Backed by a new label (Metal Blade!) and a seemingly renewed fire ignited under their collective asses, MA metallers Killswitch Engage return with Atonement, an album that might just be the best of their career and easily one that stands as their best effort since the seminal Alive Or Just Breathing record.
But I digress.
I wanted nothing to do with KSE after their last outing (2016’s Incarnate) because, after the blistering comeback of vocalist Jesse Leach on 2013’s Disarm the Descent, their seventh full-length sounded like a band playing it safe. Not the case when it comes to Atonement. From the instant the dirge of “Unleashed” kicks off the album, that magic that fueled Alive… is apparent and flows straight through as the closing chords of “Bite the Hand That Feeds” fade out at the conclusion of the album.
Sandwiched in between those tentpoles are nine tracks that solidify KSE’s legacy as one of the preeminent Metal outfits of the 21st Century. Beginning with “The Signal Fire” which is a proper rager as Leach sounds like a man possessed as he switches between his throated growls and anthemic croons…but wait, is that Howard Jones we hear raging alongside the man he once replaced (Who, of course, replaced Leach in 2002). Hells yes it is! And two songs into this beast and it’s already feeling like something really special is happening within the KSE camp once again.
And speaking of special, the guests don’t end there! “The Crownless King” sounds like old school Thrash in the vein of former touring partners Testament….but wait, is that Chuck Billy guesting? Yer goddamn right it is! Adding the perfect counterpoint to Leach’s vocals is the iconic Bay Area veteran on a blistering track that’d sound just as much at home in the metal community during the ’80’s as it does now in 2019.
“I Am Broken Too” is an uplifting/supportive anthem that’s become one of KSE’s more defining identifier’s over the years with their ability to merge soul crushing riffs with soul bearing lyrics being a trademark that makes them continually stand out from the rest of their peers.
“As Sure as the Sun Will Rise” feels like The End of Heartache‘s soulful groove mixed with the rawness of their debut thanks to the steady rhythm section of bassist Mike D’Antonio and drummer Justin Foley with guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz offering his softer side on back up vox as he counters Leach’s heavy delivery.
“Know Your Enemy” has that same kind of feel as this riff-centric beast treads Alice In Chains territory with its’ moody beginning but also touches on the Swedish Metal roots of In Flames with this huge chant-a-long chorus and the scorching riffs from Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel.
“Take Control” is a new uplifting anthem filled with poignant, positive words from Leach while Dutkiewicz provides accompaniment with the riffs but also the vocals once again. Twenty years into their career and Atonement is just further proof that the Leach/Dutkiewicz songwriting duo is like the Lennon/McCartney of the Metal world. Yeah, I’m going there!
“Ravenous” is classic KSE with a ferocious throttling from D’Antonio on a track that is just brutal beyond brutal throughout. If that track was “classic KSE” then consider “I Can’t Be The Only One” as “new school KSE” as the quintet show the kids they’ve inspired how it’s done with another endearing yet heavy ass anthem.
The aforementioned “Bite the Hand That Feeds” is off kilter and a real wrecking ball to end the record as it batters listeners for almost five minutes with pure, uninhibited Killswitch Engage METAL before ending with a huge breakdown that culminates and builds even more until fading out.
Atonement releases via Metal Blade Records on August 16th. Pre-orders are available now in a variety of bundles which you can check out by clicking here. For more on KSE, including upcoming live shows while they trek across the country co-headlining with Clutch, head here and here.