In the late 1990’s, two bands named OVERCAST and AFTERSHOCK fell apart, and from their remains rose a new band named KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. The newly-formed band started to write music together and of those first songs built their first album, the self-titled “Killswitch Engage.” The music was written when the band was still a three-piece, with singer Jesse Leach joining the group after they already had some material ready.
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE have been pioneers of metalcore from its early stages, and one if its biggest, most influential bands. The debut album blends different elements from metal, hardcore, and even some characteristics from melodic death metal and the Gothenburg sound.
The album was produced by the band’s heart and soul, Adam Dutkiewicz, and was released through an independent label called Ferret Music. Oftentimes the first album can offer material that the band then builds off and goes on to produce more refined and mature work. This is very much the case with this record. Although lacking in refinement, the debut album managed to garner interest from other labels and soon the band were signed to Roadrunner Records.
Singer Jesse Leach’s screaming sounds wild, aggressive, and very distorted. No wonder his voice suffered a lot and he had to undergo surgery to remove nodules from his vocal chords due to his technique. One of the major things is that the album sounds more aggressive than their later work – the songs are faster and, for the most part, shorter than later on.
“Temple from the Within” has very aggressive vocals and riffs. Jesse Leach comes out of the gate screaming at the start of the song and the band wastes no time and throws the listener to the immensely heavy sounding verse, after which they starts to introduce more melody to the vocal lines, finally opening up with the extremely catchy chorus. The song is everything KILLSWITCH ENGAGE does best put into a single 4-minute track.
“Soilborn” is the first song the band ever wrote together. The chorus has a gunfire-like vocal delivery that goes hand-in-hand with the guitar riff. The same sort of approach can be heard utilized later on in the legendary song, “My Curse.” The song is a prime example of the band testing the waters and putting together ideas, some of which went on to be used again later on.
“Rusted Embrace” has a very catchy main riff, with the other parts of the song being also more melodic than heavy. Of course the heaviness is still very much present, but rather than having traditional low-note chugs, the song has more of a melodic death metal -feel. Also interesting experimentation with the clean singing, something that was more present in their music later on.
“In the Unblind” features a cool vocal delivery where the same words are sung first screaming and then in a spoken word-type of way. The lyrics are very much trademark for Jesse Leach, as the song handles individuality and breaking away from restraints implemented by others.
The album is a very solid cut of metalcore at its early stages, when there weren’t really a lot of bands doing it yet. If you are looking for some metalcore with an insanely aggressive vocal delivery and maybe a more bare-bones approach, this is the album for you. You can really hear the band’s influences from hardcore, as some sections in songs are more simple and straightforward.
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE must also be respected for the fact that they really have branched out over the years and they have not been shy with trying out new things and ideas. Experimentation is key, and as a result, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE have managed to release a bunch of albums that each have something different to offer.
Written by Saku Lintala
- Temple From the Within
- Vide Infra
- Rusted Embrace
- Numb Sick Eyes
- In the Unblind
- One Last Sunset
Jesse Leach – lead vocals
Joel Stroetzel – guitars
Adam Dutkiewicz – drums
Mike D’Antonio – bass
Sami Hinkka’s solo project ssSHhh released industrial metal homage to Christmas classic “Jingle Bells.”