|The complex song structures and more inspiring lyrics are what sets this CD apart from all the rest of metal right now.|
Killswitch Engage/Alive Or Just Breathing?
It was surprising when I’d heard Roadrunner Records had signed this band. They’re known for extreme metal like Deicide and the former Fear Factory, as well as Slipknot and Nickelback, but this was in a totally different vein. This band was more of a blend of classic metal (Iron Maiden) and present-day hardcore (Hatebreed, Diecast). Roadrunner had no experience in this genre, really. I assumed that they would be one of those bands that gets signed and then vanishes under the radar. I’m so glad I was wrong.
This CD is their major label debut, but they have an independent release under their belts. The one song that Roadrunner had for we, the fans, to hear was from that, called “Temple From The Within.” I was in love with this song and was waiting to hear more from them. The day came, and it was worth the wait.
Starting out with the blasting intro of “Numbered Days” and the vocal assault leveled by frontman Jesse David Leach, it’s clear that this is not a band to sit down and listen to. The complex song structures and more inspiring lyrics are what sets this CD apart from all the rest of metal right now. Also, Leach’s ability and willingness to actually sing instead of just screaming his head off makes for a very enjoyable listen. Upon reaching track four, the first use of acoustics comes in. On the independent release, there was a song based around a piano, acoustic guitar, and thundering drums and a steady but background distorted guitar. I was hoping that what this would be, but the band surprised me again by using it a launching pad for their single to metal radio, “My Last Serenade.”
One of the better uses of singing in the chorus balanced by a crushing riff and some amazing drumwork by Adam Dutkiewicz, who actually now plays guitar in the band, and they have a new drummer named Tom Gomes, who can handle those duties quite well.
Following a reprise of the mellow intro of “My Last Serenade” is another brutal but balanced track, which also happens to be my personal favorite, “Life To Lifeless.” The intro is in 5/4 time, but one barely notices when headbanging and screaming along. Truly a masterpiece of metal, this song is.
Following that a few tracks later was the remade version of “Temple From The Within,” which sounds much better when given major label budget care and attention to detail. Also, a remade version of the classic of theirs, “Vide Infra” appears, and is also an amazing spin. Then, closing this absolute masterpiece, the song “Rise Inside” enters the scene. It’s much like a stalker chase scene in a movie: it starts slowly and you know something is amiss. It starts getting faster and then before you know it you’re racing along, jumping over tables and wondering if it will ever let up, which it eventually does in good time. With no hidden track to throw you off, you can catch your breath, finally, after a long but powerful disc comes to a close.
So closes what I think might be one of the single best CDs of 2002. A pure rush of adrenaline and power, this is one CD that won’t leave my CD player anytime soon, except to be transplanted into another CD player. From start to finish, Killswitch Engage offers the best metal release of 2002 from a label that offers the mainstream a metal fix in the form of Slipknot. With the right push, these guys could break into the scene and dominate above all else, thus proving that metal doesn’t have to sell itself short to be good and accepted. I have high hopes for these guys and future releases. Let us hope they can live up to the hype.