REVIEW: Killswitch Engage – Alive Or Just Breathing
Band: Killswitch Engage
Album: Alive Or Just Breathing
Back in 2002, a relatively unknown metalcore band from Massachusetts released their sophomore album through RoadRunner Records. Unfortunately the band appear to have fallen from grace since. However, this album is still being quoted today as one of the finest moments in metal history, and rightly so. Whilst retaining the aggression from their first album, Killswitch Engage have also included more melodic elements and variety on this release, with some impressive results.
Comparing this band’s debut and sophomore album, it is astonishing how far this band has improved. Granted, there is still the pounding metalcore,but the band have tightened and branched out their sound. This diversity becomes evident in songs like “My Last Serenade” withits relaxing harp intro and “Just Barely Breathing” with its use of tremolo in the pre-chorus. The inclusion of acoustic interludes is used as an effective contrast, especially in the build-up to the rumbling anthem “Rise Inside”.
It is impossible to speak of Killswitch Engage without giving due attention to its vocalist, the versatile Jesse Leach. From just one man come the high-pitched shrieks, shouts, guttural growls, whispers, and clean vocals upon which the album rests. Leach is an incredibly passionate performer and lyricist; his lyrical topics cover life’s positive and negative aspects, ranging from unity and compassion to a wake-up call directed at those who are “just breathing” rather than truly living. The line “No-one is placed higher than another/No matter race or creed or gender” from Vide Infra is a personal favorite.
Despite diversifying their sound, Killswitch Engage have also tightened it as mentioned.The production has been kicked up a notch, and the muddy guitars of the debut now sound crisp and polished. Fans of the lo-fi production may not like this, but I believe it enhances the experience. Being able to hear the bass and drums accurately makes all the difference, and everything unites together in harmony. Even the songs taken from the debut have been given this makeover, and accurately show the transition that the band has made.
In short, Killswitch Engage have made an enormous leap from their debut to create an impressive lasting album that is well worth checking out. If you like groovy metalcore with tight musicianship and thought-provoking lyrics, then I highly recommend this release.
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