This review is from: Disarm The Descent (Special Edition) (Audio CD)
Killswitch Engage has always been a band I've wanted to like more. Alive or Just Breathing, in my opinion, is about as perfect as modern metalcore can get (possibly with the exception of Misery Signals début), but the Howard Jones era material always left me wanting more. Not that Jones was a bad vocalist – I think his clean singing is some of the best in metal – but the band seemed intent on killing the momentum of songs with sickeningly sugary choruses which contrasted too much with the heavy parts. So, when I heard that Howard had left (perhaps we'll finally hear another Blood Has Been Shed cd?) and Jesse was back in town, I had to pick up Disarm the Descent to see what the band 3.0 could offer.
Let me say off the bat that this is easily the best Killswitch since Alive or Just Breathing, but, for me, that has little to do with Jesse returning and more to with Messrs Foley, Dutkiewicz and Stroetzel. You see, Disarm the Descent features some of the heaviest and most crushing riffs the band have ever written. Foley especially ups the anti by incorporating some tremendous blasting and an overall more brutal approach to the drum kit that does wonders for the band. Cookie monster growls have also made a welcome return. Of course, this is Killswitch we're talking about, so you can be sure that there's no shorting of languishingly uplifting clean vocals around ever corner, but Hell in Me, All That We Have and The New Awakening show a much more aggressive and hungry Killswitch then we've seen in a while. Overall, the band sound re energized and refocused. Aside from the fact that Hell in Me shamelessly steals is main riff from Shadows Fall's Nurture (which was on Sombre Eyes to the Skies which Adam Dutkiewivz produced, no less), there's little fault to find here.
However, while Disarm the Descent is certainly the best Killswitch album since Alive or Just Breathing, I have to say that I disagree with many people calling this Alive or Just Breathing 2.0, because both Killswitch and Jesse have changed a lot in the 11 years between albums. Despite the return of cookie monster growls and Justin Foley's new found love of blast beats, Disarm the Descent does not return to the primal stomp of the bands formative years. Alive or Just Breathing, as amazing as it was, was built on simple yet colossal riffs in essence; Disarm, on the other hand, features much more fluid and technically demanding guitar parts and as already mentioned, superior drumming. Secondly, Jesse's voice has changed a lot since 2002. He still retains his blistering high scream, put his earth trembling mid-range growl, the stable of AOJB, has been replaced by a sort of Peter Dolving style shout/bark (which I have to say I don't care too much for). Possibly as a result of the vocal trauma that forced his exit from the band, it might also be the reason for the liberal smattering of Adam D's backing growls. Also, Jesse's clean vocals have improved tenfold, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the silky, soulful melodies of Howard Jones. I guess, for me the ultimate Killswitch album would be the one with Jesse screaming and Howard singing...sadly it'll never happen.
On the other hand, as rejuvenated and aggressive Disarm is, its still Killswitch as they've always been, and songs still follow the template the band has been laying down for what seems like donkey years. A bit of innovation might have gone a long way, and certainly would have given this album 5 stars from me. As such, I've you've never been convinced by any incarnation of the band, there's little on Disarm the Descent to change your mind. Also, I found Always and Tribute to the Fallen a little too on the gushy sentimental side.
While the metalcore scene has for the most part fizzled out, Killswitch Engage are still here, doing what they do best and giving us their best album in over a decade. Fans of both the Jesse and Howard eras of the band will not be disappointed.
p.s. If you can, get the special edition with the bonus tracks – they're belters!