Monday, July 22, 2013

Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent (Special Edition)

Killswitch Engage
Disarm The Descent (Special Edition)
Roadrunner Records

Over the last ten years, Massachusetts based outfit Killswitch Engage has managed to climb their way to the top of the heap to become one of the metalcore scene’s true success stories. But in early 2012, the band announced the departure of vocalist Howard Jones. The news immediately had fans guessing who was going to fill the enormous shoes left behind by Jones, and some going as far to as to question whether the band could possibly retain their reputation as one of the metalcore scenes finest.
But fans needn’t have worried. Within a month of announcing Jones’ departure, Killswitch Engage (Who otherwise comprise of guitarist/backing vocalist Adam Dutkiewicz, guitarist Joel Stroetzel, bassist Mike D’Antonio and drummer Justin Foley) broke the news that Jesse Leach would take on the front man role. Not surprisingly, given that Leach was the band’s original vocalist, and helped the band make their mark with the critically acclaimed sophomore effort ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ way back in 2002, the news had many fans excited about the band’s next full-length effort.
Leach’s return to the fold isn’t all that unexpected given that Dutkiewicz and Leach teamed up in Times Of Grace some years ago, and who released their impressive debut effort ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’ in 2011. To some, Leach’s move back to Killswitch Engage wasn’t so much a question of if, but more of when.
What is questionable however is if Leach’s return to the band he started out with, would result in an album that would satisfy older fans who hold  ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ in high esteem, and the rest who were fans of Jones’ work with the band over the last decade?
In answer, ‘Disarm The Descent’ is pretty much everything you would expect from a Killswitch Engage album – regardless of whom happens to be fronting the band. And while that may come across as disappointing for some, for most – it’s all you could really ask for given the tumultuous last couple of years the band have gone through.
Clearly making a statement to listeners, the opening track ‘The Hell In Me’ is a full-on aggressive blast of guitar riffs, drums and screams from Leach that make clear that the band are well and truly back. Leach’s performance is without question great, with his clean vocals and growls slotting seamlessly into the band’s trademark sound. But aside from writing a good song and the solid performance within, it’s the passion and energy that filters through that really stands out. And to be honest, it’s something the band’s more recent releases have lacked to some extent.
‘Beyond The Flames’ is the kind of song that the band has been perfecting over the years. That is to say that it combines some aggressive riffing and rhythm work with some equally aggressive vocal screams from Leach (And Dutkiewicz on some truly brutal backing vocals), and mixes in clean sung choruses that hook the listener in. It’s far from a new formula, but one that obviously works for a band like Killswitch Engage, with tracks such as ‘New Awakening’ and the first single ‘In Due Time’ following the same tried and true path.
The band slow things down a touch for ‘A Tribute To The Fallen’, which is a solid and catchy song, but perhaps more noteworthy for its intricate guitar work more than anything else, while ‘The Turning Point’ is somewhat missing something in its instrumental framework, despite its stand out brief blast of lead guitar work.
The hammering ‘All That We Have’ and ‘The Call’ swings the album back in the right direction with their intense blasts of unrestrained aggression, while Leach shines vocally on the melodic ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’, ‘Time Will Not Remain’ and my personal favourite, ‘Always’.
As mentioned at the top of this review, the version of ‘Disarm The Descent’ under the microscope is the special edition, with comes with additional tracks and a D.V.D.
The D.V.D., which runs for around thirty minutes, is a documentary entitled ‘New Awakening: The Making Of Disarm The Descent’, and it shows the band going into detail about the recording of the drums, guitars, production and lyrics. As documentaries go, it’s O.K., but not the sort of thing that you’d revisit after watching it a couple of times.
In terms of the bonus tracks, it’s a completely different story. ‘Blood Stains’ is a killer song that really packs a punch with its intensely aggressive versus and melodic choruses, while ‘Slave To The Machine’ follows a very similar path. Finishing up the set is a live version of ‘Numbered Days’ (Which originally appeared on ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’) and ‘My Curse’ (From 2006’s ‘As Daylight Dies’), both of which were recorded in 2012 in support of the tenth anniversary of ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’. While the former doesn’t hold any great surprises, the latter at least proves that Leach has no trouble handling Jones’ material. All up, all four tracks are a worthy addition to the album.
‘Disarm The Descent’ doesn’t mark a huge departure from where Killswitch Engage were heading with Jones at the helm. But what it lacks in diversity, it makes up for in terms of passion, intensity and aggression. I would have liked to hear a bit more of the experimentation that Dutkiewicz and Leach added to the Times Of Grace’s debut, but it’s only a minor criticism. ‘Disarm The Descent’ is a solid album from start to finish, and if anything, proof that Killswitch Engage is well and truly intact, and more alive than ever.

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© Justin Donnelly

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