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. Continue reading
When it comes to Metalcore there may be nothing new left under the sun. Some detractors would argue that there never was anything to the subgenre. And to those insufferable malcontents may I suggest a long holiday and taking a listen to Killswitch Engage’s Alive or Just Breathing (Roadrunner) or Coalesce’s Functioning on Impatience (Second Nature). There may be a dearth of new or novel sounds on Boundaries’ My Body In Bloom EP (Unbeaten Records), but boy does this Connecticut unit know how to make the most out of fundamentals. Continue reading
Killswitch Engage is celebrating the 15th anniversary of Alive or Just Breathing in a big way next month. Continue reading
Much like some stretched and requiring-a-suspension-of-disbelief set of circumstances in ‘Swords and Sorcery’ Fantasy films that bring about the fulfilment of the prophecy of the chosen one(s), so every now and then in the rock and metal world it is exactly the right time for the right band to make “the right record” and catapult themselves not just several rungs up the ladder, but crashing through the glass ceiling to establish themselves as the major players in the scene. Trivium did it with Ascendancy, Killswitch Engage did it with Alive or Just Breathing (both Roadrunner) and now While She Sleeps have done it with Brainwashed (Search and Destroy).
Not just the album they “needed” to make, like The Black Album (Vertigo) was the culmination and definition of heavy metal and the birth of “new” metal, so Brainwashed is the defining statement of what “modern/metallic hardcore” actually is. Throughout the forty-five minutes on display, While She Sleeps destroy any connotation that the genre is creatively redundant as ‘New World Torture’ seethes and slams before opening up, paving the way for a vibrant title track that ends in savage thrashery before ‘Our Legacy’ and its gang vocals and melodic leads provide an alternative anthem.
And “anthem” is the right word to describe damn near every track on display, as each song takes on that larger than life feel and you can already picture packed festival fields baying, swirling and shouting every word of songs like ‘No Sides, No Enemies’. In an album packed full modern hymns, ‘Four Walls’ manages to stand even taller, a song more than worthy of carrying the band to the next level and heading rock channel playlists for years to come. ‘Life In Tension’ is another highlight, rattling along, before hitting a half-time call to arms; one that will ignite live performances with massive pits and a sea of arms and voices aloft, before its melodic guitar lead spirals and wah’s off into arena filling glory.
Considering the genres have been smooshed together for over a decade, Brainwashed is the perfect combination of metal and hardcore, and the Sleeps deserve credit for not cutting their nose off to spite their faces and actively encouraging catchiness in the right places. Alongside that Brainwashed has all those clever touches the truly great albums have, little guitar licks, drum inflections that enhance grooves and an excellent thick, warm production that captures and reflects the energy of a band on creative fire, rather than stifling (and it’s no surprise to see the name of the legendary Colin Richardson among the credits).
Vocalist “Loz” Taylor has overcome serious throat surgery to produce the ideal modern hardcore performance – aggressive in the shouts, versatile in vocal, and melodic and tuneful when required, without losing intensity, and projecting a credible emotion that you can believe in. These aren’t empty songs; from the rising chatter of opener ‘The Divide’ to the dying strains of ‘Modern Minds’, this is an album that matters both to its protagonists and to its fans.
And ultimately that is key. Not only is Brainwashed a collection of excellent modern heavy songs, but it is dripping with conviction; more than just an assembly of songs, it delivers and is a real album, connecting on a level that so few do. The hardcore attitude that is often missing from the bigger albums these days is vibrantly present as While She Sleeps take their roots from metal, from Machine Head, from hardcore, from artists like Funeral For A Friend, and from the best bands of the last twenty years, to produce an album that stands not just as a genre marker for others to be measured by, but as a statement of intent and a challenge to their peers.
For the bar has now well and truly been raised.
Forget the arguments and discussions about who the next Metallica will be, about who will be the next festival headliner, because right here, right now, is the right band with the right album at the right time to be not just the future, but the now.