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Album Review: Killswitch Engage – ‘Atonement’

Posted by on August 16, 2019

This has been a crazy month for metal, as we have gotten to hear new releases from renowned bands like Slipknot and Tool. Now, Killswitch Engage has come out with a new album for our listening pleasure. Having found myself revisiting KSE’s catalog this past couple of months, Atonement has been a record I’ve been eagerly anticipating. These natives of Massachusetts have had an excellent track record of dropping quality albums that are strong from start to finish. It’s confident to say that Atonement continues their progression of excellence.

Kicking off the album is heavy, yet melodic “Unleashed,” which also happens to be the band’s first single. Using this track as the album opener is a clear-cut utilization of the song’s composition.

Between the dark, luring notes of Adam D’s guitar and Jesse’s throat-ripping scream, the song immediately captures your attention within the first ten seconds. To further pull you in, Jesse then uses his powerful highs to sing the song title. This track is the perfect trademark of the band’s modern sound and most likely why it’s the opener.

The following tune has probably been the most anticipated due to the appearance of the one and only, Howard Jones. Being a fan of both the Howard and Jesse eras of Killswitch, it has always been a dream to have Howard rejoin the band and front Killswitch alongside Jesse. Unfortunately, that will never happen, and “The Signal Fire” is the closest thing to that dream coming true (so far). During my first listen, I was gearing up for a big bellowing chorus from Howard Jones, singing with his thick deep cleans. However, that never came to be. He briefly appears during the second verse but only screams. The track is strong, and I love Howard’s screams, but his clean vocals are so powerful and iconic. I wish his singing would have surfaced on this song for a little bit longer. When you think Howard Jones, you think of his clean vocals first, then his screams. The utilization of Howard’s talents was underused and disappointing. Overall, the song still rips, and I hope they incorporate it into their live show.

Speaking of guest appearances, Testament’s Chuck Billy lends his talents on “The Crownless King” and kills it. I never thought a Testament and Killswitch collaboration would turn out this well. This song is short, sweet, and packs a punch, which makes me revisit quite frequently. 

Out of all the songs on the record, “I Am Broken Too” gets stuck in my head the most. The chorus is so catchy and very easy to sing along to. Between the lyrics and the passion in Jesse’s voice, you can tell he poured his heart out. This track has a ton of replay value, as I find myself listening to it two or three times in a row.

The album rounds out with two solid tunes “I Can’t Be the Only One” and “Bite the Hand that Feeds.” I would not be surprised if one of these titles became the next single. “I Can’t Be the Only One” sounds like a song that was recorded after Jesse’s speech therapy and recovery. The newly redefined control Jesse exhibits over his voice is noticeable. The throat-shredding screams in “Bite the Hand that Feeds” are intense and consistent. As the song fades out with that massive and brooding riff, I can think of no better way to end an album.

Throughout the years, Killswitch Engage have managed to tweak their sound and approach different avenues, all while maintaining their core sound. This is something most bands have difficulty achieving. However, with Adam D at the helm of production, this is evidently no issue. The guitarist is one of the most talented musicians in metal, not just for his guitar work, but also for his capabilities behind the board. The mix on Atonement is pristine and perfectly balanced. This is an album that can be listened to in twenty years and will still have a fresh and modern sound. Between the immaculate production and the solid 11 tracks, overall Atonement was another astonishing album by Killswitch Engage.

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