeds’ which gets seriously heavy. Leach sustains his isolated growls as the rest of the band cease, and it’s the calm before the storm. The band give it their all as they switch from a melodic clustering presence to a chaotic metallic burst – the conjunction enhances the sound ten-fold.

Killswitch Engage are often tucked into this venn-diagram of metalcore and mainstream metal, and in a way they have contributed strongly to metalcore, and this record does what their other releases have, and that is, craft the build-ups and hooks to what we would expect to hear as a crunchy breakdown, but the band rather hold our hands as they steadily bring us back down to the start, which is more their way. This decision is smart because it retains old-school metal fans but also attracts the more contemporary metalcore fans – something for the whole family?

So is Atonement the band’s best album? It could be? This one is truly subjective and depends on what you’re expecting, it includes a lot of their signature sounds, but maybe the first time they did that it would have been their best efforts? It does introduce new sounds that work really well. But then again, we hate when metal artists diverge too far from what we love, so maybe what Killswitch Engage have done here is perfect, and therefore it could be their best album? We’ll let you decide. 

killswitch engage - atonement

Killswitch Engage – Atonement tracklisting: 

  1. Unleashed
  2. The Signal Fire (feat. Howard Jones)
  3. Us Against the World
  4. The Crownless King (feat. Chuck Billy)
  5. I Am Broken Too
  6. As Sure as the Sun Will Rise
  7. Know Your Enemy
  8. Take Control
  9. Ravenous
  10. I Can’t Be the Only One
  11. Bite the Hand That Feeds

Rating: 7/10
Atonement is out Friday August 16th. Pre-Order here
Review by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90

Check out Adam D from Killswitch Engage co-hosting Wall of Sound: Up Against the Wall right here

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