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Better than any Killswitch Engage album for sure - 66%

Hellish_Torture, September 25th, 2015

I always had the impression that, since the early 2000s, Adam Dutkiewicz has put a bareer on his own talent in order to make more stripped down and accessible music with his main band, Killswitch Engage. Apart from being a very funny, eccentric and interesting guy under many perspectives, Adam is a really talented guitarist and an important figure for metalcore in general, both as a musician and a producer; but, honestly, even though I enjoy his past works with Aftershock, I never really liked any Killswitch Engage album from 2000 to 2009. The first two records, those with Jesse Leach as a vocalist, were a pretty mediocre, poppy and watered down version of the nascent melodic metalcore current, but the worst came when Howard Jones joined: “The End of Heartache”, “As Daylight Dies” and “Killswitch Engage” (their second self-titled album? Wow!) constitute a downward spiral of awful emo-influenced metalcore with extremely whiny vocals, tons of redundant breakdowns and overly sappy melodies, and their influence on the mid-2000s metalcore scene has been fatal. Around the end of the decade, the band seemed to have lost any hint of decency, having become a worthless commercial act which played nothing but shitty emo/pop-punk masked as “metal”. Yet, something was moving beneath.

By 2007, during a period of hospital recovery, Adam started working on some material for a new side-project. It seems that the absence of any commercial pressure (something that Killswitch Engage were constantly experiencing during those years) and the extra-amount of free time worked in favor of Dutkiewicz’s new compositions: in fact, while the new album released by Killswitch Engage in 2009 was blatantly composed of the most half-assed, mass-pandering and uninspired material of their whole career, Adam’s side-project was slowly taking shape in a more mature and thought-out manner. And, with the addition of the old Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach, it was clear that this project was clearly more ambitious in comparison to Killswitch’s modern, poppy course. So, in early 2011, Times of Grace finally saw the light with the debut “The Hymn of a Broken Man”: this album outdoes by miles anything ever done by Dutkiewicz’s main band until then, though not reaching the levels of his old works in Aftershock (after all, nowadays, that kind of metalcore is pretty much dead and buried).

This album is pretty much a mixed bag: in fact, while still possessing some severe handicaps (typical of Killswitch Engage’s trademark sound), it also contains a lot of solid, consistent and well-composed ideas; the final result is still quite flawed and obviously far from being perfect, but you can definitely feel a major effort in the composition of these songs. It seems that Dutkiewicz finally took some concrete inspiration from the amount of melodic metalcore bands that he produced during the latest decade, such as All That Remains and As I Lay Dying (which are absolutely superior acts in comparison to Killswitch Engage): in fact, the guitar melodies are definitely less poppy and saccharine than usual (though there are still some little moments of cheesiness, such as the melodic riff of “Strength in Numbers”), and Adam’s whole guitar work sounds more akin to albums such as “The Fall of Ideals” and “An Ocean Between Us”, rather than Killswitch’s usual offerings.

After the mostly weak opening track, the album’s true potential begins to shine with “Fight for Life”, which features a great crescendo of interesting melodic riffs - and miraculously, even the most technical parts (which in Killswitch Engage are usually boring and pointless) actually manage to add something to the atmosphere of the song! There’s some brilliant thrash/metalcore/melodeath riffage to be found on “Live in Love” (where the riffs acquire an unexpected level of expressivity), the title-track (where, aside from the fantastic thrash riffs, you can also experience an awesome tremolo melody) and even the beginning of “Where the Spirit Leads Me” and “Hope Remains” (the latter, ironically, sounds mostly inspired to All That Remains and Shadows Fall). Dutkiewicz’s tasty use of melody manages to enrich some songs very well, showing all the skills that this musician does possess: for example, the title-track delivers a very suggestive and gloomy intro, and also “Worlds Apart” and “Where the Spirit Leads Me” begin with very interesting guitar lines; in this regard, the breath-taking blast-beat-driven parts of “Worlds Apart” and “Live in Love” are the right place to show Dutkiewicz’s ability in terms of tapping and solos - something that even the less extreme “Hope Remains” does contain.

Unfortunately, for every great riff and every great melody, there are always some mediocre ideas which work as counterparts and keep this album away from proper solidity. Most of these songs feature the better ideas at the beginning - but as they proceed, the material usually drags down, getting unfocused and rather uninspired: it’s the case of “Willing”, which possesses some very good melodic riffs at the beginning, but sinks very fast in a lack of proper focus, going through some recycled melodies and faceless “atmospheric” choruses (though you could still find some fine melodies here and there... keep searching!); also the aforementioned “Where the Spirit Leads Me” and “Hope Remains” belong to this category.

This album, in fact, isn’t free from typical Killswitch-cliches: the opening track “Strength in Numbers”, as I mentioned before, isn’t exactly the most encouraging way to start this record, due to the excess of breakdowns, cheesy melodic ideas and cold, lifeless technical riffing. Yeah, even in Times of Grace the chugging parts often take too much space, usually also accompanied by typical Killswitch-style mechanical and dull mid-paced riffage with occasional hints of useless technicality - and these flaws don’t allow tracks such as “Worlds Apart”, “The End of Eternity” and “Until the End of Days” (despite its really cool slow riff around the third minute) to really lift off; truth be told, “Fall From Grace” possesses a potentially good mid-paced riff (something quite rare for Killswitch Engage), but hell, there is too much fucking emphasis on palm-muting even for groove/thrash standards! Another remarkable flaw is the awkward structure of some compositions: despite the amount of time that Adam supposedly took in order to develop this album, some ideas (both good and bad) sound a bit too disjointed, and the title-track in this regard gives a feeling of randomness more than once.

Another element that makes a difference on this record (both in positive and negative ways) is the outstanding amount of clean guitar parts. In Killswitch Engage this is usually one of the biggest flaws, due to the abundance of whiny, poppy melodies - but in Times of Grace, things are a bit more complicated than just labeling the whole “clean pack” as pinky sugar-pop silliness. There are plenty of clean arpeggios throughout these songs, and their distribution in the songwriting is surely more “audacious” in comparison to most Killswitch Engage tunes; with great surprise, there are a lot of great melodic ideas even in this department, as well as a good number of other bad ones. There are some arpeggios which are simply inconsistent and unexpressive (“Willing”, “Until the End of Days”, the title-track, “Hope Remains”), some others are just cheesy and saccharine in the typical Killswitch Suckage vein (“Where the Spirit Leads Me”)... and, then, there are songs like “The End of Eternity”, where Adam is finally able to give a meaning and a consistency to the use of clean arpeggios, overcoming by far the standards of his main band. It seems that the main aim of this album is to create a sort of vast and desolate atmosphere (as suggested by the artwork and the bandphoto), and the clean/acoustic guitars strive to work in this direction, sometimes with unexpectedly brilliant results for Dutkiewicz’s standards: “In the Arms of Mercy” is a beautiful instrumental that manages to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere, thanks to an excellent taste in terms of chord progressions and perfectly placed additional notes, while “The Forgotten One” is a very nice track that dares even to experiment with southern/country influences and features a very fine acoustic guitar work, properly accompanied by some fitting vocal lines performed by Jesse.

And speaking about Jesse... he’s another of the most controversial elements of this album. He’s clearly better than Howard, which is one of the whiniest metalcore vocalists I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter: however, the only real problem are the vocal lines that Jesse has to sing. While, on the first three tracks, you realize with surprise that most of these clean sections aren’t really all that bad and there isn’t so much whining to be found, songs like “Where the Spirit Leads Me” and the title-track are filled with horrible vocal lines that resemble the painful emo-friendly style of “The End of Heartache” and “As Daylight Dies” (even though, if sung by Jesse, it sounds slightly more bearable in comparison to Howard’s downright awful performance) - ruining even the excellent melodic riffage of “Live in Love” and hitting the rock bottom in the blatant BFMV-ripoff that you can find on “Hope Remains” (yeah, the members of an already disastrous band like Killswitch Engage ripped off an even more disastrous act). Even when they’re not deliberately awful, most of these clean vocals are just very “run-of-the-mill” and not very expressive, and you even wonder what to really think of them. Another big flaw is that many vocal lines sound quite disconnected from the rest of the music, and as a result you feel disoriented even during some musically good moments (for example, some of the best ideas of “Willing” and “Hope Remains”).

All these elements mixed together make of “The Hymn of a Broken Man” a very tough album to judge. As you should have guessed by reading this review, every song possesses many different facets in both good and bad ways. Probably, Adam has put more effort on this album than on any previous Killswitch Engage release, experimenting with different influences (some people even mentioned “post-rock”), creating in many songs a better melodic mosaic in comparison to most Killswitch hits, and showing his instrumental/compositional skills even to the most diffident listeners (myself included, I admit); however, the famous guitarist/producer still needs to leave behind, once for all, the shitty cliches that plagued every single release on which he played since 2000 - maybe just excluding the later Aftershock stuff, which was still pretty solid. In the end, this is a very interesting effort, but there are still many flaws to fix in order to obtain an entirely listenable release. However, this side-project has been very helpful to Killswitch Engage’s health as well: few time later, after Howard left, Jesse came back in the band and they released “Disarm the Descent”, which represents a massive improvement over the previous Killswitch albums (especially the most recent ones). Coincidence? I think not.

Times of Grace debut is a fantastic find! - 85%

EmFarlam, November 1st, 2012

With the current guitarist and former vocalist of Killswitch Engage, you wouldn’t expect Jesse Leech and Adam Dutkiewicz to come together to create the metalcore duo Times of Grace. Even though I’ve heard of this particular side project for while, it was only a few weeks ago when I finally decided to listen to their debut album, ‘The Hymn of a Broken Man’ (Roadrunner).

After listening to this album, I was pretty impressed. Leech and Dutkiewicz have managed to keep their metal-ness intact, but have introduced many non-metal influences, which in my opinion, has really filled out the overall sound for the better. As Dutkiewicz said so himself on his Myspace, Times of Grace was ‘an epic mix of Metal/Rock/Pop/Shoe gaze & Punk. All of your metal expectations will be incorrect, we are pushing genre boundaries!’ Indeed, any expectations that these two rocking dudes would not do well proved to be incorrect. Even though their debut’s release was delayed until January 2011, they ranked #44 on Billboard’s 200, selling more than 10,000 copies.

Overall, I thought The Hymn of a Broken Man was a strong debut. Being a vocalist and guitarist-in-training, I pay attention to how the vocals and guitars of any band sound, and I must say: I liked it. A lot. Jesse Leach really did showcase his pipes well, despite doubts in his skills, and proved his screamed and clean vocals could both be strong and emotional. It did sound like he was pushing it at some points during the album, although it could just be the style/sound he was going for. Not a big deal. Also, during ‘The End of Eternity’, his screamed vocals just ever so slightly reminded me of the vocals found on Converge’s album ‘Petitioning the Empty Sky’. Just slightly.

I also found that while the guitar parts in the album were very technical, they had personality. Lots and lots of personality! A lot of skilled guitarists, especially in the more extreme subgenres of metal fall into the ‘lifeless technicality’ category - they’re good, but with no emotion. Good job for keeping it real.

These guys must’ve been asking, “What would Iron Maiden or Avenged Sevenfold do?“ for the first song of the album, Strength in Numbers really showcased their more heavy, aggressive sound. The duo really let their metal and punk influences shine, and overall I think it was composed well. On the other side of the spectrum, both musicians allowed their more acoustic and clean side come out in ‘The Forgotten One’ and ‘In the Arms of Mercy‘. Not many songs can make me tear up, but these can. Good job guys!

For me though, their title song, ‘The Hymn of a Broken Man’ truly summed up the album’s sound into one song. With softer and more aggressive dynamics, along with solid effort in all the musical areas, these guys really succeeded in making great music. Despite this, the songs on this LP do sound akin to one another, which may or may not be a good thing. Personally I don’t mind, since Leech and Dutkiewicz are both well-established musicians…but, I’m going to give them MORE kudos anyways for making each song catchy in some way, without making it super cheesy or poppy. Do you not realize how rare that is nowadays?!

Again, solid debut album. With great vocals, technical, personable guitars and a strong rhythm section, both Duekiewicz and Leach have both put out a ton of musical effort and it’s paid off. I’d definitely go out and buy the album if I had my own income. You know what? So should you.

Rating: 8.5/10
Artists You Might Also Like: Mutiny Within, Avenged Sevenfold, Soilwork, Bullet For My Valentine

A Splendid Reunion - 95%

Fitzkrieg24, October 15th, 2011

Alive or Just Breathing, the second album by Killswitch Engage and the last featuring vocalist Jesse Leach, is considered to be one of the defining albums of the modern metalcore scene. Combining melody and violence, many consider this album to be the highlight of Killswitch Engage’s career. Times of Grace finds Leach reuniting with guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz for their debut effort, Hymn of a Broken Man, which manages to not only be an outstanding album, but the best this pair has had to offer since Alive or Just Breathing.

The sound of this album is very tight, clean and reeks of Dutkiewicz’s style. Switching between melodic riffs and the occasional breakdown or solo, song structure on Hymn of a Broken Man is familiar. Where the album’s songs really shine, however, is the willingness to break away from many of the clichés of metalcore and experiment with some different musical styles, namely post-rock. Some songs, like The Forgotten One, may even leave you wondering if you are listening to a metalcore album at all. These moments are rare, but can leave the listener impressed by the chances that Times of Grace are willing to take. By utilizing post-rock elements, Times of Grace creates some truly beautiful music and goes outside of the box that metalcore as a genre seems to have insulated itself in while still maintaining a strong balance between the melody and heaviness that defines it.

Dutkiewicz plays every instrument on the album, and his status as a Renaissance man of modern metal is cemented here. His drumming and bass playing are very solid, although not revolutionary. They provide a solid rhythm while tossing in a few surprises, such as the use of blast beats in Hope Remains. That being said, Dutkiewicz truly shines on the instrument he is most known for, the guitar. His riffs are memorable and skillful, frequently shifting between Gothenburg-inspired riffs, like in Worlds Apart, and ones that are more groove driven, like in Fight for Life. While that is part of Dutkiewicz’s signature style, what truly makes his playing on this album special is the aforementioned post-rock elements. On songs like Fall from Grace, one can feel the raw emotion conveyed through the many layers of guitar that I personally have never felt from a metalcore song before. In short, his guitar work is masterful. Dutkiewicz even provides strong backup vocals on many songs, further displaying his talents.

Where the vocals truly impress, however, is in the performance of Leach. From soaring clean vocals to very harsh growls, Leach has actually managed to improve his singing abilities since he left Killswitch Engage. One only needs to listen to Live in Love to be floored by Leach’s ability to switch from ferocity to splendor in the blink of an eye. He’s that good. In addition to the actual singing, Leach provides the lyrics for Hymn of a Broken Man. The uplifting lyrical themes of positivity through struggle and solving social problems that are present in Alive or Just Breathing are here as well. Although familiar topics, the lyrical content matches the music so well that it is difficult to complain about any feelings of déjà vu one may have while listening to this album.

Hymn of a Broken Man is a truly impressive effort. As a fan of both Dutkiewicz and Leach, I believed that any collaboration between the two would be solid, but they have managed to surpass all previous achievements through Times of Grace. Whether it is the experimental elements that differentiates them or the musical prowess that puts them ahead of others in the genre, Times of Grace has something to offer any fan of Killswitch Engage or metalcore in general.

Times of Grace - Hymn Of A Broken Man - 90%

tcgjarhead, October 9th, 2011

I will admit that I am a HUGE fan of Jesse Leach. Whether its his time spent in Killswitch Engage, his current band The Empire Shall Fall, or this side project with Killswitch guitarist Adam D, I love it all. And lets face it, this is probably the closest we will ever get to a proper Alive Or Just Breathing lineup reunion. So all that being said I was obviously excited to hear this album was coming out.

The influences on this album are kind of curious. We have an almost experimental modern metal(core) album steeped in Killswitch Engage like riffs. Now it was obviously going to happen that this album would either sound like KsE or get compared to it but it also stands on its own merits.

But where the guys really shine is when they mix dissonance with beauty. The two most obvious songs that we are presented with in this style are Until the End of Days and The End of Eternity. Both songs start off with a nice soft and slow intro but then out of no where Leach's tortured vocals rip through the song and the heavier riffs kick in. I have to congratulate the fellas on their ability to create songs where it flows so well from one form of music to another. I mean the songs literally go from beautiful instrumentals with clean vocals to just sounding ugly, and I mean that in the best way possible.

There are even a few more out of the ordinary songs here as well. Adam does a lot of the vocals on the album as well and its really showcased in his duet with Jesse in the acoustic song The Forgotten One. Then we have the instrumental In the Arms of Mercy that should sound familiar to anyone who has heard any of the Killswitch albums that have the instrumental tracks on them.

You have to give Adam credit both in his ability to add vocally to the album and mainly to the riffs he wrote. I mean whatever you may say about the guy you cant say that he doesn't write catchy tunes. Every song is melodic beyond belief and that's perfectly fine with me. Nothing here gets heavier than you would expect Adam to write but I don't think that's what they had in mind with the music on Hymn of A Broken Man.

Jesse did a wonderful job here. He shreds his voice in the harsher moments and croons when the music calls for it. The songs both vocally and musically seem to be split between uplifting and angry and it really shows through in the vox department. Its impressive how he can go from singing something really beautifully to sounding borderline demonic.

Hymn of A Broken Man is a wonderful effort by two titans of the metalcore scene. Its stunning in both its ability to shift from being pleasing to the ear to making you want to head bang. Adam also did the rest of the parts on the album including drumming and bass and while neither of these are anything to write home about it shows his skills as a musician. This album easily stands up against anything either of these fellas have put out so far in their careers.

Originally written @ http://abaddonsmetalshop.blogspot.com/

A worthy successor to Alive or Just Breathing - 96%

Goatfangs, January 19th, 2011

Killswitch Engage is a band that some love and some hate. I'm in the former category, but even I recognize that the band had a dip in quality after Jesse Leach left the band. Howard Jones is not a bad singer by any means but he does not quite match up to the mastery of Leach's singing and growls. Alive or Just Breathing was a masterpiece that Killswitch Engage never quite lived up to with wonderful songs like My Last Serenade, The Element of One, Just Barely Breathing and Rise Inside. On that album there was a masterful mix of melody and heaviness, the marriage of melodic death metal and metalcore, clean and harsh vocals and catchy songs was perfected. Since Alive or Just Breathing, countless bands have tried to emulate its style but have failed, mainly because they focus too much on the breakdowns, or too much on the emotional vocals that come across as disturbingly pre-pubescent. Until now. Alive or Just Breathing has just found its equal. It is difficult to say of The Hymn of a Broken Man is better than Alive or Just Breathing, but after fifteen straight listens in the past two days this album has had the same impact as when I first listened to Alive or Just Breathing.

On The Hymn of a Broken Man we get essentially a very Killswitch Engage style of music, but less emphasis on the hardcore. I don't hear very many breakdowns as they are used sparingly. When they appear they move the song along with a catchy groove and don't sound like they are placed there for the sake of ninja-kicks and retard flailing in a mosh-pit. There is also quite a bit of experimentation on this album, especially with post-rock. The guitar work of Adam Dutkiewicz ranges from the melodic metalcore style he does so well (From Aftershock to Killswitch Engage, his style is distinct and recognizable) to very melodic, acoustic and relaxed parts. One big factor in what makes this album so great are the leads - and the solos! The solos are intricate and full of melody with a very uplifting feel. The production reminds me of Killswitch Engage's most recent album, very polished and everything comes through clear. The riffs themselves are quite varied, with tremolo picked riffs, or tight grooves that are accented with a pinch-harmonic squeal, but also some arpeggios and quite a bit of experimentation. Post-rock and shoegaze is used in a subtle way to enhance the atmosphere, this is most apparent in songs like Until the End of Days, The End of Eternity and The Forgotten One. The experiments don't get in the way of the flow of the songs and never sound pretentious. One of my favorite uses of these experiments is the ethereal tremolo picked riff in the background of Fight for Life that reminds me of an underground atmospheric post-rock/shoegaze project called Nyktalgia.

The drumming on this album is solid and well-done. It is tightly locked with the music but it doesn't just provide a rhythmic background, it is varied and intricate. There is a blast-beat used along with a tremolo riff in Hope Remains that builds up to the soaring chorus with both amazing leads and wonderful vocals.

The vocals. That is the elephant in the room I've avoided talking about until now. The singing and growls of Jesse Leach is easily the prime reason why this album is so great. The riff writing and song structures were all Adam Dutkiewicz, but the lyrics and vocals, how everything is performed in that regard, is all Jesse Leach. This is a reunion of the two primary forces that made Alive or Just Breathing so great. Jesse Leach does a fair amount of growling, they sound almost exactly like his growls on the first two Killswitch Engage albums. His singing since then has vastly improved as there is a wider variety in style. Whenever his vocals soar it is very uplifting and there is not a single flaw in his performance. The lyrics are also characteristically Jesse Leach as well, as in the Killswitch Engage albums he sang on they deal with positivity and overcoming adversity, but also dealing with uniting mankind and living with love for everyone. Compare Live in Love with Vida Infra. Compare Strength in Numbers to Rise Inside. Compare Hope Remains to The Element of One. You get the point. There is also quite a bit of words about faith and Christianity, which was the case in the first two Killswitch Engage albums, and like those recordings they are never pretentious or preachy.

Adam Dutkiewicz is one of my favorite guitarists but he even admits he isn't too great in the vocals or lyrics department. Jesse Leach is one of my favorite vocalists but his work on Seemless and The Empire Shall Fall in the years since his departure from Killswitch Engage never quite had the same impact as Alive or Just Breathing. As with the first two albums, the pairing of Adam D. and Jesse Leach created something that is more than the sum of its parts. The Hymn of a Broken Man is an uplifting masterpiece and an excellent way to ring in 2011. It contains modern production and experimentation with plenty of nostalgic elements that hark back to when I first got into metal and Alive or Just Breathing was the album I was obsessed with back in those days. Saying it is for fans of Killswitch Engage is no stretch at all.