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Solid Incarnation - 80%

Petrus_Steele, September 5th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Roadrunner Records (Special edition, Digipak)

Three years after a wild return by Jesse and the band returning to their new and improved roots (if that made any sense), they dropped Incarnate, with quite the colorful album cover by Mike. It's variably long with the extra bonus tracks, but quantity over quality doesn't work in this case. Surely there's a lot more music to listen, yet this album in a way almost feels like a letdown, but not as bad as the self-retitled album with Howard, or the overrated The End of Heartache. As a matter of fact, Jesse himself never really disappointed with whatever music he released, and Incarnate is no exception - just slightly declining from Disarm the Descent. The album in one way is atmospheric and well-written, while it's also very fast in comparison to any of the albums the band recorded thus far.

Alone I Stand has a short, distorted guitar noise until the music kicks in. Off the bat, the production sounds like an improvement from Disarm the Descent. The guitars, the bass especially, and the drums sound on point. The melodies in the chorus remind me of As Daylight Dies, while Jesse's clean vocals sound like it's from Alive or Just Breathing. The song's progression is nothing to speak about. Very unique opening track for an album and I wished I've realized this earlier. Oh yeah, the outro slow riff sounds incredibly good! Now for another famous song, though at least has quality: the catchy and fun, melodic song that is Strength of the Mind. Overwhelmingly melodic, yet done right. Now for the best song on the album and another one of the band's top 10 songs: Embrace the Journey... Upraised combines the hardcore and heaviness Alive or Just Breathing created, with blast beats, ravishing bass lines like in the intro and verses, catchy and crushing riffage in the verses, and Jesse and Adam just lashing some great screaming and death growls for the majority of the song, while in the chorus, bridge, and outro giving you chills down your spines. The live version is just as good, and not to forget how Jesse wrote the lyrics down very astoundingly. Proudly one of his best lyrics, in my opinion. It's also one of the band's longest songs. FINALLY, another fast, with some heavy-slow layers, Ascension is yet ANOTHER track done right. The chorus being MADLY catchy and fun - and Mike almost ripping the strings off his bass, as Adam delivering some ferocious death growls. The song also got a great outro breakdown.

I thought for a second Just Let Go would be a very self-retitled based song by the sound of its melody, but thankfully that didn't end up being the case, and the song's beautifully melodic progression from the guitars AND from Jesse sounded powerful, not to mention Adam's vocals during the bridge. It Falls on Me, like the last track I mentioned, hit a new standard within the band. This one is pretty atmospheric, whilst very heavy, powerful, breathtaking, and well-fucking-written. The bridge is one of the best parts I've ever heard from Jesse's clean vocals, accompanied by the striking bass notes. The song concludes with a devastating breakdown. We Carry On is the most atmospheric song. It's as simple as that. Another song that's done right to give the album more texture. And also Adam singing in the bridge.

I guess one of the band's favorite songs to play from this album, Hate by Design is very heavy, catchy, yet the vocals sound like it belongs to popular music and the structure is quite predictable. Unfortunately, even the death growls weren't that good for this song. Cut Me Loose's riffs are rather atmospheric in a way, but as the song progresses into its melodic chorus, it sounds too good for a radio song. The outro breakdown was rather pointless. At least the bridge's melodies sounded great, though not for this song. Quite Distress and Until the Day are two fast songs that feature a fantastic bass performance, but they overall sounds pretty simple. The Great Deceit was pretty bad. It's heavy, fast, got death growls, glowering bass, and proper drumming, but it sounded quite repetitive and unoriginal.

As for the three bonus tracks: Reignite sounds like it belongs on the band's self-titled debut. However, it sounds very heavy and melodically catchy. The hardcore essence can get annoying as it resembles a lot of the ACTUAL hardcore music more - and this is the first time I'm actually noticing this. Overall, I wasn't disappointed. Great riffage and another great breakdown. Triumph Through Tragedy was instrumentally generic, but Adam takes the cake (or should I say pizza) for his death growls. That was pretty amazing, yet the song itself was pointless. Loyalty starts brutal, but progresses into fine melodies. Jesse sounds great one last time for this record, and the bridge is not only catchy but very heavy all the way to the breakdown. Mike one last time, too, sounds amazing.

I gotta say, I thought I would be very disappointed like I've had the first time I listened to this record, but as it turns out some things require another long and/or thorough listen in order to be fully determined. I gave Incarnate another chance and was happy with the end result. In one way, this album is a fine successor, yet brought enough things to make this a complete sequel to Disarm the Descent. But on the other hand, it stood fine on its own and during its recordings. And knowing I'm not disappointed as I once was, Killswitch Engage found their pattern once again with Jesse and are on the right track. Perhaps that's what this album's title means.

So as you can tell, this album has its ups and downs as it's progressing through the more faster songs, but lifts itself when it hits the quality songs and manages to use two bonus tracks as a booster - or in a more fine matter: these two bonus tracks should've been on the main tracklist and replace Cut Me Loose and Until the Day for being two bad songs, in my opinion. Most of the songs here are awesome, but what stood out the most are Alone I Stand, Just Let Go, Embrace the Journey... Upraised, It Falls on Me, We Carry On, and Ascension.

The Godfathers of metalcore claiming their throne - 85%

Vaim, April 21st, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Roadrunner Records

The often dubbed “godfathers of metalcore” Killswitch Engage just released their 7th studio album Incarnate, the second since Jesse Leach is back on vocals. I’ve been a huge fan of them since their first release Alive or Just Breathing and was one of those that were all too happy about him coming back home. After the rather impressive Disarm the Descent, I was looking forward to figuring out if they’d continue on this path or even surpass themselves. Especially since this is the first album that Jesse was working on with the group from start to finish again.

The album starts with a quiet intro that slowly increases in volume and after about half a minute Alone I Stand kicks in properly with a lot of the energy Killswitch Engage is well known for. An energy that doesn’t let go until the end of the almost one hour record. There are some lower tempo, more emotional songs and there are some really heavy hitters, but that infectious drive drags you in every single one of them. The combination of extreme metal under the form of melodic death metal and hardcore is clearly a recipe for success in their hands! Personally I think the heaviest songs on the record could convince even a lot of metalheads with a dislike to metalcore. For people that have known these guys for awhile already, this won’t be a very new experience though. One thing that does immediately catches your attention, is what Jesse does here on the vocals. His clean singing feels way stronger and controlled, his grunts and growls are vicious and dirty. It shows most definitely the progress this guy made since the band’s first effort and how wide and versatile the capacity of his voice is.

As always lyrically they handle emotions and personal feelings or struggles, but somehow they manage to find the positive in even the darkest thoughts. Like in Strength of the Mind in which he doesn’t deny all his negative thoughts during past depressions, but tells us that we can overcome them and use them to become stronger (“gather all your pain and suffering, turn them into strength and weaponry”). I really love how they can put a positive spin to things like that. Another song that follows this trend and is the centerpiece of the record, is Embrace the Journey… Upraised, one of my personal favorites. Songs like this just call out to me and can strengthen me even in the most difficult times.

One thing that is very much different on this record, is that Jesse this time also spoke out on some current affairs. He’s not literally saying what shit has gone wrong, he still leaves it up to you to fill in the blanks, but he makes some clear statements on society. There’s Alone I Stand, in which I understand his feeling of disconnection with the present system and is just a killer opening track. Followed by Hate By Design, another one of my favorites, in which Jesse took inspiration especially from systematic racism in politics and police brutality, or so he told Loudwire in an interview. Lastly The Great Deceit he voices his frustration with the injustice, lies and cover-ups caused by our leaders. These songs remind me of the frustration with the system and society that used to be voiced by the hardcore scene in the past. I really hope that in future releases they continue to every now and then use their hardcore roots like this!

This is a very simple and clear cut thing to give an opinion about: you’re a fan of Killswitch Engage? You can go get this release with your eyes closed… If you’re not a fan yet, still give them a try, I’m pretty sure they’re going to convince you! And if the record is not enough, try to catch them at a live show, the energy and passion of Jesse and his gang will pull you over to their side. They pretty much showed all their peers how it’s done, metalcore bands all over the world, you are owned.

originally published on www.grimmgent.com

Stillborn. - 25%

hells_unicorn, August 4th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Roadrunner Records

Miscarriages can take a number of different forms, from the grotesquely incomplete, to the pristine and full formed yet still lifeless. Generally only the most masochistic of music haters will knowingly spend a great deal of time consuming the sonic equivalent of the first category, but there is a healthy number that can gorge themselves on the latter variety and even claim it to be a tasty treat. This isn't necessarily to say that Killswitch Engage's entire musical career has been an exercise in processing and polishing excrement, as they've even managed to write a decent song here and there, but they've been in a noticeable funk since Howard Jones went his own way. Thus stands Incarnate, the second offering with original vocalist Jesse Leach back in the fold, and all the power and pizzazz of an All That Remains album, or for the uninitiated, a sterile hybrid of dumbed down In Flames influences, hypnotic breakdowns and hyper-repetitive pop punk choruses.

Just about everything that occurs on this album feels woefully forced, as if there is no enthusiasm behind the emo-tinged confessional character this tries to exhibit and the band just copied all the definitions from the proverbial dictionary of metalcore. Sometimes there will be a decent idea that will get a 15-20 second spot in the sun, such as that punchy thrash riffing section during the chorus of "Embrace The Journey...Upraised", but it'll just fizzle into a plodding chug like a sprinter getting his legs cut out from under him. There's several decent ideas floating around this entire song, which proves to be the most dynamic and inspired of the bunch (falling just shy of recent Soilwork territory), but nothing manages to punch the plod of the rhythm section and the grating vocals. In essence, Jesse Leach is this band's biggest liability, as his overly processed yet gimpy vocals pollute the occasional moments of glory achieved in every single song and only ratchets up the awkwardness when breakdowns come calling.

The slavishness to radio-oriented songwriting and whiny vocals is not unique to just a couple songs here and there, but permeates every single moment of this thing's thankfully moderate duration. This band literally writes the book on how to write a solid verse riff and then ruin the rest of the song with clashing ideas, and the longer a song goes, the worse it tends to get. Probably the only thing on here that could maybe pass for a decent piece of work is "Until The Day", which goes much easier on the breakdowns, throws in a solid speed metal riff and some fun sounding guitar harmonies, and could almost pass for something off In Flames' Colony but with clean vocals added to the mix. Another reasonably solid riff monster is the groove thrashing "The Great Deceit", which also keeps things relatively quick and occasionally sounds like current Symphony X, though the vocals drag it down. But just about everywhere there is a decent idea on the rise, there are three or four bad ones ready to supplant it.

As stated previously, this is an album that can appear reasonably solid at first glance and takes time to show its true colors if one tends to like metalcore. The primary thing that would make an album like this appealing is the extremely crisp and pristine production quality, which by the standards of this style is just about flawless. As much as songwriting is woefully stagnant and the vocals are weak, it's easy to tell that literally every modern piece of studio magic was thrown in to make this plodder sound as good as it possibly could have sounded. But it is ultimately an empty shell of what metal is when it is on point, and even someone that took to this band's earlier works will find a band that is going through the motions here with no accounting for staying power. This is an album that will likely be forgotten in a year, and the author of this review is already working to forget it quicker still.

Metal Incarnate: KSE Delivers Satisfying 7th Album - 72%

qJukeZach, March 14th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Roadrunner Records (Special edition, Digipak)

Oh boy. Metalcore, the blend of metal and hardcore, has polarized listeners since the genre’s widespread popularity increase in the late 90’s and at the turn of the millennium. The genre has been praised for its addictive concoction of breakdowns, hard-hitting riffs, and melodic choruses while being scolded for its controversial fan-base, bad representation of metal as a whole, and saturation of the market. So, what happens when New England metalcore legends, Killswitch Engage, come up into topic? You guessed it: a whole lot of debate.

Incarnate is the seventh release by Killswitch Engage and the second release since the departure of Howard Jones in early 2012. The album sees the return of founding vocalist Jesse Leach, Mike D’Antonio on bass, Adam D on guitar, Joel Stroetzel on guitar, and Justin Foley behind the drums. Unfortunately for me the band’s last album, Disarm the Descent, was a HUGE disappointment. Not only did it sound like it was recorded through a flip-phone’s voice recorder but Jesse Leach sounded atrocious. Going into my first listen, I brought the same expectations I brought into Disarm the Descent which had me hoping for the brutality of Jesse’s penultimate Alive or Just Breathing combined with Howard Jones-era melody. What I got was (almost) just what I was looking for.

To start, Incarnate sounds good. The production is fantastic and Jesse sounds absolutely amazing. His highs and lows strike beautifully and in perfect synchronicity with the songs. While not the deep underbelly call of Howard Jones that was enough to make Colossus shed a tear, Leach improves his performance tenfold with his most notable performances being in “Alone I Stand” and “Cut Me Loose”. It goes without saying that the dual guitars of Adam D and Joel Stroetzel are absolutely perfect. Every solo is played and created with the utmost care and creativity with each one fitting each song like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. In terms of lyrical content, it’s exactly what you’d expect. Songs of internal strife, broken relationships, and the meaning of life are present in every song on the album.

That’s where my problems come with this album. It’s repetitive and exactly what you’d expect. Yes, it’s instrumentally good. Yes, the production’s great. However, after the 6th track, “Embrace the Journey…Upraised”, I thought I was listening to a half hour long song. The album definitely rides on the strength of their singles which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because those singles rock. “Alone I Stand” and “Cut Me Loose” were my favorite tracks on the album due to the addictive choruses and heavy riffs.

TL;DR: Incarnate is a great addition to the KSE library but fails to deliver the same impact as their Howard Jones-era albums. On the topic of technicalities such as instrument playing, production, and vocals, Killswitch Engage, delivers a stunning album that is soured by repetitiveness.