Killswitch Engage

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Jesse Leach: Vocals
Adam Dutkiewicz: Guitar / Production
Joel Stroetzel: Guitar
Mike D’Antonio: Bass
Justin Foley: Drums

Killswitch Engage first shook the structure of heavy music upon climbing out of snowy industrialized Western Massachusetts in 1999. A musical outlier, the band pioneered a union of thrashed-out European guitar pyrotechnics, East Coast hardcore spirit, on-stage hijinks, and enlightened lyricism that set the pace for what the turn-of-the-century deemed heavy. 2002′s Alive Or Just Breathing became avowed as a definitive album, being named among “The Top 100 Greatest Metal Albums of the Decade” by Decibel and celebrated by everyone from Metal Hammer to Revolver. Not only did they bust open the floodgates for dozens to follow, but they also garnered two GRAMMY┬« Award nominations in the category of “Best Metal Performance” in 2005 and 2014, respectively, and gold certifications for The End of Heartache [2004] and As Daylight Dies [2006]. The group landed three consecutive Top 10 debuts on the Billboard Top 200 with Killswitch Engage [2009], Disarm The Descent [2013], and their career high best bow at #6 with Incarnate [2016]. The latter two releases would also both capture #1 on the Top Rock Albums and Top Hard Rock Albums charts. Their total streams have exceeded half-a-billion to date. Along the way, the band has shared stages with some of the biggest acts in the world and has sold out countless headline gigs in six continents across the globe.

2019 represents another turning point. The quintet – Adam Dutkiewicz [guitar, production], Joel Stroetzel [guitar], Mike D’Antonio [bass], Justin Foley [drums], and Jesse Leach [vocals] – sharpens every side of this signature sound on their eighth full-length and first for Metal Blade, Atonement. The vision the band initially shared two decades ago crystallizes like never before.

To me, the name Killswitch Engage means ‘Shut the system down’,” exclaims Jesse. “It’s anti-authority and anti-corruption. My lyrics are very spiritual and political. It’s a part of what Killswitch has been since the beginning. We carry the message through the live show. There’s a sense of fun, enjoying life, and emotional catharsis. I don’t even know if we meant to do it consciously, but this showcases all of our styles. It happened naturally. I’m proud of it.

This is another honest record,” says Justin. “We’re just being who we are and writing the best material we can.

People take themselves way too seriously,” adds Adam. “We love metal, but we also love melody and we want to have a good time. That’s who we are; we don’t act like your typical ‘metal band.

Atonement proves that. It earmarks the culmination of a trying and turbulent two years. The musicians started kicking around ideas as early as 2017. The band recorded the bulk of the material separately, with Adam once again behind the board. They worked at Signature Sound for drums and Adam’s own Wicked Good Studios for guitars, both based in San Diego. Meanwhile, Mike cut his bass tracks wherever he could: on the road in hotels, in dressing rooms backstage, and at home. Vocals were recorded on both coasts at Mainline Recording Studios in Westfield, Massachusetts and Wicked Good Studios. In the middle of the process, a polyp developed scar tissue in Jesse’s throat, forcing him to undergo surgery. The intense three-month recovery ended with speech therapy, vocal therapy, and scream therapy.

At first, I was wondering if I was done career-wise,” he admits. “It worked out though. Out of everything came a real determination to learn techniques and get a second chance at becoming a better vocalist. I have so much more control of my voice and can scream properly. I don’t think the album would be what it is if I didn’t go through all of this.

His “trial-by-fire” on stage came during a 2018 tour with Iron Maiden as he regained “confidence” performing in front of sold out arena and stadium crowds. At the same time, he experienced a debilitating bout of writer’s block. By the end of this run with the metal gods, Adam took him aside and offered words of inspiration.

I shared my unfinished lyrics, and he said, ‘You don’t even need all of these. Keep it simple.’,” Jesse goes on. “I was stressed out. I was insecure. A lot was going on in my head between writer’s block and the surgery. It was amazing to have a friend and producer like Adam mentally slap me upside the face and encourage me.

Jesse did a really great job with the words and melodies,” remarks the guitarist. “At the same time, I strove to write songs that were really thrash-y and aggressive. We’ve got more butt-kickers than we usually do.

Signing to Metal Blade also stoked this fresh fire. “We were all excited to kick off a new chapter,” says Justin. “We’ve known Brian Slagel forever. We have friends who have worked with him. We went into this with a sense of optimism about what we could potentially do on this cycle with Metal Blade on our side.

The opener and first single “Unleashed” tempers ominous drums with foreboding guitars before descending into a chantable refrain. “It’s the genesis of the whole thing,” explains the frontman. “For me, it’s about the inner animal and darkness we all have inside. Thankfully, I’ve only had it come out a few times in my life. The chorus felt like something people could relate to.

The Signal Fire” steamrolls from airtight thrashing towards an expansive and entrancing refrain. Boasting a guest appearance from former Killswitch Engage singer and current Light The Torch vocalist Howard Jones, it sparks a pyre of metallic mastery, joining two eras of the band on one anthem.

I had an image from Lord of The Rings when they climb to the top of the mountain and light a fire to signal for backup,” says Jesse. “It felt powerful to me. At the same time, Howard’s Light The Torch was making new music. I thought, ‘Light The Torch’ and ‘Signal Fire’ make sense together.’ It needed to be a call-to-arms, and I wanted to invite him to sing on it. We hit it off for the first time, recently. Afterwards, we were texting back-and-forth. We needed a song with him to show the fans there’s solidarity. It’s a perfect ode to our bond as brothers and a nice nod to Light The Torch.

Elsewhere, legendary Testament mainman Chuck Billy brings his unmistakable guttural growl to the possessed power of “Crownless King,” which Adam rightfully refers to as “fucking awesome.” On the other end of the spectrum, the soaring chorus of “I Am Broken Too” assures “someone struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts not to give up, because there are more of us than you think,” as the singer reminds. Then there’s “As Sure As the Sun Will Rise,” which builds towards a triumphant chant, turning a corner thematically over thunderous percussion and punch-y guitars.

In the end, Killswitch Engage lengthen their legacy while blazing another new path-the system won’t be the same again.

I want to take all of that energy, negativity, and shit I suffer with and turn it into something positive to make people feel a sense of hope,” Jesse leaves. “Acknowledge the darkness and fight through it. If you keep pushing, you will persevere. There will always be a ray of hope.

I want fans to enjoy this,” Adam concludes. “When I listen to metal records, I get pumped up and excited. I hope our fans can get just as excited when they hear our songs and watch us play live. Do you really want to pay money to look at someone pretending to be a badass? It’s not what we do. If we’re laughing, we’re enjoying it-and we are enjoying this one.

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