Killswitch Engage
"Killswitch Engage" May 2009
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on August 28, 2009 | PRINT

What is a band to do when its creativity and originality have run their course – when every ‘new idea’ is the same one recycled, repackaged and redistributed?

When its fan base and success have reached their modest maximums?

What is a band to do, like Killswitch Engage, when it knows it’s topped out, that the rest of its career is a slow trot on a dusty plateau?

It creates a ‘new sound’ with a different producer (or in Killswitch’s case, with a producer for the first time), claims it has reinvented itself (“[the new record] is more rock ‘n’ roll” according to bassist Mike D’Antonio) and 10 years into its career release a self-titled album (the second record thus titled by Killswitch) that is nothing more than a watered-down and rehashed version of the group’s dead-end ideas.

Always a band whose metal badge carried an emotional sheen, Killswitch Engage has, on its latest self-titled release, allowed the former to dilute the latter.

Each time the band arrives at a classic Killswitch metal bounce, it is quickly abandoned in favor of melodramatic emo drivel that, more often than not, brings with it a key change and tempo shift that abruptly interrupts the composition that preceded it.

The only consistent element of the album is singer Howard Jones’ lyrics, which invariably read like grade school break-up letters (“Do you remember what we used to have/as if all our dreams were possible/all that existed was you and I/ but distance has torn us apart”). There is perpetually a “You” or “She” by whom the first-person speaker’s (apparently Jones’) heart has been irreparably broken. This is expected fodder on a Jonas Brothers album, but Killswitch Engage? Come on….

And what of the new producer, Brendan O’Brien? Given his pedigree (O’Brien carries a resume weighted with names like AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam, among many others) the sugary gloss thickly coated over Killswitch’s diluted metal chunk can’t come as a surprise.

Killswitch Engage needed to find a new direction if they hoped to further its career and the group needed a new producer to do so, but maybe the dude who produced Augustana and Train wasn’t the best choice.

On “Killswitch Engage” version 2009, the group has done nothing but confirm to its audience how far they have fallen from their incendiary neo-thrash scene in Boston.

The record’s constant abandonment of metal in favor of emo is pure frustration on listeners (metalheads are not the target audience for combining headbanging and Kleenex) and Jones’ lyrics make the occasional attempt at ferocity come off as tame and laughable.

But, hey – what can you expect from a group that so earnestly covers Dio?

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