Review Summary: Despite this slightly disappointing release, Killswitch Engage are still the mentors of metalcore.
Fourteen years ago Killswitch Engage released one of the most influential albums within the metalcore scene. “Alive Or Just Breathing” combined the strength of elevating lyrics with the power and infectiousness of riffs to a new level to which most modern metalcore bands owe their success. Even with a new vocalist, Howard Jones, for the next three albums the band continued to approach metal differently to their neighbouring bands by tackling personal topics such as romance, union and general positivity in a heavy way with success, which spiked once again with 2013’s re-energising “Disarm The Descent”.
“Incarnate” is the second album to feature Jesse Leach (who departed in 2002) on vocal duties since his return in 2013. It’s fair to say that Jesse steals the spotlight on this album due to his expertise as not only a singer but also a lyricist. He truly confronts every aspect of himself within his lyrics and echoes them back to the listener for them to reflect upon. In tracks like ‘Just Let Go’ and the massive choruses similar to the one in ‘Strength Of The Mind’ the passion he displays is effective in climaxing each song to an emotional intensity. However, hearing such profound lyrics that concern one specific individual (himself) can fail to connect as much with other people-unless that person is also going through similar struggles-so clichéd lyrics featured on ‘We Carry On’ actually sound quite awkward to listen to when you think of how many bands have jumped on the ‘together-we-are-stronger-and-nothing-can-ever-change-that’ wagon.
On the flipside, there seems to be an absence of passion in the riffing sector that is usually at the forefront of Killswitch Engage’s catchiness. Adam D and Joel Stroetzel recycle the same spiralling licks and mid-paced stamping riffs from “Disarm The Descent” for most of the album; the Zakk Wylde inspired squeals even make another major cameo on ‘Alone I Stand’. Instead, the guitars on “Incarnate” primarily support the songs more than strengthen them. There are exceptions though: the Gothenburg dual assaults on ‘Until The Day I Die’ and ’Quiet Distress’ and swaggering grooves on ‘Hate By Design’ really do knock out any bands that have commandeered the genre Killswitch Engage created. Overall, if you’re fine with a band not fixing something which isn’t broken then that’s fair enough, but when you’ve got a singer who is genuinely pushing himself and taking risks in the name of expansion then it’d be nice to hear the rest of his band members trying to do the same.
Despite a few flaws, “Incarnate” is far from a misfire. In a way it actually sounds like a composition of Killswitch Engage’s musical career-which is no bad thing. You’ve got the riff driven tracks like ‘It Falls on Me’ that hearken towards the genre defining "Alive Or Just Breathing", uplifting choruses and personal lyrics throughout “Incarnate” that are just as touching as past songs like ‘Always’ and a handful of bonafide anthems that can sit aside classics such as ‘A Bid Farewell’ and ‘My Last Serenade’ with heartening pride. Though slightly disappointing, Killswitch Engages’ seventh album simply continues to reaffirm the bands unquestionable authority over a genre that is prone to strong criticism.