Killswitch Engage – The End of Heartache

This may be the answer to prayers for many of you.

The return of the heaviest kind of metal. Written in the same vein as bands like Pantera and Slayer, Killswitch Engage prove even more multi-dimensional with this solid release of brutally heavy songs. 

Being a "beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-sack-of-bricks" kind of heavy, a band can sometimes get one-dimensional in its songwriting approach. Rapid fire guitar shredding; super speedy, double bass drum bashing; the relentless screaming of the angry vocalist; all of which culminates into a one speed assault of pure boredom. Not the case with Killswitch Engage. "The End Of Heartache" finds guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel, who both attended Boston's highly acclaimed Berklee School of Music, playing many beautifully flowing speed pieces that actually compliment each other, ...imagine that. They diversify their heavy grind with a flourishing sound of precision soloing and super tight control. "The End Of Heartache" also sees a great big, full drum sound from drummer Justin Foley. With much of his playing being fast, he still remains steady and solid, exercising great control and patience. The greatest gift that "The End Of Heartache" has to offer though, is vocalist Howard Jones. This may be the most versatile hardcore metal voice on the planet.

As the record kicks off, we're treated to a sledgehammer assault of tribal drum beats, grinding guitars, and screaming vocals that ultimately climax into a smooth flowing plateau of contained guitars and bellowing vocals. "A Bid Farewell" has an instantly definitive sound; this is Pantera with a singer that can "bellow"! This is not the Howard Jones your Mama listens to, make no mistake. This brown-skinned Jones wouldn't be caught dead singing "Everlasting Love" or "Things Can Only Get Better". With the ability to scream and growl with the best of them, and actually sing with a pleading passion in his voice also, Killswitch's Howard Jones is "the cat's meow". No singer in this genre has ever been this versatile, and it's a real breath of fresh air.

The rest of the songs on the record continue with the same formula securely fastened. Full, bludgeoning band sound with brilliant vocal diversity. Each track seems to subside for a small period to give Jones his time to shine. I think the biggest problem I have with many of the "nu-metal" bands is the overwhelming lack of diversity and songwriting skill. Killswitch Engage has made a full disc of worthy tunes here. The record never gets boring or bland. They keep the mandatory speed that is essential for their style, while integrating a nice hook into each song. All of these songs have some kind of "aftertaste". I'm not talking about the same aftertaste you might get from the local take-out Chinese food, I'm talking about something that sticks in your head after you listen to it. Whether it's the multi-layered vocal hook on the chorus of the title track, the gang vocal chants of "We will prevail" on "Hope Is...", or the guitar riff that opens "Declaration"; Killswitch always serves up something that sticks.

The only reason I could think of that a fan of the hardcore metal genre might not enjoy this disc is because of its unique departure from the customary metalcore formula. This record actually has someone that "sings" on it, an unusual and risky venture for a band in this genre. Is this a record that I will listen to constantly for years to come, ...probably not; but it is a record that satisfies a particular need perfectly. It's the Snickers of hardcore metal, it really satisfies.

This record is the band's third release. Vocalist Howard Jones and drummer Justin Foley are new additions to the band for this record. Jones and Foley also perform with a band called Blood Has Been Shed in their spare time. Foley has earned his masters degree in percussion at the highly acclaimed Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT after earning his undergraduate degree in percussion from the University of Connecticut, and continues to perform with various Connecticut symphonies when not on the road. Bassist Mike D'Antonio is an accomplished graphic artist and designs all of Killswitch's album artwork and merchandise. His company DarkicoN design boasts clients such as Shadows Fall, Unearth, Ferret Music, Lifeforce Records and The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. This is a band packed with talent that plays their music for all the right reasons. Vocalist Howard Jones may have said it best when he said, "You always want people to enjoy it, whether they're the kids who are beating the crap out of each other, the ones in the back nodding their heads or just the casual listener. But first and foremost, we wanted an album that WE were happy with. And we've made it."Well, Mr. Jones, I'm pretty happy with it myself.