Killswitch Engage go from strength to strength. I first became enamoured with the band on Alive or Just Breathing in 2002, and was shattered to learn that Jesse Leach had left the band shortly afterwards. The way they recovered and continued on with Howard Jones our front was remarkable, and I continued being a fan.
With all respect to Jones, I was over the moon when Leach returned to the band, and the resulting album that followed, 2013’s Disarm the Descent was amazing. They built on that with 2016’s Incarnate, but now, with their latest release, Atonement, Killswitch Engage go to the next level.
Unleashed opens proceedings, and it delivers one of Jesse Leaches absolute best vocal performances of the bands, and his own careers. The riffs are heavy, providing a contrast to Leaches melodic vocals, and it works very well. This is the perfect way to open an album.
Former singer, Howard Jones, makes an appearance on second track, The Signal Fire. He’s an exceptional vocalist in his own right, and hearing him work with the current vocalist in his former band, is a nice treat for long time fans. Most importantly, the song is great, and features a rare guitar solo – not something the band is known for, regardless of the fact that Killswitch contains two very capable guitarists.
Us Against the World has Leach delivery a more “hardcore” inspired vocal amid a backdrop of pounding rhythm and subtle guitar intricacies. On The Crownless King, the band put a foot in thrash territory – and fittingly bring along Testament’s Chuck Billy for the ride. This is a highlight on a very strong record.
I Am Broken Too is a very strong track, more of a hard rock lean to the sound here. It’s melodic and personal, and personally, I’d be happy to hear more of this sound from the band, while As Sure As the Sun Will Rise steps it back up – heavy, but not at the expense of melody. Killswitch are truly becoming one of heavy metals current best bands, and Atonement goes great lengths to showing their talents.
Know Your Enemy is a brutal slab of metal, full of infectious riffs and fist pumping vocals. Take Control carries the fist pumping nature forward, with another huge chorus, and Ravenous provides another highlight – coming at us with a lightning paced drumming, thundering bass, more stunning guitar work and another great vocal performance from Leach.
While solos aren’t a huge part of the bands arsenal, make no mistake, Killswitch are very much a guitar driven band. I Can’t Be the Only One demonstrates this perfectly – delivering chunky riffs and more intricate guitar melodies, and another ripping solo. The fact that they don’t overuse solos makes them feel more accentuated and important when they do appear.
Final track, Bite the Hand That Feeds is possibly the heaviest track of the album. It’s unhinged, relentless, and a great closer that really leaves the listener on a high.
Atonement is best listened to loud, and several times in a row, because one listen just isn’t enough!
Review by Shayne McGowan.