August 12, 2019 Killswitch Engage – Atonement (Album Review)
Beloved Metalcore outfit Killswitch Engage are prepared to present their highly-anticipated eighth studio album, Atonement, on Friday, August 16th, 2019, marking their debut on Metal Blade Records.
Few bands enjoy the celebrated reputation of the two-time Grammy Award nominated Killswitch Engage. Formed in Massachusetts in 1999, the quintet released their eponymous debut a year later and would go on to a lengthy career. Despite some key lineup changes along the way, propelled by six more albums over the next sixteen years—including 2002’s definitive Alive Or Just Breathing, 2004’s The End of Heartache, 2009’s second self-titled, and 2016’s Incarnate—the quintet have forged ahead in style. With over half-a-billion streams to date, the band has shared stages with some of the biggest acts in the world, and has sold out countless headliners on six continents.
The appropriately-titled Atonement marks the latest gem from Killswitch Engage—Vocalist Jesse Leach, Guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joe Stroetzel, Bassist Mike D’Antonio, and Drummer Justin Foley. The band’s eighth full-length studio offering, the 11-song album is a hard won culmination of a trying and turbulent past few years, a period that has seen Vocalist Leach undergo vocal surgery and therapy, as well as winning a battle with debilitating writer’s block and crippling self-doubt.
Atonement opens to the foreboding yet enticing heaviness of “Unleashed,” where thrumming guitars tango with poignant melodies care of Leach’s reinvigorated and powerful vocals. A look at the darkness that lies inside each of us, the track perfectly presents the beautiful dichotomy between the ominous nature of the beast and the triumph of overcoming our doubts and inherent flaws. Next, former Lead Vocalist Howard Jones (Light The Torch) steps in to collaborate on the pummeling call-to-arms “The Signal Fire.” Showing off the more Hardcore side of the band, the track goes full-throttle, weaving in blast beats and anthemic choruses to craft an ode to two eras of the band’s career.
Leach’s vocals go gritty on “Us Against the World,” as Dutkiewicz wraps entrancing guitar-work around the track’s fist-pumping core. Meanwhile, the defiant crunch and bite of “The Crownless King,” which features the legendary Chuck Billy of Testament, goes bold from moment one, understandably showing some serious Thrash finesse. Conversely, the emotional confessions of “I Am Broken Too” pay a moving tribute to those struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts, urging listeners to never lose hope. This infectious positivity continues into the victorious chant of “As Sure As the Sun Will Rise.”
Amidst Leach’s frustrated howls, a wall of guitars explodes into the quasi-political “Know Your Enemy,” a reminder to bow to no one and to always resist the mindless system. Then, the epic “Take Control” initially goes groovy before meandering through sonic hills and valleys, all in the name of taking back your life. As is apropos, “Ravenous” explodes with hunger before straight-up rocker “I Can’t Be the Only One” inspires a sing-along. When we reach the album’s ultimate conclusion, it’s no shock that Killswitch Engage choose to go out with a vicious bang amidst the desperate plea of “Bite the Hand That Feeds,” which slowly fades into the abyss.
Triumphant and hope-filled, Atonement sees Killswitch Engage continuing to display the exceptional flair for their craft that has kept them in high esteem for two decades. From slaughtering blast beats to meandering guitar pyrotechnics, the quintet never opt for the predictable, “typical” Metal approach in their songwriting, peppering their eclectic mastery with enlightened and insightful lyrics. It’s all very Metal but with a Hardcore Punk attitude that makes Killswitch Engage the Metalcore titans that they are. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Atonement 4.5 of 5 stars.