Killswitch Engage
The End of Heartache

Someone please give Killswitch Engage and All That Remains a hug-they’re having major heart issues. Anyhoo, I don’t know about you guys, but Alive? Or Just Breathing, was kind of my first heavy exposure to metalcore on a grand scale, despite other bands forging the way many years before and my quick souring on the vastly overplayed “My last Serenade”. But the Roadrunner media machine and the subsequent fan adoration put them atop the heap of US metal for a brief time. But since then, other bands have vied and successfully taken their short lived spot.So enter intimidating singer Howard Jones of Blood Has Been Shed (arguably the better band) into the fray to replace Jesse Leach, and does so admirably, adding a vicious bulk, both musically and physically to KsE’s already well versed Swedish inspired ‘core. Musically those familiar with the band and current scene know what to expect here, and it’s delivered with the vigor of a sophomore “Major” label release that sees them making all the tweaks to try to improve on the Roadrunner debut, while retaining the elements that made it essentially a smash hit. A lot of the improvements are through Jones’ vocal delivery, as he brings and energy and presence to every note he bellows or croons(of which there is plenty of), meanwhile guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz continue with the dual, layered harmonies and steady breakdowns, that are now increasingly abundant and almost expected in the genre.

To their credit, KsE deliver the saturated goods with oodles of catchiness and memorable verse/chorus structures, with many of the choruses unashamedly soaring into commercial territory, and that might be the albums only slight letdown. Opener “A Bid Farewell” (which would have been my choice for the first single) is the first of many songs that tread “My Last Serenade” like structures with a chorus you’ll find yourself singing along to involuntarily. KsE seem to have realized that the kids like those kinds of songs and stuck with a good thing for most of the album with a only a few track breaking away from solid harmonic canter and sweeping chorus footsteps.

After the stout grooves of “Take This Oath”, the track “When Darkness Falls”, featured on the Freddy vs. Jason soundtrack continues the same vibe, but again, you can help hum its chorus and finely honed riffage that will no doubt captivate those weaned on the last album and From Autumn to Ashes’ last effort but not yet ready for Undying or Unearth. The albums first single and recently premiered video “Rose of Sharyn” alternates from rock chunk to delicate ballad, and is deftly written for mass consumption, and succeeds, especially with its heartfelt subject matter and climactic chorus. After the needless instrumental “Inhale”, (there’s 2, the other being “And Embers Rise”) the album takes a heavier turn musically with “Breath Life” even if Jones continues a much larger use of clean vocals than he ever did or will for Blood Has Been Shed, still he has an awesome bellow rife with emotion.

The title track shows KsE’s mature side with some impressive downtuned train ride chugging heaviness complementing Jones croon. After yet another monstrous riff laden track “Declaration” that sounds it should have been on the last album with a much more urgent pace, the album disappears for me, its about three tracks to long and seems to wane under its own desire to be enjoyable to casual and curious newbie metalcore listeners. To be honest, it comes across as slightly shallow despite the superb musicianship and delivery. Comparatively, the recent All That Remains album This Darkened Heart seemed deeper and more complex. And truth be told, since Alive? Or Just Breathing, other bands have delivered far better albums than this, and with Unearth and Beyond the Embrace releases on the horizon, it may be KsE will have to rely on reputation and a dedicated fanbase alone, as musically I don’t think The End of Heartache will hold up to those albums.

Still, a pretty good album for the less discerning masses, and contains enough polished riffs and satisfying moments to keep them within the upper echelon of the genre they may have helped push forward, but I don’t think they are the top dog anymore. <br>
[Erik Thomas]

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 10th, 2004


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