ALBUM REVIEW: Killswitch Engage – Atonement

A few beers in and I’m trying to figure out the angle on this new Killswitch Engage release, Atonement (Metal Blade). Sure, to Johnny NoName, it simple to just say “it’s just another Killswitch album, you know what you’re getting.” And sure, there’s a bit of truth to that statement as we get many of the tried and tested play plays from this Massachusetts staple like rock-solid production, punchy mix, and equal parts melody and guitar fire. I wouldn’t expect any less.

But I do have some observations with regards to Atonement in between swigs of Sam Adams (editor’s note: Summer Ale > Boston Lager). For starters this being their first effort since departing the Roadrunner roster, I don’t see why band and label couldn’t sort out another contract considering that Killswitch delivered in spades in the form of Gold records on both The End of Heartache and As Daylight Dies. As far as I can tell the split seems amicable, so we’ll leave the rumor and speculation for another write-up. That said, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of clean vocals on Atonement.

Yeah, no shit there’s cleans and big choruses from these guys, right? But take ‘Unleashed’ as an example and notice how a stomper like that traditionally is hardcore gutturals, yet Jesse Leach applies his natural singing vocals over the pounding grooves. Then notice that crisscrossed between ragers you’ll find other mostly melodic nuggets like ‘Us Against the World’ and ‘I Am Broken Too.’ Yes, the latter really lays it on thick with the choruses/hooks, but now that Bad Wolves have reopened the door for heavy bands on commercial radio, can you fault these guys?

The melody and mid-tempos work well, but Atonement really shows its teeth when Justin Foley has the speed restriction taken off and challenges guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel to lay down some Gothenburg-esque thunder. Maybe they wanted to save the best for last, but ‘Bite the Hand that Feeds’ crackles with an intensity and white-hot riffage I haven’t heard since Alive or Just Breathing. ‘Ravenous’ also makes sure that the guitar work is as impressive and catchy as its chorus is big.

Another beer down and I’m in a good mood. Alcohol aside, I’ve got another sweet Killswitch album no matter how much it sticks to convention.

8 / 10