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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.