Review Summary: "All in due time."
While Killswitch Engage [II]
asked the question "Can we start again?" (both in earnest on "Starting Over" and metaphorically in its newer, slower, and less metal presentation), Disarm the Descent
answers that question with an unquestionable "No, we're going to pick up where we left off." Maybe a bit surprisingly, that point ends up being Alive or Just Breathing
, the last time Jesse Leach appeared with Adam D. and company. This might leave some fans scratching their heads, wondering where some of the finer bells and whistles of The End of Heartache
and As Daylight Dies
have gone in favor of the more minimalistic and bombastic approach fronted by Leach's more aggressive vocals. Even the melodic ballad that became Alive or Just Breathing
's signature song and a huge influence on Killswitch's future releases, "My Last Serenade" has been scorched along this warpath, leaving Disarm the Descent
looking even more like a highly refined version of the band's eponymous first outing.
Without a doubt, Disarm the Descent
is an album that's going to be a dividing line for many. If Killswitch Engage [II]
was criticized for being too soft, Disarm the Descent
is a counter to that criticism in every way, shape, and form. The crunch and attack have been dialed up to 11 on the guitars, the bass and drums have returned to the frantic pulse they'd maintained on previous Killswitch offerings ("The Call"), and Jesse shreds his vocal cords in a fierce growl Howard Jones simply couldn't achieve ("All That We Have"). And in counter to the group's most Metallica-esque complaints, most tracks seem to feature blistering melodic guitar solos with plenty of spotlight-ready space to shine. Of course, the greatest improvement over the group's previous outing is the return of Adam's vocal harmonies, layering together with Jesse's singing to dial up the aggression with fierce screams and collective chants, fortifying vocal power with his comparatively mellow, clean voice. The result is a vocal concoction that kicks things up a notch in a way unheard since Alive or Just Breathing
But maybe things fit together just a bit too perfectly. Nearly everything about Disarm the Descent
does nothing new for the genre Killswitch will continue to dominate regardless of their new material. Don't get me wrong - the album is fun. The choruses are as catchy as they are aggressive and the instrumental backing is as tight as ever, kicking out a sound that never ceases screaming "headbang along with me!" Yet, while Disarm the Descent
is a return to an (older) form for the band and a fun piece of nostalgia for fans, it does little (if anything) to push the boundaries.
To a point, that's to be expected. This is a group that's digging back into their roots to rediscover their synergy and direction. Not simply because of the return of Leach, but because Killswitch Engage [II]
show the group at a confusing crossroads. Whether Disarm the Descent
is an answer to the question of "where do we go next?" is up to the band to decide, but from this perspective it seems more like a feel-good reunion than anything else. The energy's there, the skill is there, and the songwriting, while nothing innovative, is certainly enjoyable. It's an album that's not unlike visiting a friend's house for a party - you know what's going to happen, nearly to the letter, every time you're there, but you still go and you still have fun.
Disarm the Descent
proves that there's still plenty of potential with this group, but it also makes it clear that they're going to take their time putting it out there. And why not? With the commercial success they've had, Killswitch can afford to rest on their laurels a bit and provide us with a hard-hitting nostalgia trip like Disarm the Descent
while they ready their A-game for the next round. So bask in the light of the prodigal son returning home and rock along with Killswitch on Disarm the Descent
, but don't expect more than glad shouts and bear hugs until the next record.