Killswitch Engage are one of the premier, most successful bands to emerge from the so-called New Wave of American Heavy Metal. Even so, sometimes, a band needs to shake things up.
For their fifth album, Killswitch Engage, Massachusetts pioneers Killswitch Engage took calculated risks and purposely went outside their comfort zone. The choice yielded impressive results whilst retaining the signature hallmarks that define their sound. "There's different structures, but it's still Killswitch. I tried different topics and delivery, but it's still Killswitch," says vocalist Howard Jones. Self-titling it, the album includes future KsE classics such as The Return, Reckoning, A Light In A Darkened World, and Lost, plus first single Starting Over.
For the first time in their career, the band opted to work with an outside producer. Brendan O'Brien (AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots) was brought on board, which also saw the band change to recording in Atlanta, Georgia instead of at home. "We take so much care with the music," says bassist Mike D'Antonio, "We thought, 'Let's take things up a notch.' Brendan liked the band and it made sense to collaborate with him." Jones comments, in his trademark self-deprecating humour, "We're an easily identifiable band by our guitar tone, drums, and for better or worse, my voice." Jones challenged himself to lyrically explore a broader range of topics and to use his unmistakable voice in other ways. "You'll hear some things vocally that I've never done," the singer says. "You can count on anthems and positive lyrics, but hey, there's times when the sun isn't shining so brightly and some songs reflect that."
Guitarist and KsE clown Adam Dutkiewicz, known for his crazy stage antics, who co-produced concurs, "We wanted to redefine who we are a little bit. We did that by taking time to write together instead of showing up and putting parts together. We felt our last record, As Daylight Dies, sounded a little too much like 'us,' if that makes sense. We want to reinvent ourselves while retaining the KsE integrity." Of the more collaborative effort, D'Antonio says, "Everyone pulled together as a team when we were writing and everyone contributed songs, which doesn’t always happen on our records. I'm spreading some of my Southern rock influence into the band. There was a little on the last record but there is more now. It's slow, dirgey, heavy stuff."
Drummer Justin Foley was able to contribute more to the process, saying, "I didn't do any over thinking with my parts. When I did The End Of Heartache, I was so new to the band that I was fitting into the band's mold and a lot of my crazy playing style doesn't work with Killswitch, so I had to adopt a new mindset. On Daylight, I may have overthought. This time, I'm so comfortable and know what we are, so the parts were natural this time around."
For the new album, both guitarists experimented with sounds, tones and effects pedals, according to Joel Stroetzel. "There's some more spacey, ambient stuff in the background, but not in the main parts," he explains. "It's heavy and guitar-driven, but it's a lot more textured." D’Antonio once again contributes all of the artwork.
The band's versatile, non-stop road history includes two treks on Ozzfest, stints on Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos and having the rare ability to straddle the line between the metal and alternative scenes by touring with Slayer and Mastodon as easily as My Chemical Romance. They return to the UK for June’s Download Festival, to play the main stage on Friday, with the Rockstar Mayhem tour coming up in the US this summer.
As for the musical impact KsE have made – including their multiple Silver/Gold-certified albums and Grammy nomination - Jones and the band are modest, humble even, about their role. Jones says, "It's completely unexpected and in a lot of ways, not that much has changed about the band except we're not in a van anymore. It's still the same lunk-headed guys who get on stage and make fun of each other. Nothing has really changed, except we have a few more people who like us and we're lucky."