Review Summary: Death lives on.
If you can forgive a moment of nostalgia; I can vaguely remember when Howard Jones announced his departure from Killswitch Engage sometime after the band’s second self-titled release. It was a weird time for me musically, having invested so much of my musical upbringing in albums like The End Of Heartache
and As Daylight Dies
. Still, I figured Howard would pop up somewhere, laying down some seriously competent screams and lush, soaring choruses in an act that suited both his health and mindset. It took the best part of a decade from the releases mentioned above before we saw Mr. Jones’ newest musical export alongside other well-known figures in metal and under their new moniker, Devil You Know I was pleased, if not completely blown away. Typically, Light The Torch isn’t Killswitch Engage, nor is it so far detached that the usual metalcore descriptors don’t apply. You see, other than The Beauty Of Destruction
’s (before the name change from Devil You Know) soaring choruses or abrasive verse building blocks, there wasn’t anything really innovating on what Jones and Co. would normally offer moving away from their respective bands, regardless of the band’s “supergroup” status. At the time it could be said that I was simply expecting too much, after all if it’s not broken, why fix it?
Moving on to more recent times and disregarding the usual cutaway about name changes and roster modifications, Light The Torch more-or-less continues on where both Devil You Know and Light The Torch brands collide.
These days I still look forward to music from Light The Torch, even if there is some slight trepidation in regards to the typically consistent quality that’s on show. Like Revival
(which gives life to my critical misgivings) before it, You Will Be The Death of Me
isn’t offensively bad in nature. Far, far from it—but I feel I’d be doing their 2021 effort a disservice to simply dismiss You Will Be The Death of Me
as another mundane, character-lacking release.
That, I will not do.
What Light The Torch’s -ahem- sophomore does do, is bring big, bold sounds and consequently blasts them through any awaiting speaker set. “More Than Dreaming” kicks into gear, punching through with both forceful riffs and Howard’s often soaring vocal nuance, but it’s the “woah-woah” crowd chants of “Let Me Fall Apart” that pull on the nostalgic heartstrings of early 2000’s metalcore, almost forcing the listener to join in on this forty-eight minute adventure. Despite my earlier qualms about You Will Be The Death of Me
’s trajectory towards middling, accessible music, I can’t help but focus on the positives and little callbacks to sounds gone by. For example whenever I hear the stomping guitar riff from “Something Deep Inside”, I find it hard not to wipe an image of Anthrax’s Scott Ian, and his ear to ear grin from my mind’s eye.
Like most metalcore before it (and the larger scope of both Howard Jones and Francesco Artusato’s more prominent projects), You Will Be The Death of Me
will cater profoundly to a live setting. Most of the album’s new tracks are full of riff bombast, sing a long chorus lines and immensely satisfying harsh to clean vocal interplays. Couple that with an easily followed snare and double bass kick and we have the basic recipes for a moshing good time. Acting as the album’s titular track, “Death Of Me” is a romp. If there was any doubt on just how Howard’s voice has held up over the years it’s here that we dispel any rumours of talent falling short. It’s likely that “Death Of Me” will be a firm featurette in a setlist of growing bangers all primed for an eventual festival setting.
Looking back it’s also not hard to notice just how You Will Be The Death of Me
is Jones’ greatest vocal performance post-Killswitch Engage. Not only does he still have it
, Howard’s prowess hasn’t aged as his vocal chords have (having just turned 50 years old). It could even be argued that his pipes (and the added benefit of modern day production values) shine a light
on just how brilliant Howard is as a vocalist...aged or not. It helps that his efforts are mixed in well, dominating most other aspects of the band’s more instrumental facets. Occasionally, the cymbal work from Alex Rudinger (normally of Whitechapel fame) washes in and out of the limelight, but for a release that’s clearly dominated by its string slingers and pipe work, most fans can easily get past this small gripe.
The problems You Will Be The Death of Me
face however aren’t due to performance issues. Howard’s soaring vocals have become ‘too standard’ in the face of “wow-inducing-moments” mostly due to the fact that despite the man’s clear prowess driving both cleans and on-point harsh vocals, his style is no longer as impactful as it was circa 2004-06. It doesn’t matter that the guy doesn’t miss a note or nails every piercing scream—at the risk of sounding redundant, it simply is what it is. Similarly, the band’s verse to chorus to solo to chorus structure has become too predictable, both in terms of song progression and when compared to the record as a whole. Let’s face it, both the band and the label might be quick to describe You Will Be The Death of Me
as a sophomore piece, but despite the name change and the seemingly revolving door of percussionists, Light The Torch are [almost] subjectively running the same ship formed under the Devil You Know moniker...four releases deep. Still, that doesn’t really change the fact that Light The Torch (or whatever title they release their music under) is largely the Howard Jones show. A show that treads the same well-worn path that Francesco Artusato and Jones chose back in 2014.
Even as I wrap up another consecutive listen of Light The Torch’s latest slab of proficient, if a little too safe metalcore I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be cutting and pasting the bulk of this review into the predictable next release. Personally I don’t really mind—but I’m already back to expecting something different from a group that’s more than cemented their sound. Metalcore descriptors apply, Light The Torch continue to define mainstream metalcore.