As Daylight Dies
illswitch Engage may not have invented today's metalcore sound, but they’ve undoubtedly perfected it. Arguably, no band is better at screamed verses, sung choruses, and melodic riffs that are really just hooks with distortion. In other words, Killswitch Engage plays metal as pop. Drop KSE's heaviness down a few notches, and you have the gazillion-selling screamo of Hawthorne Heights and Taking Back Sunday. Drop the screamed vocals, and you have Jimmy Eat World.
Teenage music, you say. And that's undeniable—this band is likely responsible for 25% of eyeliner sales at Hot Topic. But there's more to it than that—and that's why Killswitch Engage remains more engaging than the hordes of imitators. Guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel attended Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music. This training wasn't really evident on the band's self-titled debut, a competent hybrid of Swedish metal and Pantera. But 2002's Alive or Just Breathing established the band's present sound: heavy riffs, hooks for miles, and songwriting that often turned on extremely subtle complexities.
2004's The End of Heartache cemented the formula. Technically speaking, the songs were perfect. Glistening clean tones led to bone-crunching verses, which yielded to soaring choruses and dramatic bridges. "When Darkness Falls" and "Rose of Sharyn" were monster anthems that stuck in your head, despite your best efforts to keep them out. The lyrics were heartfelt, diary-grade angst—perfect for the material. Emotionally manipulative? Perhaps. Catchy as hell? Absolutely.
The band's image surprisingly doesn't match its mopefest/moshpit sound. Unlike other bands of its ilk, Killswitch Engage hasn't adopted the swoop do's or snaggle-toothed lip piercings of its fans. In interviews, the members come across as grown, if somewhat goofy, men. Dutkiewicz is the jester of the lot, often appearing onstage in Daisy Dukes and a cape, with a penchant for tripping his fellow band members.
This sense of humor appears on As Daylight Dies, at least sonically. KSE's trademarks are still present—tear-jerking hooks, thunderous snares, lyrics way too emo to be coming from grown men. But songwriting-wise, the band seems to have loosened its fashionably skinny tie. The emphasis now is less on choruses and more on riffs. "My Curse" sports a rip-snorting riff somewhere between cock rock and Pantera. Its chorus has a majestic, anthemic riff that seemingly descends from the heavens in a gleaming crib of reverb. "Unbroken" also nods to Pantera with its southern-fried cowbell. "The Arms of Sorrow" has hilariously off-kilter accents that would no doubt cause mass moshpit confusion. In general, the guitar work is freer than before, with little technical runs and pick squeals all over the place.
Oddly enough, the album is astonishingly badly sequenced. It begins seemingly in the middle of the mid-paced "Daylight Dies." A thrash throwdown follows; the album feels like it's been kicked in the back. The album then returns to a mid-paced stomp, only to be kicked in the back again by another thrash number. This lurching back and forth continues for the rest of the album. Strangely, though, this doesn't detract; the variation provides unpredictability, if not outright humor. In fact, the sequencing may actually complement the songs. Perhaps the band realized it couldn't compete with the perfect pop of its previous album, and decided to just rock out. In any case, the result is less emotionally heavy-handed, and a lot more fun.