The kings of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (NWOAHM) are back and make no mistake, not only are they firing on all cylinders, they sound more vital and hungry than ever. A new Killswitch Engage record is always special but this one just had something extra about it before even hearing a note. The stunning artwork as well is easily the best to grace one of their albums courtesy of Richey Beckett and definitely adds to the different vibe around Atonement.
After a marriage of 16 years ending and going to the lowest place he has ever been mentally then having vocal problems which delayed the completion of the sessions, vocalist Jesse Leach had a lot to say and a fuck load of fire behind it and boy, does it show! Leach has always been one of the best singers in Metal anyway but here he is better than ever.
‘Unleashed’ kicks off proceedings and there really is no other track that could have started things off. Not since ‘A Bid Farewell’ from 2004’s HUGE The End of Heartache has there been a more obvious opener and call to arms. You can literally hear Leach purging his soul through the vocals and the lyrics are stunning, warning that “you’ve unleashed the wild within”. Musically this track has everything that the band has in their arsenal except how well they can thrash. So to ‘The Signal Fire’ which is just a monster and will be many peoples favourite straight off. Leach trades off with the man who replaced him and then, in turn replaced, the mighty Howard Jones who again, is one of the finest vocalists to ever pick up a microphone in heavy music. I suggest watching the video for this song at once! That guitar solo…
Jones and Leach have always sounded pretty close with all facets of their voice and the hiring of Jones as Leaches replacement way back in 2002 was an inspired choice but on this album it has really struck me how much closer Leach sounds to Jones and ‘Us Against the World’, it’s uncanny. This track showcases some sublime vocal harmonies and some more melodic guitar work from the ever underrated pairing of Adam D. and Joel Stroetzel.
‘The Crownless King’ gets the pace thrashing again and features the ever unbelievable vocals of Chuck Billy, more precisely the ridiculously awesome Death Metal end of his voice. This track had better be aired live and hopefully Adam D. does Chuck’s parts as his own Death Metal voice needs more air time although his lows are peppered throughout Atonement.
‘I Am Broken Too’ is simply gorgeous and at less than three minutes long leaves you wanting more. ‘As Sure as the Sun Will Rise’ features some great clean vocals from Adam D. and Leach in a trade off in the chorus that will not leave my head alone as well as the main riff.
‘Know Your Enemy’ is perfect example of how to show the Parkway Drives, As I Lay Dying’s and August Burn Reds of this world that KsE are still Metalcore’s undisputed champs. It is heavier than a truck load of rhinos. ‘Take Control’ has one of the best guitar solos you will hear all year and is a solid track with very poignant lyrics. Ravenous is super chunky and speedy all in its two and a half minutes run time and if aired live will sound huge and fans of Leach’s high end screams will enjoy this one.
Then we come to the album’s penultimate cut in ‘I Can’t Be the Only One’ and I would actually have loved for them to have done the duet with Howard on this one as I can hear him all over it, perhaps because it harks back to the kind of material they would have recorded during his tenure. Rather stunning.
To close out the record, they have chosen the albums longest track in ‘Bite the Hand That Feeds’. It thrashes and rages from the off and then half way through goes into a Pantera like groove half way through before kicking off again. This is perhaps the most the band have ever sounded like early In Flames, one of their big influences. Then it closes out on a lumbering and weighty breakdown which fades out. Interestingly, there is no clean vocals and hooky chorus, just pure aggression to close, nice touch.
So in just under 40 minutes, done. It’s a really heavy record, and therefore the run time is perfect. Speaking of perfection, Andy Sneap was given the task of mixing all 11 tracks and he nails it but when does he not.
Third album with Leach back and like the creature on the cover, it is an absolute beast!