Killswitch Engage - Incarnate Review

Killswitch Engage - Incarnate
Killswitch Engage - Incarnate. Roadrunner Records

 Massachusetts’ Killswitch Engage flesh out the meat of what it means to swing from the butcher’s hook between the carcasses of 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 will do nothing to open the door to the club.

Devil forbid, it may even put them back on the Grammy nomination list.

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 seem 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 does not infer that the guitar garnish and drum dressing 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 are a great metalcore group, perhaps the best of the genre.

“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 core as good as any up-the middle combination on a world series baseball team. “Alone I Stand” rings the dinner bell and 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 in 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 unlike “Alone I Stand.” 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. It goes to ‘core city right down the main highway, occasionally blowing through a stop sign.

It’s what the ear hears and the mind decides when taking in the overall theme of the album. 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,” which hopefully is not about a yeast doughnut’s trip to the coffee bar, but rather a central theme connecting the songs.

The song is the longest 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.

(released March 11, 2016 on Roadrunner Records)