Killswitch Engage, the quintet of Adam Dutkiewicz (guitar), Joel Stroetzel (guitar), Mike D’Antonio (bass), Justin Foley (drums), and Jesse Leach (vocals), released their eighth studio album Atonement via Metal Blade Records today. It’s the first album Metal Blade Records has released for Killswitch Engage. Justin explained about the decision to sign with Metal Blade Records, “We’ve known Brian Slagel forever. We have friends who have worked with him. We went into this with a sense of optimism about what we could potentially do on this cycle with Metal Blade on our side.” The album took “trying and turbulent two years” to finish the album. Part of that turbulence included Jesse undergoing vocal surgery and vocal therapy forcing the band to cancel performances. The definition of atonement reads “reparation for a wrong or injury”. If Killswitch Engage felt they needed to make reparations to the fans, I hope they do it this way on every album. Atonement is fucking amazing.
The album opens with the first single they released “Unleashed”. From Jesse’s opening screams to Justin’s thundering, rapid-fire, drumming, the song will have fans banging their heads to the beat and begging for more. The mix of Jesse’s singing to screaming transition shows his voice hasn’t lost a step. At the same time, the song itself reveals someone who was wracked with pain from betrayal by someone they loved, “Can you feel the pain, Of those you betrayed?” And that betrayal drove them to the point of madness, “It’s the part of me you can’t comprehend. Unleash me.” It’s that type of song that sinks deep into your song that you’ll play over and over again.
“The Signal Fire” will rip through your body with both Jesse Leach and Howard Jones, vocalist for Light The Torch, perform together. Thrashing guitars and their vocals make the song a mosh pit anthem. Jesse said, “We needed a song with him to show the fans there’s solidarity. It’s a perfect ode to our bond as brothers and a nice nod to Light The Torch.” He continues, “I had an image from Lord of The Rings when they climb to the top of the mountain and light a fire to signal for backup,” Bonded now in friendship, together their vocals created a powerhouse sound.
But, Howard isn’t the only guest singer on the album. Killswitch Engage also brought in the thrashing vocals of Chuck Billy of Testament for “The Crownless King”. Adam described Chuck’s vocals as “fucking amazing” and I absolutely agree. As a huge Testament fan, having Chuck’s vocals to an already chest-pounding metal song drove my love for the song even more. It’s the guttural, screaming, metal song fans will love and replay over again.
The second single they released “I Am Broken Too” will reach fans on a deeper and more thoughtful level. As Jesse describes, the song is to remind “someone struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts not to give up, because there are more of us than you think.” Lyrically, it’s heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time, and musically, pours the emotion right into you.
The one single that completely grabbed me is the third track, “Us Against the World”. It has some great guitar hooks and the chorus grabs you right away with the way Jesse pours out “Our spirit is never-ending, So tell them it’s us, us against the world”. The melody caught me off guard as I found myself singing along almost immediately. Jesse describes Killswitch Engage as “…anti-authority and anti-corruption. My lyrics are very spiritual and political.” And it’s exactly what I feel from this song.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Atonement. Killswitch Engage delivered an album filled with a metal style of their own, which great songs I easily picture being played on stage to sold out venues, and mosh pits galore. Killswitch Engage fans will love this album and metal fans overall should add Atonement to their collection.