When you think of the bands that helped propel modern metalcore in the spotlight, one of the first bands to come to mind is probably Killswitch Engage. Their strong thrash elements helped them cross over with more traditional metal fans, but the focus on rhythm and chug-heavy riffs helped launch a genre. Incarnate marks the band’s seventh full-length release, and your enjoyment of it will depend on your tolerance for more of the same. [columns] [column size=”1/3″]
Album Title: Incarnate
Release Date: 11 March 2016
Playing Time: 00:53:20 (Deluxe Edition)
Label: Roadrunner Records
Killswitch Engage do a lot of things right on Incarnate. The riffs are nonstop and lightning fast, the screaming is superb – not only has frontman Jesse Leach not lost a beat, but several songs feature even deeper death metal style backup screams – and a couple songs veer into a relatively new territory for the band and feature straight up old-school hardcore. Tracks like “Strength of The Mind” are ferocious the entire way through and hint at something really special if the band choose to adopt more of these throwback songs in the future. Additionally, “The Great Deceit” may be the best thrash song in KSE’s arsenal. It’s familiar territory, but they attack harder than ever and the results are amazing.
Unfortunately, most of the album drags through a formula of heavy verses (sometimes thrashy and fast, sometimes slow and sludgy), a bridge that consists of a breakdown, and huge, arena-metal choruses. This would be fine if the hooks backed the songs up, but more often than not they don’t. The verses are usually decent, but on a 12 track album, having 9 songs with choruses that are almost indistinguishable is an unforgivable mistake, especially for a band of KSE’s caliber. There’s nothing wrong with any of the individual songs per se – “Alone I Stand” brings to mind Howard Jones’s time in the band and features a really killer offset rhythm between the riff and the vocals, “Just Let Go” is classic KSE, lead single “Hate By Design” has a traditional but very catchy chorus hook, and “Until The Day” has a beast of a riff that any band should be proud of – but put them all together and Incarnate occasionally feels like a chore to listen to all at once.
If you happen to really love the trademark Killswitch Engage sound, you’ll probably still like Incarnate, but it still ranks as their weakest release to date. [Author’s Note: The deluxe edition features 3 additional tracks: “Reignite,” “Triumph Through Tragedy,” and “Loyalty.” The first 2 are better than any song on the standard version and feature more of the hardcore sound explored on “Strength of the Mind.” If you want to give the album a shot, I highly recommend picking up this version. “Reignite” is strong enough to bump the entire album up a point just by itself.]