The Lowdown: Since the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach on 2013’s Disarm the Descent, Killswitch Engage have been on an awesome roll. The Massachusetts metal act embrace majestic melodies alongside a hardcore mentality, presenting thrilling works of enlightenment and emotion. Now, Killswitch Engage are back with their eighth studio LP, Atonement, which also marks their first album under a new deal with Metal Blade Records.
While it may not break new ground for the band, Atonement stands among the band’s best albums, offering an array of exhilarating instrumentation and raw emotional lyrics.
The Good: While Atonement’s opening track and lead single, “Unleashed”, makes for a good example of what to expect throughout the album, the following track, “The Signal Fire”, kicks up the aggression, and welcomes back former singer Howard Jones for a guest spot. From the rough vocal screams, to the blasting drums and rampant guitar rhythm, “The Signal Fire” is fierce in presentation. Throughout the record, Killswitch Engage capture this kind of intensity in a variety of forms.
Atonement is a call to fight against the odds, to find strength in oneself and face life’s challenges. Songs such as “Us Against the World” and “I Am Broken Too”, while not as off the rails in regards to instrumental brutality, provide their own brand of intensity. If there’s one thing Killswitch Engage has always been masterful at, it’s presenting emotional material. The aforementioned cuts, along with tracks like “As Sure as the Sun Will Rise” and “I Can’t Be the Only One”, give off powerful vibes of sympathy and courage; whether it is a call to fight against injustice or confront one’s internal struggles, the various songs throughout Atonement offer a sincere inspirational touch.
Eslewhere, “The Crownless King” is a delightful thrash gem. Between wild riffs, the heart-pounding bass, the clashing drums and the vocal combination of Leach and guest singer Chuck Billy (Testament), the track is a nonstop rush.
Along with Leach’s potent vocal presence throughout the album, guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel, bassist Mike D’Antonio, and drummer Justin Foley all come together to make a record with incredible adrenaline and feeling.
The Bad: In regards to the sound and style throughout Atonement, the album doesn’t really present anything new from the band. Even with the decent production and consistent flow of adrenaline, it would have been nice to see the band implement more experimentation in the material.
The Verdict: In truth, however, more of the same isn’t a huge problem when you’re talking about a band like Killswitch Engage. They really know how to deliver brutal compositions that hook listeners in with thrilling musicianship. Atonement is an emotionally compelling record that explores concepts of finding strength in one’s being. Between the raw intensity of the instrumentation and vocals, as well as the inspirational elements throughout each song, Killswitch Engage offer a very solid addition to their discography.
Essential Tracks: “The Signal Fire”, “I Am Broken Too”, “Ravenous”