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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.