A&GS was less than a month old when KILLSWITCH ENGAGE’S last album Disarm the Descent came out in 2013. And in all honesty, yours truly HATED it, giving it a 5.5/10 and a spot in my Five Worst Albums of the Year. I felt they were trying too hard to prove too much and almost none of it resonated with me. Now that we got that out of the way, it is now 2016 and the band is back with Incarnate (March 11 on Roadrunner Records), their second with new/old singer Jesse Leach. I chose the word singer very carefully, rather than vocalist because his cleans on this disc are the best I’ve ever heard him. He sounds inspired when he’s letting loose and the band seems to feed off of his energy. His rough stuff is outstanding this time around, too.
We have one killer riff after another piled high in a triple-decker metal sandwich and the bass and drums are the secret sauce bringing it all together with a side of instantly memorable choruses that will stick with you long after the last song ends. Leadoff track “Alone I Stand” sets a tone and shows a band totally in sync and comfortable with each other, letting the music come to them and not forcing anything. Put it this way…I popped this on late the other night, just to have a quick look-see and go to bed and wound up staying for the whole record; the songs are just THAT good. “Hate By Design” has guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz conjuring up a dirty, nasty wall of sound and switchblade solos, while Leach unleashes his inner monster from start to finish.
Newest single “Cut Me Loose” was an immediate standout on an album full of standouts, once again thanks to Leach’s fantastic clean vocals. I had forgotten what he is capable of, but you can bet I won’t again, wow! When “Strength of the Mind’ was released I could tell they were on to something and I actually had hope again. Those hopes were only strengthened as I got further and further into this record. Some off-time action from drummer Justin Foley and Mike D’Antonio’s upside-your-head bass propel “Just Let Go” forward with the axemen’s weapons fanning the flames. The bassist is also front and center on “Embrace the Journey…Upraised”; you can feel it in your chest as the band pummels the shit out of you, making this the angriest, most aggressive track, but certainly not lacking in hooks.
The main riffs in “Quiet Distress” and “Until the Day I Die” are sharper than Valyrian steel and proceed to slice and dice anyone foolhardy enough to get in the way while “It Falls On Me” slows the tempo but still brings the ruckus. Another instant classic is “The Great Deceit”. Imagine five guys hitting you all over with clawhammers and you get the idea. “We Carry On” features some more of those oh-so-succulent riffs I’ve been raving about and Leach once again nails it vocally. Closing things out is “Ascension.” Go ahead and file this one under the “stuff I love” category. In fact you can file all of Incarnate there. The KILLSWITCH ENGAGE I fell in love with is finally back and I could NOT be any happier about that. This is unquestionably my favorite album since The End of Heartache, and I can’t wait for them to hit Philly on tour. See you there!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM