Killswitch Engage have not merely become standard-bearers for GENERATION HEAVY. With The End of Heartache, the standard has been pushed aside. Trampled. Heavy music is, once again, re-ignited by a band unafraid to rewrite the rules of the game.
It's all happening just as they've become reenergized themselves, with new blood in the band, critical raves that soar above mere hackneyed "acclaim" and a hard-earned reputation as one of the genres best live acts (stemming from awe-inspiring showings on last summer's Ozzfest second stage and the fall of 2003s MTV2 Headbangers Ball tour). "(Ozzfest) was definitely an experience," wisecracking guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz says with typical understatement. "I got a wicked farmer's tan and was drunk by noon most days. The response was so good, it was stupid!" "You never get used to the fans chanting, it's amazing and embarrassing at the same time," new vocalist Howard Jones relays with genuine humility. "You just want to call your Mom and be like, 'Listen!'"
Alive or Just Breathing, the band's Roadrunner debut was called, "more addictive than crack cocaine thats been smothered in nicotine AND drenched with chocolate by CMJ New Music Report and was a signpost on the bands musical journey toward their third release, The End of Heartache. The high-flying guitar histrionics and unbridled rage on Alives track, My Last Serenade was balanced by soaring choruses and a clear handle on melody that the band takes steps further on the new album.
The title track is an unabashed monster of a song, different than anything the band has ever written. Its epic drive nearly crosses the border into power-ballad territory. "Rose of Sharyn" is an anthem that's heavy in the most non-traditional of senses, building with dynamic energy into a crescendo with a chorus that is perhaps The End of Heartache's biggest reward. "When Darkness Falls," heard during the closing credits of Freddy Vs. Jason, was the first song Jones ever wrote with the band and falls right into place on The End Of Heartache. With "Breathe Life" he delivers a heartfelt optimism that really makes the track pop with, "breathe life/ for you are not alone/ breathe life/ inside your heart of stone."
The current version of Killswitch is rounded out by original members Mike D (bass) and Joel Stroetzel (guitar) and new drummer Justin Foley. Foley comes to the band via Jones and his other current project (Blood Has Been Shed). All the members of this band bring to it a respectability and integrity that collectively has made a mark on bands throughout the heavy music scene. Bands like THRICE cite Killswitch as an influence in their liner notes, guitarist Teppei Teranishi saying I remember I wrote both those riffs on days I drove to practice listening to Killswitch Engage it shows I guess, referring to his bands track Under A Killing Moon.
Mike D designed the albums cover, which proved to be the guiding force for the bands songwriting. "The covers of all the albums are just reflections of my everyday life," he says. "I had this idea when my personal life was at its lowest point. I worked and reworked many times over, but it was mostly finished last April."
On The End of Heartache, Howard Jones makes it abundantly clear that he was the best choice to take the frontman slot, thereby enhancing the band. Howard shines as a frontman and that in turn gives the rest of us in the band a bit more confidence," Adam declares. "Now there can be more antics and stupidity on stage!" Their newly brewed chemistry was put to the test during the album's grueling recording sessions, during which Adam did double duty - already a well-established producer, in addition to his axe-wielding duties he took on the reigns behind the board. "It's the hardest thing to do because I'm playing too, it's a real roller coaster," Adam says.
"Writing this record was much more stressful than the last," Stroetzel adds. "Trying to write and tour at the same time was a major chore. On the other hand, the line-up changes made me excited to see how this record would unfold. I'm really psyched about what Justin and Howard have brought to the table."
All of which amounted to a Killswitch Engage mission statement more powerful than any the bands members had ever imagined. And one that's sure to further entrench their place at the center of the burgeoning new movement of down-to-earth bands that have shed the pretensions of heavy metal's checkered past while embracing everything positive and powerful the genre has ever offered. "You always want people to enjoy it, whether they're the kids who are beating the crap out of each other, the ones in the back nodding their heads or just the casual listener," Jones concludes. "But first and foremost, we wanted an album that WE were happy with. And we've made it."