Review Summary: Killswitch not-so Engaging
"What did you expect?" or "It's just Killswitch being Killswitch", are two of the more common defenses you'll hear from fans fighting in favor of the Massachusetts metalcore titan's seventh album Incarnate
. To a modicum of a degree they are correct; to expect any drastic difference in Killswitch Engage's performance inevitably invites disappointment. The band has curated a formula that has allowed them to take fewer risks over the years while still being granted phenomenal success, and honestly, there's nothing inherently wrong with finding what you're good at and sticking to it. However using that excuse to validate the material on their most recent album is wholly unacceptable. They've finally crossed the threshold of self-parody, and there's no pardon to be given for Incarnate
's diluted interpretation of the patented Killswitch Engage sound.
Killswitch have slowly been watering down their melodeath-based metalcore since The End of Heartache, but it's always packed just enough of a punch to remain compelling. Incarnate
on the other hand is a wholly flaccid release, limp and lifeless. There is no power or conviction behind what the band is doing anymore. The "heavier" tracks on the album like "The Great Deceit" and pre-release single "Strength of the Mind" sound so dialed in, like the band's only claim to creating aggressive music is that's what they think they should be doing. Admittedly, Adam D's production is ideal, but working in tandem with the weak performance renders every riff and roar frustratingly powerless and sterile.
Not that anyone would really be expecting them to take a risk, but one of the more disappointing aspects of Incarnate
is that there are certain points where it sounds like they are almost
attempting to go for it. "Cut Me Loose" which ironically does NOT cut loose in the slightest is perhaps the best example. Throughout the staggered power-chords of its first-half, it feels like something exciting is bubbling right below surface, ready to explode at any given moment. Unfortunately this moment never comes to pass, and though the later part of the song certainly picks up the pace, it's so textbook Killswitch that point is essentially rendered moot. Structurally, "It Falls On Me" is easily one of the more exciting pieces, fusing together acoustic passages, post-rock-esque tremolo guitars, and some interesting vocal interplay between Jesse and Adam; sadly, it lacks any solid hook and the more obtuse construction only serves to lessen how memorable it could have been.
If there is one highlight, it is easily Jesse Leach's cleans. Understandably passing years and maturity have taken a toll on the feral delivery of his screams, but his ability to hit soaring choruses has certainly reached new heights. The only problem -and quite a large one at that- is that there is really nothing worth remembering on Incarnate. Despite his improved range, he utterly fails in actually making good use of it.The best thing it does here is remind you of older, stronger songs in their catalog that sound similar but are actually worth the time to revisit.
The rest of the album suffers from sounding like lesser versions of previously Killswitch Engage songs. It may seem like a lazy accusation to levy at a group whose foundation is recycling In Flames and At the Gates riffs, but here it's reached a new level of unacceptable. Which brings us to the most frustrating aspect of this release; the belief that Killswitch Engage are capable of doing better. If not from a point of creativity, than at the very least a point of quality. If this record had followed the same path of treading old territory but actually featured some stronger songs, this would be a worthy addition to the KSE canon. However, the only thing they've done copy themselves in the most unflattering fashion. Incarnate
is easily the most forgettable album in Killswitch Engage's discography, so fans do yourself a favor and avoid.