Review Summary: Songs of...
It’s been a decade since The Hymn Of A Broken Man
. A literal fucking
decade. Fairly, when it was announced that Jesse Leach would be returning to his former group, Killswitch Engage circa 2012 questions would be raised on whether it was a) necessary that Times Of Grace would follow up their head-turning debut or b) if such a task would even be on the cards now that the band had literally got back together
. Still, fans thirsted for more Times Of Grace, sucking gently on the teat of Adam Dutkiewicz’s impressive song-writing chops and the nostalgia of a Leach led vocal performance while Howard Jones provided absolution
and the end of heartache
. You see, for whatever reason The Hymn Of A Broken Man
was a timely release and deserved the accolades it achieved ten years ago—poignant lyricism washed over a portrait of metalcore tropes that was distinguishably familiar in light of its natural Killswitch Engage comparisons and yet, Times Of Grace’s debut found new ground for exploration, combining melodic hooks and endearing vocal nuance.
It’s here that we jump forwards. While too much nostalgia isn’t exactly considered a negative when it comes to new music, Times Of Graces’ Songs Of Loss and Separation
panders instead of invokes; trading powerful lyricism and emotive themes for songs of
middling quality, neither expanding on the formula of the Leach and Dutkiewicz or consolidating the emotive prowess found in tracks like “Willing”, “Live In Love” or the debut’s title track. Still listeners could expect the occasional gem to reach into their nostalgia and pull at the heartstrings. Songs Of Loss and Separation
does unveil a few good tracks, but lacks the depth and character found throughout the debut.
Chances are such a summation could’ve been expected. After all, Jesse did rejoin Killswitch Engage not too long after touring The Hymn Of A Broken Man
and helped release three very passable
(if not astounding) metalcore records since 2013. Namely, Songs Of Loss and Separation
suffers from tired lyricism, lack of triumphant (let’s live our life) atmosphere and plain instrumental efforts that blend its collaborator’s other projects. “The Burden of Belief” in particular sounds like it’s straight out of the Killswitch Engage handbook, albeit a slower rendition than the usual openers associated with such musicians. The track however does shine a light on Adam’s skill behind the sounds, as a producer Adam continues to provide a balanced foundation for both vocals and instrumental sections to come together. Even the sampled spoken word that bridges “Mend You” comes through clear, un muddied by the group’s tendency to throw melody and guitar lick into most passages with abandon. “Mend You” also trades punch for a sense of melancholy and Leach’s vocals slip into a bastardization of his time with Killswitch Engage and The Empire Shall Fall, the latter having the dominant edge. Leach’s clean vocals carry a motif of introspection and regret. So far, Songs Of Loss and Separation
lives up to its title.
“Far From Heavenless” continues the album as expected, and is largely the central foundation to the record’s few highlights. Simple notes cascade into the atmosphere, surging and recalling like the tides on a beach. Only, the skies are grey, absent of the sunny optimism that normally dominates Leach’s particular lyrical palette. Despite being markedly slower than most of the tracks here and on the debut, “Far From Heavenless” is in-part the heaviest track on the new record, and the most reminiscent to the contextual straws of the debut to which Songs Of Loss and Separation
grasp. For better and worse, loss and separation
feature here in spades.
From here Times Of Grace’s 2021 piece is a mixed bag. “Bleed Me” is stylistically mundane, even if the lyrical message echoes the similar paths found in the record’s first half. “Medusa” tries to captivate the listener with ambivalent ringing notes, before building them into the track’s main riff (complete with that signature Dutkiewicz guitar squeal), but the track itself could feature as an Incarnate
bonus track and none would be the wiser. Despite the melancholic ebb that dances lightly under the weight of the lyrics, Leach’s spoken word alliteration sounds forced, snapped into position before his [well-placed] screams cut through the track. If not for the gradual build in intensity, “Medusa” would easily fall into the “this is a Killswitch track” pitfall.
At times, listeners are gifted with some bluesy, almost Alice In Chains-like music (“Currents”, “To Carry The Weight”), catharsis on the brink of taking over completely but there’s a dialed in sentimentality that bleeds
through the album’s message (see: “Cold”). Songs Of Loss and Separation
falls into a category of fanservice, stemmed by the fact there’s little to no actual defining moments. That sounds harsher than is intended, especially as “The Burden of Belief”, “Far From Heavenless” and closer, “Forever” are quality cuts but it’s hard to escape the fact that some of Leach’s lines sound tired, plain on a backboard of simple melodies. There’s no doubt that Adam and Jesse are capable songwriters, but their 2021 sophomore, a decade after the debut lacks the definable punch that would set it apart from their other projects or translate to the same dizzying heights found within The Hymn Of A Broken Man
. Continuing, it’s hard to determine whether the wait between albums is worth it (largely, it’s not) as there’s a chance listeners and fans would be delivered the same transferable quality if this had been released say...three, five or even eight years ago. That there is Songs Of Loss and Separation
’s biggest failing.