Review Summary: A flub, pure and simple. Let's hope Killswitch Engage re-evaluate their "new direction" and choose to go back in the "old direction."
Consider the past albums released by Killswitch and there was almost always something innovative, or, at the very least, intriguing about their releases. Alive or Just Breathing had the spectacular contrast of the crushingly heavy with the light, almost crystaline riffs contained in songs like "My Last Serenade" or "Inhale." The End of Heartache seemed to have the perfect blend of screams and cleans, heaviness and melodic sections through and through. As Daylight Dies tread a bit in the wrong direction with a reduction in the harsh portions of the music and a rise in the number of clean and melodic sections. Looking back, we should have taken this as the sign that Killswitch Engage were moving into the territory of mainstream metal.
Their fourth release, a second self-titled album seems to follow a precedent set by their first self-titled album, a lack of Adam D. While on their first self-titled release, Adam D. performed on the drums rather than the guitars, this time his presence is lacking in the backing vocals department. On their first release, his absence on guitars made a marked difference between it and the rest of the discography. Throughout this album, it seems there is not a single song where the previously common vocal overlap of Howard Jones and Adam D. graces the listener's ear, and it makes a very negative impact upon the record.
While the paradigm shift in the sound of the album, perhaps a shift even incorporating the mistake of reducing Adam's vocal passages, seems to be planned and the stand out failure of the album, there a few more issues.
The album starts rather strong, with the opening track, "Never Again" entering with a sound similar to (no, wait, almost exactly the same as) a slowed down version of the intro to "World Ablaze." It is simultaneously in this fact that the first half of the album draws its strength and its weakness. It draws its strength from being music cut from the same cloth, from being recognizable and, dare I say, decent to good.
However, it draws its weakness in that it is the head of the snake eating its tail. Killswitch Engage are recycling the same material that encompassed the majority of their last two studio albums. Again, this is sans Adam's vocals - making their impression of themselves decidedly worse.
Following "Reckoning" the album seems to become hit or miss with, well, not even the tracks, but more the specific musical tidbits within them. From the start of a song, you may be cringing or getting into the groove, when the track will re-polarize itself in the other direction, either giving you false hope that the track could be good or crushing your already established hope that the track was good. The track will then continue to swap between crushing and raising your hopes, leaving you feeling dirty and craving an ear canal bath.
Overall Killswitch Engage still have the chops to put out a good to great album, but that this is not
that album. The band really needs to re-evaluate their past music and its merits, and reconsider the supposed new path that they have embarked on musically.