Review Summary: Although its not Alive or Just Breathing part 2, Times of Grace have delivered an exceptional debut effort that shows much potential.
There are a lot of times in music where we come across surprising collaborations. We receive news that 2 or more artists that made wonders for music are getting back together and writing new material and we all get absolutely ecstatic. We've seen this a lot recently and the collaboration between Jesse Leach and Adam Dutkiewicz is one of them and one that excited me greatly. We all know the story of Killswitch Engage by now, and we know that Alive or Just Breathing is one of the greatest metalcore albums of all time and was a milestone in their career that they will never be able to live up to. Given these facts, its almost impossible to go into this record expecting some moments that sound like Alive or Just Breathing (and there are), but there are also moments that set this project apart from anything either of the two musicians have done before.
Despite the major similarities between the two bands, The Hymn of a Broken Man shouldn’t be compared to a Killswitch record but rather as its own entity. Times of Grace are not Killswitch Engage, and this album isn’t exactly Alive or Just Breathing part 2 (even though that record's 2 chief songwriters are present here). What makes this project so different and special when compared to Killswitch besides experimentation is that Adam and Jesse share the vocals throughout the 13 tracks, and they blend together quite beautifully. Dutkiewicz has provided backing vocals on every Killswitch release, but here he actually takes the center stage with providing lead vocals on some tracks. When he does, on tracks like “Until The End of Days” and “The Forgotten One”, the results are incredible. He really does a great job as a vocalist, and Times of Grace allows him to show off more of his talent. Jesse Leach, as always, does not disappoint with his performance. His vocals have improved significantly since 2002 and it shows in the superb clean singing and his signature roar that we all miss in Killswitch. The title track and “The End of Eternity” are both monster tracks that demonstrate Jesse's improved vocals and Dutkiewicz' superb musicianship.
Musically, the album is fantastic. Dutkiewicz is known for his fresh, crisp production sound. As both a producer and multi-instrumentalist, he is all over this record. The guitar work is what you would expect from him, and he is still keeping those leads tasteful and the riffs heavy yet melodic as ever. The bass work is actually prominent in some points (see the intro to “Fight For Life”) but its still not living up to its full potential, which is not really a suprise here. The drumming is also excellent, Dutkiewicz provides great fills and twists behind the kit that drive the music forward and proves to be a master at all of the instruments present on the record.
As a lyricist, Jesse Leach has always written about spiritual aspects of life and his own struggles. This was seen on Alive or Just Breathing and in his recent band The Empire Shall Fall. He continues that trend of spiritual lyrics and song titles with Times of Grace. The entire album seems to be about loss and learning from that loss and carrying on in life stronger than before. Its apparent that Leach is passionate about this style of writing and all of the songs sound heartfelt and true. Dutkiewicz and Leach put a lot of effort into this record, and it certainly shows.
In the end, what we are given by Times of Grace is an exceptional and promising debut effort. We would expect such an album from two of the original and main songwriters of Killswitch Engage, and we can only hope for an even better effort next time around. The only thing that might turn some people off is that the tracks might not have much variation apart from “The Forgotten One”, but I found that to be expected from these guys at least for now. The Hymn of a Broken Man is a fresh and well done debut album, and its honestly damn good to see these two making music together again.