It was a nice, warm, summer day back in 2003 where we find three metalheads walking around Pomona, CA waiting for the In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and Killswitch Engage show at the Glasshouse. Normally, they go to shows in Santa Ana, Ca, usually at “The Galaxy”, or Hollywood, Ca, “The Whiskey” or “The Palace” (now known as “The Avalon”) but since this was one of those tours that didn’t hit either spot, they made the trip out to the quiet, dry, little town where “The Glasshouse” is located. Upon arriving a few hours too early and being handed the harsh reality that the isn’t a bar anywhere within walking distance, they knew that the night would pretty much suck so there was more expectations placed on the bands to bring a loud, headbanging, sweaty show.
As they walked around trying to kill 3 hours, they ran into a man with a black t-shirt asking for a cigarette. Since they were pretty much bad asses, or at least tried to appear to be bad asses, they answered back harshly and sarcastically, “Fuck no!” The man then responded in surprise with, “and you guys call yourselves ‘punk rockers’?” and walked away.
All the more expectations placed on the show to kick some serious ass but once the show started, they saw, first hand, the whole “Hardcore Kids vs. MetalHeads” rivalry for the pit with the band “Killswitch Engage” on stage. The kids in the pit, swung their hands left to right, kicked front to back and around, and made a lot of enemies. But was more surprising was that the singer of “Killswitch Engage” was the same man, who earlier in the day, was asking for a cigarette.
I always tell that story whenever I tell someone about this band because I was one of the three metalheads in that story. At the time, I disliked the whole “Hardcore” scene solely because of the pit conduct that the scene enforced. Musically, I also found it kind of stale and boring with the same “chugga… chugga chugga chugga” riffs being played at the middle of the song, in fact, you can hear this in early release of bands like Hatebreed, Throwdown, and Sworn Enemy.
Hell, you can hear it in the early Killswitch Engage material too but something always made them stand out far beyond any other hardcore bands. Whether it was their sometimes comedic live antics or their melody driven, ear catching riffs, or their all inspirational lyrics, they seemed to always be on the tips of lips in the hardcore scene.
Now, this experience of mine was 6 years ago and since then I’ve followed the band from their last release “As Daylight Dies.” When I heard the “Daylight” album and threw my preconceived notions of what Metal “should” sound like, I really understood why soo many fans love the band and their music. And with their latest release, “Killswitch Engage II”, they recorded a true metal masterpiece which is something you don’t just easily throw out there and say.
But with this record, the band has literally solidified their place as one of the best “Metal/Rock/Metalcore/Hardcore/whatever” bands out at the moment. I’ll even go as far as to call them the Metallica of their genre.
“Killswitch Engage II”, musically, grabs you from the first note. For years, the band has focused a lot on melody while keeping a little bit of that “Thrash Metal” feel. The single for the album, “Starting Over” is a prime example of the album. The song, while adhering to the theme of redemption, is the type of song that you can easily hear once and remember the chorus, the break, and even the verses if you have a keen ear for the style. One of the songs that stand out, for me personally is the track “I Would Do Anything” because of its feeling of regret and hopelessness. The chorus, “I’d give my heart and soul to see you free again. I would do anything” just hits those little notes in your soul, mainly the ones where you’ve always asked “If I could go back and…”
Even the album’s closing track, “This Is Goodbye”, while not being that uplifting and motivating, is a track that reminds the listener of tough times and how the thought of giving up is really the only viable option.
When you compare the lyrics from this album to previous albums, they lyrics do seem to be a lot more melon collie but the music placed to the themes are nothing sheer of perfect. I know a lot of long time fans will disagree with me but I can’t remember an album that could literally be all singles and no filler.
From beginning to end, you will find yourself singing along, headbanging away, and possibly air guitaring to every track. For fans of modern metal, this album should be in your collect and be played daily in your ipods. I know I do.