Killswitch Engage - Incarnate Review

Killswitch Engage - Incarnate
Killswitch Engage - Incarnate. Roadrunner Records

 Massachusetts’ Killswitch Engage carves out a niche between metal and metalcore on their latest release, Incarnate. KSE’s impressive catalog is a lineage of accessible records that makes them outliers from the club of “real metal” bands, like anything with Decapitated or Cannibal in their names. Incarnate - released March 11, 2016, on Roadrunner Records  -  will do nothing to open the door to the club. It may even put them back on the Grammy nomination list.

Incarnate as an Album

Incarnate is an “album” more so than their previous effort, Disarm the Descent. That album was a collection of hit singles that included the commercially exquisite “In Due Time.” Incarnate does not shirk from KSE’s formula of melody highlighted by cleanly-sung choruses and sandpaper vocals for the verses. KSE seems to have dialed up the lyrical content this time around, pushing the words closer together in the middle of the barbecue grill, and letting their instrumental performances sizzle more toward the sides.

This doesn't mean that the musicianship is sub-par. It is far from it, as KSE actually know how to write a song and cradle it into a proper arrangement. Incarnate roars when it is supposed to, pummels when it should, and soars in all the right places. Street cred aside, Killswitch Engage is a great metalcore group, perhaps the best of the genre.

Album Highlights

“Alone I Stand” and “Until the Day I Die” are examples of the album’s range. Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel on guitar along with lead singer Jesse Leach make for a strong core. “Alone I Stand” swells on guitars into a sonic blast so big that the vocals are buried down to highlight the effect. Justin Foley shines on the opening tom pounding, regardless of an oddly down-tuned floor tom that booms more than it should.

Foley’s drumming is seamlessly plugged into the arrangements, which allows him to scramble up the kick patterns when he’s pushed up into the mix. “Alone I Stand” has a heart-skip pattern in the beginning that puts a yellow highlighter on the rush to get to the pre-chorus. The song is an obvious opener and sports an edge that the rest of the album tends to downplay.

“Until the Day I Die” is straight metalcore and intermingles clean and harsh singing on the choruses. It’s a frenetic exercise that is a smaller song, but in its own way hones the edginess a knob-turn past “Alone I Stand.” Gang vocals even sneak their way in at judicious points. “The Great Deceit,” probably a contender for single-release, is the album’s true rager.

The overall theme of the album is open to interpretation. See if you can guess where they are going with titles such as “Cut Me Loose,” “Just Let Go” and “The Quiet Distress.” We’ve got to get out of this place, whatever or wherever that place might be. “Embrace the Journey…Upraised,” is the longest song of the bunch and contains the greatest urgency in trying to get a point across. A bass part dances around an intro with a plodding beat before working into a thrash, pause and repeat pattern. The song’s soaring refrain that loops around “….the searching that’s my last refrain” lyric splays out into a repeated shout of “I still believe…,” and eventually ends with double-time drums and half-note vocals accompanied by a heartbreaker of a guitar line that tolls a plaintive progression.

“Quiet Distress” passes like three-minute filler before Incarnate twists open the cap on the energy drink and pours out the aforementioned “Until the Day I Die.” Killswitch Engage only let the album’s pace sag at this one transition in the track arrangement. Otherwise, Incarnate is album of prime cuts, all chopped from the same animal.