Killswitch Engage -Alive Or Just Breathing Review
Posted by Liana Kerzner on 10.19.2002
Another addition to the ranks of bands circling overhead to pick up Fear Factory’s mantle.
Killswitch Engage is a tale of two bands. On one hand, they churn out riffs of a heaviness easily on par with Slayer or the aforementioned Fear Factory, along with some drumwork along the lines of FF and early Skrew. The other band plays melodic grandiose rock, where the main departure from FF comes is that KSE has both bands playing on the same songs. The diversity is interesting enough to keep the constant barrage from being repetitious and tiring and the more mellow moments from being overwhelmingly annoying.
The subject material of the songs is a departure from the usual themes of death, gloom and doom, instead focusing on songs of brotherhood and love. The band’s unusual dual aspect makes them one of the more promising followers in the legion of Fear Factory, but the respites from the sonic assault are nearly alternative pop in their hookiness. This contributes rather heavily to a sense of dynamics when the pounding returns. It does also bring to mind what kind of album could be made if they concentrated on one sound or the other instead of trying to both, which they do capably enough, but still.....
The famed metal producer Andy Sneap takes the role of mixing and mastering on this album, so everything sounds great. The guitars are bludgeoning, the bass is stomping and the drums come on like rolling cannonfire. In the end, it is the branching out of this band that is ultimately their undoing. While the transitions are smooth enough, it seems almost at times as if they are throwing the softer parts in there just to show that they can do it. The smooth parts are nearly always on the chorus and don’t always fit, yet KSE insists on doing it every song.
To give you an idea of what to expect – and this is nearly every song – take a heavy, aggressive guitar riff, usually accompanied by both bass and hyper-speed double bass drums, run that for an intro. For the song, run in with growling and snarling take-your-head-off vocals for a verse or two. When it goes to the chorus, run all the instruments down, dump the double kicks and half the distortion on the guitars, play softer and have the vocals either sung alone or with growling vocals in the background to fill space.
As good as this album is, it could have really been great if they would have dropped the softer stuff on the songs where it does not fit ala Night In Gales, a better contender in the fierce/melodic heavy metal hybrid ranks vying for the spinning crown dropped by Fear Factory. As promising as KSE are, the point may become largely academic as the lead singer on the record has left the band halfway through the tour. Time will tell, but if this disc is any indication, they are one step in the direction of consistency and unforced mellow progressions away from being monsters. Moderately recommended.
The 411: A curious, often interesting departure from the ranks of nu-metal. Worth a look.