ALBUM REVIEW: “Incarnate” by Killswitch Engage

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There is something exciting for me about a metal band releasing a new album, an excitement that I’ve been attached to since I was a teenager. For some reason the hype and excitement surrounding a metal band releasing a new album just differs from any other genre that I enjoy. I think it’s because on a sentimental level it drags me back to the complete emotional release that heavy metal has provided me my whole life. As a teenager and early twenties human the cruelty of this world was dulled by heavy metal and the bands that I adored became like superheroes to me, they were these pillars of strength and through their music I was able to survive and find strength in some incredibly dark times.

Heavy Metal helped me graduate from being a confused teenager to becoming a driven and well adjusted adult. As I get older I seem to crave metal more because the sound of it just gets better and better with time. As a genre it never dissapoints and I love the way it can be brutal, emotional yet at the same time there are bands within the genre who experiment with the idea of extremes to some absolutely breathtaking results.

Since 2002, Killswitch Engage have been saving my life. Their debut album “Alive or Just Breathing” is responsible for bringing a massive amount of light to a dark existence and gave me the strength and power to rise and to ask myself the question “am I alive or just breathing?” – it was almost like a religious experience hearing Killswitch Engage back in 2002. I followed the band since then and my love for them has grown deeper over time and I would put them in my list of top eleven metal bands of all time.

To paint a picture for you, in 2002 the metal landscape was still in the hangover that Nu-Metal had caused. The genre had been both strengthened and weakened by aspects of this sub-genre. There was a lot of press given to bands who claimed to be “the death of nu-metal” and a lot of them promised a lot but rarely ever delivered metal to a more pure place. At this point in time my thirst for metal had increased since my high school devotion. I was quite immersed in bands like Meshuggah, Soilwork, In Flames, Opeth, Strapping Young Lad, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Frankenbok, Alchemist, Pod People, Allegiance and Devolved. I was particularly in love with Meshuggah at this point in time and I thought they were one of the most revolutionary bands I had ever heard and to this day they remain one of my favourite metal bands.

In terms of what was coming out of America, nothing really grabbed me as it was all still rooted in that nu-metal template and the only bands from that template that I enjoyed were System of A Down and Korn who both outgrew that terrible genre tag and to be honest never really were what I defined as Nu-Metal. It was also a period in time where bands like Pantera and Fear Factory had split and Machine Head were in a transition between the big nu-metal cash in and a return to their groove / thrash metal roots. I missed having bands of this ilk around and it felt like there was a big hole left in the metal community without them. The only positive thing to come out of the Pantera split was Phil’s new band Superjoint Ritual and his return to Down.

In 2002 I was signed up to the Roadrunner Records street team and subscribed to their monthly fanzine called “Outsider.” I was also quite friendly with a lot of the people in the Australian Roadrunner Records office. I was quite a devoted street team member and had been all through my teenage and high school years. I received the Roadrunner Records fanzine for January and it came with a sampler disc of new music being released that year. The magazine itself put a focus on three of the 14 or so bands on the CD. Those bands were “Five Point O,” “36 Crazyfists” and “Killswitch Engage.”

I really dug all three bands and I brought the “Five Point O” record and although I enjoyed it, the record itself still had hints of rapped vocals and wasn’t quite as fresh as I thought it would be. I brought the 36 Crazyfists album “Bitterness The Star” and I really dug it, it was very similar to Deftones but with a hardcore edge to it. Still, it didn’t revolutionise the way I thought it would but unlike “Five Point O” I remain a fan of 36 Crazyfists to this day. They went on to release some truly amazing pieces of music and they keep getting better with each new release.

Killswitch Engage weirdly were the band I focussed on least when it came to this sampler. Their song “Life To Lifeless” reminded me of Fear Factory with hints of that Swedish melodic death metal sound. As I got deeper into Meshuggah and freaked out on the new Down album I really didn’t pay much attention to the upcoming release from Killswitch Engage.

A month out from its release date I got another little fanzine in the mail, no sampler this time, that once again praised and promoted the upcoming Killswitch Engage release. This time round I was more curious based on the interview and review of the album. I was excited but I invested no expectations.

On Monday the 20th May 2002 I went to Sanity (I was living at home with Mum and Dad in Bundy at the time, it was the only record store we had) at 9:00am and picked up my copy of one of the greatest heavy metal albums of the new decade. I am of course talking about this masterpiece:

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To say that “Alive or Just Breathing” changed my life is an understatement. From the moment I put this album on I was hooked and it was an obsession that lasted for quite a while. There is something inside of this album that just gets me off again and again. Doesn’t matter what era of my life I find myself in, I always have time for this album. Even now, fourteen years later I can still put this album on and find new things about it that thrill me. Going back to 2002, I was finally pleased that one of the bands who were listed as the one to “kill nu-metal” did indeed do just that. I was not prepared for how popular this band was going to become.

The bands beautiful way of mixing the pain of existence with a positive “carry on, be strong” message is always what hits home the most. This band understands the darkness but they want to help direct you to the light and at so many points in my life they have been vital to helping me see that light.

So it was with great joy on the that I took the day off work on the 11th March 2016 so I could get up early and make a journey to the local JB Hi Fi’s to buy the brand new Killswitch Engage album “Incarnate” and to slip into the beautiful sounds that this band creates.

From start to finish “Incarnate” is a re-birth for Killswitch Engage. It is still 100 per cent what we all know and love about Killswitch Engage but there is a new intensity to it all. The heaviness is heavier and the melodic moments are even more melodic. This record soars and unfolds itself beautifully with there not being one moment where I wasn’t hooked. Emotionally the record connects deeply and the band has once again made you apart of the journey and this is just as much a celebration for the band as it is for you the fan.

I have listened to this album quite a bit over the past week and I can’t find a weak moment on it and the joy of it still comes down to the fact that this album has a longevity attached to it. I know the album so well yet each new listen provides a new surprise and a new favourite song. That is the power of a great album, it connects instantly but still gives you the space to grow with it and learn more with each new listen.

The songs on “Incarnate” get stuck in your head and the whole album is quite addictive. Like all great music that I love, I find it hard to talk about “this song” or “that song” because quite simply the album is what needs to be heard. No one song will sell the brilliance of this band, you have to sit down with the whole album and consume it because that is the only way to connect with it.

 

This is an album that was carefully crafted so that every note means something. Beyond the metal of it all, underneath the riffs and the intensity is a great bunch of songs. That is what makes any metal band worth something, the ability to still craft amazing songs, not just riffs and wankery. This album soars above everything else at the moment and proves why Killswitch Engage have been such an influential metal band over the past 17 years and why so many bands line-up to rip them off, but the truth is you can’t beat the real thing and “Incarnate” is the real deal and it strengthens the star power that is the Killswitch Engage legacy.

I’ve been a fan of Killswitch Engage for the past fourteen years of my life. I was 18 going on 19 when I first got into the band and now I’m 32 going on 33. I’ve loved the band deeply for all of those fourteen years and their music has always meant something to me. Regardless of what stage of life I was in or music I was listening to, heavy metal has always remained a constant. I don’t believe in being the kind of jerk-off who has “guilty pleasures” or “I can’t believed I listened to that” moments in my life. I still love and have time for every band or artist I ever got into.

Some bands like Killswitch Engage are untouchable however and I think for me the reason I love them so much is because beyond being a heavy metal band, you can tell that each member involved are just fans of music in general, it goes way beyond just metal. I think that’s an important quality to have for a band who strive to make timeless heavy metal, they have to be plugged into so much more than just the history of metal. You can hear that Killswitch Engage respect music as a whole and when they plug in and play they are drawing on so much of it to make their unique blend of melodic heavy metal.

With their new album “Incarnate” Killswitch Engage have launched themselves beautifully into the new decade and proved that they will be one of the most important bands in the heavy metal language. I just love them so much and this album is so incredibly satisfying. Everyone who knows me understands that a lot of my favourite bands are artists like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Fugazi, Pearl Jam and Deftones but I think a band like Killswitch Engage is just as important as all of these bands. I don’t base my personality on genres of music, I fund it purely on good and life changing music. Killswitch Engage are one of the bands who fit this bill quite well and “Incarnate” is a fucking triumph and a beautiful piece of art.

By: Dan Newton

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Useful Links:

https://www.facebook.com/killswitchengage
www.killswitchengage.com

 

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