Review: Killswitch Engage – Incarnate

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Chili con Incarnate.

Incarnate is the seventh studio album from metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage and the second since the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach. A short history lesson for those new to the band (or those who never bothered to look into them): Killswitch Engage formed in 1999 in central Massachusetts. The band comprised of popular local acts Overcast, Aftershock, and Nothing Stays Gold. The band’s sound was a blending of metal and hardcore (hence metalcore). While it’s part of the common musical lexicon nowadays, this style was still fairly new in a scene dominated by nu metal and rap metal. In the middle of touring in support of their second album Alive Or Just Breathing, vocalist Jesse Leach left the band via email, citing depression as a main factor.

The band recruited former Blood Has Been Shed vocalist Howard Jones to take over vocal duties, leading to their breakout album The End Of Heartache. The band toured the world many times over, including stints on Ozzfest, Warped Tour, and the Taste Of Chaos. They put out two more albums with Jones, who then left the band due to health issues. In the interim, Leach put out two albums with his band Seemless before reconnecting with Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam D. The duo released one album under the moniker Times Of Grace which was well-received. That collaboration sparked something because Leach returned to the KSE fold 2012 and the band released 2013’s Disarm The Descent.

That all brings us to Incarnate. In a nutshell, if you like what Killswitch Engage has done in the past, you will like Incarnate. If you didn’t like them before, you won’t like them now. Killswitch Engage has always been consistent with their sound. It’s part of what makes them who they are. You know when you’re listening to a Killswitch Engage song. There’re a few heavy parts, catchy hooks, memorable choruses, and maybe a breakdown or two. It is this consistency that has led to their crossover appeal and kept them in the spotlight whereas many of their “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” counterparts, such as God Forbid and Shadows Fall, have fallen to the wayside. Of course, consistency can lead to complacency, as seen by their weakest release, their second self-titled album.

While all the songs on Incarnate have that distinctive KSE mixture of metal and hardcore, the band does try to break from the constraints of metalcore. Songs like “Reignite” and “Loyalty” are by far the heaviest songs the band has ever written, to the point where an uninitiated listener may not know that it is, in fact, Killswitch Engage. It’s a welcome refresher for a band that has been around almost 20 years.

As with their other releases, Leach’s vocals and lyrics are the band’s high point. While Jones’s vocals were smoother, Leach has an earnestness in his voice. It’s this emotion that has always set Killswitch Engage apart from the rest of their metalcore contemporaries. It strikes a chord within the listener, bringing thoughts and feelings long dormant to the surface.

Each song is an honest confession, reaching out directly to every individual listener. Leach has always worn his heart on his sleeve, openly discussing his issues with depression and mental health. Themes like hope, faith, and love run throughout all of Leach’s work, and while there is never explicit mention of God or Jesus, it’s easy to see where at least some inspiration comes from. With song titles like “Ascension” and “Embrace The Journey…Upraised,” one might easily confuse the band for being a Christian metalcore act. I appreciate Leach’s honesty and his messages of unity and compassion. I also appreciate that his words do not force any particular religious views on to the listeners. One can have faith without a particular deity or lack thereof.

The album is very slick in terms of sound and production. Some fans have referred to Incarnate‘s smoothness as “Killswitch In Grace” referencing Leach and Adam D’s project. While the Times Of Grace album The Hymn Of A Broken Man did occasionally have moments of “it’s so slick I might fall and hurt myself,” Incarnate doesn’t come off as too clean or overproduced. It comes close at times, but doesn’t cross the line. It’s this production, while appealing to a wider audience, that prevents the band from achieving the greatness that was Alive Or Just Breathing. A little more bite to their sound could raise their songs from good to great.

Ultimately, Incarnate is a very good Killswitch Engage album. Fans will love the catchy guitars from Adam D and Joel Stroetzel, consistent bass from Mike D, driving drums from Justin Foley, and emotional vocals from Jesse Leach. It’s an album that will make you feel something as long as you’re willing to give it a chance. Though the style and sound is generally consistent, the band does delve into previously unexplored musical territories with positive results. Could it be a sign of experimentation and exploration to come? One can only hope. Thanks to Killswitch Engage, I have hope. And faith. And love.

Incarnate is available now via Roadrunner Records.

4 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

NEW_TOILETSCALE_4_of_5

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    First!!!

  • Dubs

    This is a great review, 265. What I really appreciate about it is that you don’t divorce the personal aspect of your enjoyment of the record from its actual merits. There’s an earnestness and genuineness to the way you approached this. Although I don’t really enjoy Killswitch, your enthusiasm and obvious passion made me more appreciative of their work.

    • Honestly, anyone trying to look at any sort of art through a purely objective lens isn’t setting themselves up for success. I wish gaming’s core audience understood as much.

    • You docked me 100 days.

      • Guacamole Jim

        You keep that up, and you’ll be 165 pretty damn quick.

      • Dubs

        Hah, didn’t even realize that. Have you been losing weight?

      • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

        *Broken Hope appears in a plume of smoke*

      • brokensnow

        Good job 183!!1

      • Salvador Dalí Lama

        I’ll give you back 155 days, 265. Blaze it wisely.

  • COAL ROLL

    I’m impressed by the central vs western MA distinction 365

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    Solid review, 365.

  • Can’t say I cared for their sound too much, I listened to As Daylight Dies a while ago and it came across as a bit too melodramatic for my tastes.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      … since I am a total non-expert on their tunes, my favorite from them was always one of their most well known tracks in their cover of “Holy Diver”, which I still think is a solid jam.

      • Boss the “Hoss” Ross

        That’s a good cover.

      • I know a lot of people were mad about that one existing. How DARE the guys I don’t like cover a song I DO like!

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          It also sucked balls.

    • RustyShackleford

      Definitely melodramatic, but I was in middle school when that shit came out and it was PERFECT timing for me haha. Nostalgia factor >>>>>

      • I know the feeling. It was All That Remains for me, though.

  • Boss the “Hoss” Ross

    I never really got into Killswitch, probably because I haven’t tried, but this review was positively exquisite. I enjoyed the positive vibes that emanate from your words and might even give this album a listen. Well done 365, well done.

  • tigeraid

    I generally agree with this review. I enjoy the album, as I’ve enjoyed their previous efforts. I’m still a Howard Jones guy though.

  • RustyShackleford

    Nice! I’m glad to see someone dig this record. People slap the poser on this band way too fast, but they were one of first modern metal bands I got into. I’ve been digging the stuff with Leach. I really miss Jones though, not entirely because I thought he was better, but the albums with him are iconic/nostalgic/whatever the fuck to me. Also I REALLY don’t like the new Devil You Know album, so basically he just did better stuff when he was in Killswitch haha. Anyway, solid review man. Yup!

    • I’d say they’re one of the few metalcore bands that don’t deserve the poser label. That said, I don’t really like them, but I can see why people do.

      • RustyShackleford

        Truth. One of my good friends always knocked them until he saw them live. Said it was incredibly heavy and super tight. He was shocked haha

        • Guacamole Jim

          They’re an absolute blast live.

          • COAL ROLL

            I thought they sounded like a wall of noise live

          • Guacamole Jim

            Could be any number of things – venue acoustics, off performance, bad equipment, predisposition of the audience.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      The first DYK album is one of the very few metalcore records that had jams I enjoyed jamming, still do.

      • RustyShackleford

        Agree. That single “Seven Years Alone” is a banger of a song, but the newest one didn’t click with me at all unfortunately.

    • tigeraid

      As McNulty alluded to a while ago, I would say that Killswitch is generally the only metalcore I enjoy. Though I like some DYK, because of my adoration of Howard Jones.

      But KSE, it’s more like a time-and-place sort of love; The End of Heartache just worked for me, as an album, at the time, and I fell in love with their passion and effort, even if ARTISTICALLY the music isn’t oh-so-amazing.

      Kind of like Lamb of God; they were the first and best at what they do, and a lot of other stuff in that sort of “NWOAHM” niche just falls behind.

      Most other metalcore I listen to I find boring and derivative as shit.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Anything associated with the “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” is a snooze fest. And that name is horrible too. And yes I checked out the bands. Not my cup o tea.

    • BREAKING NEWS KSOFM DOESNT LIKE METALCORE!?!?!?

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Is your mind blown the fuck out yet, Broface McCooter?

        • I can’t even find my mind bro, it just vanished, i don’t even know how im typing this!

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Dude, sounds like you’re fucked and some junk.

          • yea stuff and things

      • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls
        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Hahaha, KMFDM.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            That bitch has got some nice titties, I know from experience.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS8CP1A6OCQ

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            Suck it, suck it, bllllllllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggghhhh!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOzs1FehYOA

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Still one of my favorite Deftones albums.

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            I can’t stand Deftones, but Palms, their side project, was pretty good.

          • brokensnow

            If you mean in a “lesser than the 2 bands it came from, massive wasted hype, beach music” kinda way, then sure, they were great.

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            Eh, I liked it. Overhyped, though? Definite!

          • hey, not all “supergroups” can be Hellyeah

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I think Hellyeah defines the word “SUPERgroup”. You can’t compare a band composed of mere mortals to the godly mastery of Hellyeah.

          • ME GORAK B.C.™

            HELL NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • brokensnow

            Team Hell No?

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I still don’t know what’s the most disturbing thing about Hellyeah: how much the music sucks or the way Chad Gray tries to turn himself into a rooster.
            They should make a horror movie out of that: “The Rooster”.

          • Maik Beninton™

            I find this comment obligatory.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0FAosDi4XA

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Oh yeah, VERY obligatory.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I actually think Palms was really really really meh haha!

          • Dubs

            I also thought Palms was meh. Good nap music, I guess.

          • Maik Beninton™
          • brokensnow
          • Maik Beninton™

            I don’t know where you are going with this but that album is great.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I still love this song from Adrenaline.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVmQXP_eqZo

            (a part of me gets) SICK (a part of me gets) SORE

          • Maik Beninton™

            I actually meant White Poney with my comment, haha, I didn’t liked 7 words at first because that chorus is cringy, but it had grown on me.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I think 7 Words is one of the worst songs on Adrenaline. Adrenaline is by far the most “nu metal” album in their discography. I always liked songs such as Lifter, Root, One Weak, Fireal…the best. In those songs you already saw the shoegaze influences creep into their sound. I like Adrenaline though. It has some kind of youthful aggression and weird creeping atmosphere I still can dig.

          • Such an awful album cover.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Well, despite me being an unabashed Deftones fan, I can’t argue with that.

          • I really…. SUCKS.

            lol

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Squeal like a pig when you BIG FUCKIN’ BIG FUCKIN’ AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls
    • Weird. I had you pegged as a big Devildriver fan.

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Everyone always does. It’s so damn strange.

  • Guacamole Jim

    KsE has significantly improved since Leach came back, putting out two super solid records. Good to see the love in the bowl!!

  • Spear

    I don’t think I’ve ever really given KSE a serious listen, largely because I couldn’t stand Jones’ voice. Based on these first couple tracks though, Leach is more my speed. The siqq shredz on “Hate By Design” don’t hurt, either. I might actually pick this up!

    • RustyShackleford

      “Cut Me Loose” is a solid jamz too!

    • I’d recommend checking out the first two KSE albums with Leach on vocals too.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8ODodNm2tY

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un2M8USAdQQ

      • Spear

        I’ll probably toss these on in the background at work today. Should set a suitable atmosphere for dealing with this stupid fiber cut.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Bro, cut the crap, how was Vemod?

      • Spear

        Fucking amazing. There are only a couple performances I’ve seen that I’d describe as profound, and theirs would be one of them. They had a projector going with images of space and auroras swirling around behind them; the atmosphere was incredible. You need to see them if they make it to the States again.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Fuck yes! Nice dude!

          • Spear

            I can’t do it justice in just a few words. It was intense.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Hey, your mini review above was all I needed to hear.

        • brokensnow

          hhmmm…sounds Cloudkickery.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    A good review 365m well written ‘n shit though I can’t for the life of me agree with it which isn’t just because I don’t like KsE, after hearing the few pre-release songs piled this on the bottom half of their albums. Though it’s always hard(er) to disagree with such honest enjoyment.

  • KSE never really clicked with me, but I always felt like Jesse was more of a presence for them than Jones.

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    I actually still really really like Alive or Just Breathing. I never hid my love for that album and as far as I’m concerned it’s still the best – and perhaps only REAL worthwhile – album to come out of that melo-metalcore craze.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRoPbpV6HC0

  • JWEG

    Short story: a bit over a decade back the local Modern Rock station’s DJ in charge of a weekly “new music” segment chose to play KsE with a disclaimer that it wasn’t quite what listeners were normally used to hearing from him, but he liked it so he asked the audience to approach it with an open mind.

    I don’t recall the exact year, or the tune (or the album it was from) but it definitely had more of a nu metal than other metal vibe.

    Anyway. Listeners responded for sure. Negatively. The station was flooded with calls to the station manager for the DJ’s immediate resignation for the terrible inconvenience of a song just outside their dull trapped-in-the-early-90’s alternative mentality. He was then was forced to make a lengthy on-air apology and take a short “vacation” as compromise.

    And right then and there was the last day I ever bothered to listen to the radio.

    I don’t even like KsE. Nor did I like the song. But seriously. Overreaction?

    • WOW.

    • Boss the “Hoss” Ross

      That is shitty

      • JWEG

        I know. It would be like a Metal version of “Footloose”, except it’s not like that at all.

        (it wasn’t dancing that got banned)

        • This town is a clean vocal town. It’s always been a clean vocal town and it’ll always be a clean vocal town.

    • COAL ROLL

      sounds like the listeners Grohl Rolled that station

      • JWEG

        Not that far off, considering almost every other tune they played at the time was either Nirvana or from the earliest Foo Fighters album.

        … and occasionally “Everlong”…

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Hahahaha. This is amazing. “Get that devil shit off my station!!!!!!!”

    • Spear

      Good lord. People suck.

  • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

    I like Howard Jones’ solo stuff better.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2V3SNrkpp0

  • Spear

    UGH THOSE LEADS ON UNTIL THE DAYS
    Yeah, Imma get this.

  • I’ve liked some KsE songs in the past, but listening to this isn’t making me feel anything. Just sounds like just about anything else you’d hear on hard rock radio in my area.
    ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Quality review 365 dude. This kind of thing isn’t really my cup of tea, though I do still think Alive or Just Breathing had some corkers. But its good to see them still still making their mark.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      That “melodic metalcore” style was never really my thing either. I never liked All That Remains, As I Lay Dying, Trivium…or others doing that “good cop bad cop” style of the genre back then. But there was something about Alive or Just Breathing that made for an actual intensive listen. I also think that album has a lot of soul and passion. The next album with Howard had some good songs, but the album as a whole didn’t blow me away like AOJB did. Killswitch kinda lost me after that.

  • This is the first KSE album I have actually not been completely enthusiastic to listen to and truthfully, I feel bad about it. I believe a lot of it comes down to changing tastes and looking for the next “great thing”. It is not that I do not enjoy listening to past KSE efforts, I guess I just feel burnt out on the style. I regrettably thought the same thing on their 2013 effort Disarm the Descent (which by the way was incredible), so maybe I need to give this a try.

    GL

  • I know BHBS will never get back together, but they would certainly bring the ultimate dick crusher jams if they did.
    http://youtu.be/LlsvS0hLnDY

    • Dubs

      En Sabah Nur is Apocalypse’s human name in the X-Men comics.

      • Maik Beninton™

        The more you know.

      • You must be hyped for the new X-Men movie coming this summer.

        • Boss the “Hoss” Ross

          Ugh.

    • brokensnow

      Cool vid. meh song

      • Really? hmmm. I thought the song was better by itself, without the video. Pcool song/album to run to.

        Interesting Brokensnow

        • brokensnow

          interesting?

          • I missed a comma, sorry.

            I just think your opinion is interesting.

          • brokensnow

            uuuuuhhhhhhh…….thx.

    • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

      I see hugging = not clicking!!!!!
      -999999 points for hugging/life loving

  • Stanley

    It’s out. Sarastus is out. And it riffs!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59ld0okBIrg

    • brokensnow

      KVLT

    • Black Metal Album Art Check List (BMAAC) V6.6.5:

      1.) Trees n’ shit. Check.
      2.) Black and white color tones. Check.
      3.) KVLT lettering. Doubles Checks.
      4.) Hooded-drapped-omnious-figure-of-glory. Yessir.

      This album art passes the quality metrics as outlined in BMMAC V 6.6.5.

      • “black and white color tones”
        where’s the nerdy GL i used to know??

      • Stanley

        Yeah, but it fails all the pentagram and inverted cross metrics.

      • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

        Loses points because you can actually read the band name though. It’s not truely black metal unless the band name looks like The Flying Spaghetti Monster holding inverted crosses.

    • hehe, those gang vocals. is this black metal or punk?

      • Stanley

        There’s a good punk influence on this one.

      • Eliza

        It don’t know for sure, but what’s certain is that I love it.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        l kinda like the punk influence. At least that way I know I haven’t heard it 1,000 times before.

        • Boss the “Hoss” Ross

          It sounds good

    • Eliza

      It riffs indeed.

    • Boss the “Hoss” Ross

      I like your style of Black Metal Stanley. RIFFS

    • UNCLE BLACKBEARD

      i put sarastus on my mexican food sometimes

  • Eliza

    I enjoyed reading this review way more that I will ever enjoy Killswitch Engage.

  • Maik Beninton™

    Cool review zombie, I really liked the album.

  • UNCLE BLACKBEARD

    no howard jones = poop

  • Not a big fan of this band but I enjoyed reading this, good review!

  • Waynecro

    Thank you very much for the thoughtful review.

  • God ov War

    Great review Warior