When Killswitch Engage catapulted themselves to the fore of the metalcore scene they’d helped create a decade ago, there was much promise. That pressure quickly told however, as vocalist/lyricist Jesse Leach left the band soon after their breakthrough, seminal 2002 album Alive or Just Breathing. Virtuoso guitarist (and then-drummer) Adam Dutkiewicz remained, but the inimitable synergy between the two has been missing from the rock scene ever since.
That inventive and grandiose blend of heavy metal and hardcore allied with beautifully tortured lyrics delivered with the zest and passion of a man who truly had a message is back in Times of Grace. Make no mistake, though – The Hymn of a Broken Man is by no means a carbon copy of Killswitch Engage. Dreamt up in 2007 by Adam D whilst incapacitated following excruciating back surgery and featuring Leach’s highly politicised and spiritual lyrics, the theme is one of pain and how to deal with it via the medium of music. It’s dark but not relentlessly brutal. It’s even more introspective and dynamic than the pair’s collaborations from the first time around.
Strength in Numbers opens the album with military drumming and furious calls-to-arms before Dutkiewicz’s machine gun guitar and Leach’s bitter wails kick in. If you didn’t know better, you’d wonder if you hadn’t walked into a war zone; but then the soaring harmonies of Fight for Life showcase another side to their talents before the livid thrash of Willing bursts out. The central couplet of Until the End of Days and Live in Love juxtapose the two sides of Times of Grace perfectly. While the former is a master class in mixing ambient restraint and chugging malice, the latter is quintessential metalcore that will both bring back old memories as well as forming new ones. The title-track is as beautifully cathartic as one might expect.
It would be folly to suggest that Times of Grace have produced an album for anyone but the many early Killswitch Engage fans. But considering that those vaguely interested in the metalcore genre are, at the very least, appreciative of KSE’s first two albums, Leach and Dutkiewicz may well get the chance to succeed with this new project – and it’s success that they richly deserve.
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