Until recently, the name Killswitch Engage meant nothing to me. I knew that they were a metalcore act, but that was pretty much it, just another metalcore act. I had most likely heard a song or two sometime in the past, but I've never really listened to any of their albums in its entirety until a friend got me to listen to the Killswitch Engage's fourth album, As Daylight Dies, not four weeks ago. To be honest, I wasn't quite enthusiastic about listening to the album at first, but remembering how much I enjoyed All That Remains' set on their tour (a set that happened to include one of Killswitch's guitarists) I decided to give it a shot anyways. Boy was I surprised. Though I cannot compare with the band's past releases, as I have not yet heard them, but I can imagine this being one of their better albums.
That could be an audacious prediction from someone who has not had the chance to absorb much of the Killswitch's work. So what makes me assume such things? One can point to a variety of elements which make As Daylight Dies a successful album. Perhaps my favourite of these aspects is the melody that the album's songs feature. This catchy, melodic trait is an important part of the band's sound on the album, as it helps change up the flow of the song, while easing the listener through the transition from heavy to melodic and back to heavy again. Killswitch Engage has included these lighter (yet still powerful) sections frequently throughout most of the record's tracks, and even several times during the tracks they accompany. A characteristic which goes hand in hand with the previous point is the production levels found on the album. As Daylight Dies was produced by none other than Killswitch guitarist Adam D. himself, and he has done an excellent job. The instruments are quite audible and contribute to the overall quality of the album. But perhaps the most enjoyable benefit of the album's production values is the guitar tones. Quite infectious by nature, these tones are at their most likeable during the aforementioned melodic sections. It is here that they help create a soothing, emotional sound, a sound which definitely enhances the listening experience. Yes, nothing remarkable, but it still noteworthy as it contributes to the likeableness of the band's fourth release. Finally, the vocal efforts found on As Daylight Dies are fairly good, to say the least. Vocalist Howard Jones (along with Adam on back up vox) has a great performance, which features him engaging in both harsh screams and clean singing. Unlike many in this genre, Howard manages to keep my interest with his harsh, yet listenable screaming. His guttural screams manage to provide the band's attack with another aggressive outlet, yet do not have the negative side effects that the screaming of Avenged Sevenfold's or Trivium's vocalists do. His cleaner, more pleasant sounding singing, often used at least during the choruses (sometimes throughout the entire track as in The Arms of Sorrow) maintains a heavy presence in the mix, and provides the album with an enjoyably emotional edge.
So how about them songs, eh? My favourite song by far and the most enjoyable track to be found on As Daylight Dies is The Arms of Sorrow. Much of what I have previously mentioned can be found through the song, and these characteristics are performed interestingly at high level. The song is based around a simple, yet infectious melody as well as solid vocal lines from Howard. Fairly short at 3:50, The Arms of Sorrow has a sombre, depressing atmosphere to it, and while it isn't the only time such a mood is reflected in the band's music, it is in The Arms of Sorrow where it is most effective. Another standout track would be Eye of the Storm. This particular song is quite different from the likes of The Arms of Sorrow or Reject Yourself. For Eye of the Storm puts a greater emphasis on heavy riffing, as the forceful intro immediately reveals. This intensity is matched throughout the rest of the song in the form of various breakdowns and bridges. Howard also has a solid showing, however, the energetic performances by each of Killswitch's musicians, for the most part, maintains the spotlight Even though there are heavier songs, fans of metalcore, or other similar variants of American metal should find songs such as this quite enjoyable.
As Daylight Dies is not without weaknesses, however. If Killswitch Engage ran into any problems with their fourth album one of the largest would be the overwhelmingly similar song structures that nearly every track suffers from. As one listens to the album, song after song after song, it can become fairly easy to predict what will happen next. Personally for me, this isn't a necessarily fatal aspect, but over time the album can get somewhat boring due to repetitiveness of the techniques used and the lack of variance from song to song. In addition to that, some of the tracks found on As Daylight Dies are exceedingly weaker than their counterparts. Songs like My Curse or This is Absolution are not terribly bad songs, but they just cannot sustain the same level as say Break the Silence or the title track.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Killswitch Engage's latest effort. With As Daylight Dies, the metalcore band places a great deal of emphasis on both melody and aggression to make up the sound, and does a fairly good job moulding the two musical themes together. Killswitch is shown to be quite tight while employing this style as tracks such as The Arms of Silence or Reject Yourself reveal to listeners. A little variance between songs would certainly go a long way in helping improve the quality of the album, but listening to it in bits and pieces defeats this con. I would definitely recommend As Daylight Dies to new listeners as it is as pretty easy release to get into, a release that traditional and non-traditional fans of American metal can get into.
The Arms of Sorrow
Eye of the Storm
Break the Silence