Metal, probably more than any other type of Rock music, is physically demanding. Every night it is balls to the walls, full-on mayhem. Worse when the group is touring.
Two Massachusetts based groups bit the dust so members from each decided to try again. Former Overcast bassist Mike D' Antonio (Mike D) linked with ex-Aftershock guitarists Joel Stroetzel and drummer Adam Dutkiewitz. Vocalist Jesse Leach completed Killswitch Engage's original line-up. A run of impressive local shows resulted in an opening act spot supporting In Flames. That, in turn, led to signing with the indie Ferret Records and the release of "Killswitch Engage" in '00.
The group moved to Roadrunner Records for their '02 release, the Dutkiewitz produced, "Alive Or Just Breathing." They continued their hard core sound and were rewarded with airplay and touring opportunities. But all was not well. Leach abruptly departed citing vocal problems. He was hastily replaced by Blood Has Been Shed vocalist Howard Jones. His first Killswitch Engage gig was the Hellfest Festival where he amply demonstrated that the group had made the right choice. Killswitch Engage also hit the Ozzfest Tour and MTV2 Headbanger's Ball.
When Dutkiewitz moved from drums to guitar it allowed another former Aftershock member, Tom Gomes, to join. Killswitch Engage then embarked on a killer European tour. '04 release "The End Of The Heartache" had yet another drummer, Justin Foley, and featured "When Darkness Falls" which blasted through the closing credits of Freddy Vs. Jason.
Killswitch Engage's '06 effort (released November 21st), "As Daylight Dies," contained the lead single, "The Curse." As a result, band was named the Act of the Year and Outstanding Metal/Hardcore Band of the Year at the '07 Boston Music Awards. They did not attend.
They returned to the studio in '08 with Brendan O'Brien (Mastodon, Audioslave, AC/DC, Velvet Revolver) and Dutkiewicz producing. The group's fifth album, their second self-titled set, was released in June, '09. It peaked at #7 on the Billboard 200 chart, marking the band's highest chart position for an album. The following year, they contributed the track "My Obsession" to the God Of War: Blood & Metal soundtrack.
While a '10 headlining North American tour was underway, Jones left due to "unforeseen circumstances." All That Remains frontman Phil Labonte stepped in.
Those circumstances? Well, Jones allegedly had an affair with porn star Allie Foster and got her pregnant and then demanded she have an abortion. In a Twitter post, Foster slammed the vocalist calling him, among other things, a 'dirtbag'.
But Jones rejoined the group for a string of shows in May, '10. That seemed more like a short-term solution to a long term problem.
Killswitch Engage issued a statement via their website in early '12 announcing plans to move forward without Jones. "We love Howard and are thankful for the nine years that we've had him in the band. Howard is a part of our family and always will be, and we wish him well."
Jones left to better manage his type 2 diabetes, which had worsened due to a hectic touring lifestyle.
Just months later, Killswitch Engage played a show in Worcester, MA (the kick off of their tour). The concert was their first since the return of Leach four months earlier.
Jones didn't stay on the sidelines for long. Guitarist Francesco Artusato (Shall Perish) and drummer John Sankey (Devolved/Fear Factory/Divine Heresy) were working on a side project and had composed over a dozen songs. The next step was finding an available vocalist.
"We were unsure if Howard would be interested," said Sankey.
"It's a different style of music for me," explained Jones. "It's heavy as anything any of us are known for but I get to do some different things people won't expect. I've been singing almost all my life. Being around good songwriters and musicians in my former bands really helped mold me into who I am now."
Meanwhile, Killswitch Engage's sixth studio album, "Disarm The Descent," was their first with Leach since '02's "Alive Or Just Breathing." "From the music, to the lyrics, to the artwork, we are all proud of what we have accomplished," said Leach. "To me this is by far my best vocal performance, much thanks to Adam's guidance and faith in my abilities. I am very grateful to be where I am in life, back in an amazing band with a record we are all excited for the world to hear." Produced by Dutkiewicz, the '13 set featured the lead track, "In Due Time."
2000 Killswitch Engage
2002 Alive Or Just Breathing
2004 The End Of Heartache
2006 As Daylight Dies
2009 Killswitch Engage
2013 Disarm The Descent
"Alive Or Just Breathing" with "Just Barely Breathing" and "Numbered Days" is an awesome Metal album and the pinnacle of the group's tenure with Leach. On "The End Of The Heartache" Jones doesn't veer far from Leach's vocal attack, which is a deep-throated roar. "Take This Oath" is a harsh, burning number as is "When Darkness Falls" (a great way to end a slasher movie).
They show some depth on "Rose Of Sharyn" and the title track where the pulsating guitars shoot through to a climax. "Bid Farewell" is pure doomsday Rock while the back to back "World Ablaze" and "And Embers Rise" is just what you'd expect. The former is a dime-a-dozen death Metal track while the latter features contemplative guitars. An effective two-song theater piece.
The good news is Killswitch Engage doesn't stoop to produce a ballad, power ballad or blatantly accessible songs to curry pop favor. "As Daylight Dies," mixes clean and clear guitar riffs with Jones' thunderous vocals. And like any Metal band worth the price of admission, they are at their best when they attack songs full-tilt ("This Is Absolution," "For You," "Eye Of The Storm" and "Reject Yourself," in particular). They explode through tracks with violent abandon though sometimes they trip on their own roar ("Desperate Times").
Lyrically, they have not ventured far from their original concept with the lines "stop me before I bleed, again" and "crawling back into the dark" (both from "The Arms Of Sorrow"). They are as defiant and self-assured as ever. "We will not die this way (this is absolution), death claims us no more (no more)" (from "This Is Absolution"). About as close as they come to a love song is "The Curse" ("there is love burning to find you"), which is more about longing and pain. Is that why it was chosen as the lead single?
"Starting Over" from "Killswitch Engage" answers a question that probably few contemplated. What would have happened if Van Halen had hired Jones instead of Gary Cherone (Faith No More)? The song has all the Van Halen percussion and guitar flourishes with a vocalist who can actually put it over. It's a great track but not where Killswitch Engage usually dwells. On this album they give their Metalcore a good work out ("Save Me," "Light In A Darkened Room" and "This Is Goodbye") but ultimately it lacks the power of "As Daylight Dies."
New singer (actually the returning Leach) - same result. "Disarm The Descent" is trademark Killswitch Engage with intense Nu Metal flourishes ("New Awakening") and dark lyrics ("Hell In Me" and "Time Will Not Remain"). "Tribute To The Fallen" is the gem among this solid set.