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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.