Disclaimer: This my first attempt at a paragraph review, so criticism is welcomed and wanted.
Killswitch Engage is a Metalcore act out of Massachusetts, who formed in 1999. At the time of the release of Alive Or Just Breathing, they were relatively unknown around the world of music, except for local fans. However, Roadrunner Records caught a hold of their first self-titled album and saw something they liked, so they signed Killswitch Engage.
Musically, Killswitch Engage is very sound. The vocals from Jesse David Leech are top notch for Metalcore and have surprising range, on such tracks as "The Element of One" and "My Last Serenade". The guitar work is very consistent throughout Alive Or Just Breathing. Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel both are very talented musicians, and show great diversity in their playing. They can shred (Vide Infra, To The Sons of Man), play at standard tempo, (Numbered Days, Self Revolution, Temple From The Within), or truly play at almost a standstill, yet still remain very heavy (Rise Inside, Just Barely Breathing). If there is a constant on Alive Or Just Breathing, it is the guitar work. Mike D'Antonio, the founding member of Killswitch Engage is the glue of the album. Although not always heard, he does have some standout parts, such as the bass solo on Temple From The Within, which starts one of the best breakdowns on the album. His contributions are not always involving his instrument, he also designed the artwork for Alive Or Just Breathing. Drummer Tom Gomes turns in a solid showing. Of all the band members, he may be the least noticed, but in no way is that saying he's mediocre. With some great fills and breakdowns (To The Sons Of Man), he contributes to the overall feel of the band, but just doesn't possess the flare that the other members possess.
Now, the album does get off to a bang with "Numbered Days", and "Self Revolution" keeps the momentum going. However, some songs like "Fixation On The Darkness" and "Life To Lifeless" show some on Jesse's vocal problems. Now, all of Alive Or Just Breathing isn't electric. Killswitch Engage does turn in some acoustic sections and more melodic numbers such as "The Element Of One", "Without A Name", and "My Last Serenade". However, the band tries too hard on "To The Sons of Man" and the rehashing of two songs from their self-titled album, "Temple From The Within" and "Vide Infra". However, the album ending does not disappoint. "Without A Name", a beautiful intro fades well into "Rise Inside", an emotional and brutal album closer. "Rise Inside" features everything this album could have been. Brutality, Musicianship, thought provoking lyrics, and changes in tempo. While being a bit repetitive, this truly shows the potential of this lineup of Killswitch Engage.
Note :( Jesse David Leech left the band shortly after the recording of Alive Or Just Breathing due to marital and vocal problems and also suffering from depression. Also, Tom Gomes left the band in 2003 for less known reasons, none being as well known as Jesse's.)
*Guitar work is excellent throughout the album
*Jesse's voice CAN be truly spectacular
*Well written Lyrics
*"Temple From The Within" bass solo and chorus
*Jesse's vocal problems
*To The Sons of Man
*It's truly too bad that Killswitch Engage did not wait for Jesse to get out his funk and settle his personal issues, because IMO, the band has never been the same since.
*My Last Serenade
*Temple From The Within