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Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage Mark Eglinton , July 16th, 2009 11:34

There should be a rule that bands that have the sheer cheek to re-use an album title are in distinct danger of the listener engaging the "off" switch in annoyance at the lazy muso's complete lack of imagination. In this case though the only (and trust me it's a tenuous one) reason for reprieve is that the first self-titled offering in 2000 from the Massachusetts metal-core pioneers is thought of as merely an EP. Nevertheless, alarm bells ring, for, having spawned a million imitators in their field, Killswitch Engage now run the risk of repeating their own tired formula with ever-diminishing returns.

From the opening bell of 'Never Again' it's business as usual. Relatively recently recruited vocalist Howard Jones actually does a cracking job of throatsmanship throughout; mixing bellowed verses with more melodically delivered and epic choruses incorporating words like "pain", "suffering" and "hurt" indecently frequently. The glaring problem though is tempo, or rather lack of any variation thereof. In fact, until the haunting intro of 'The Return', five full tracks in, the record sounds like the poor cousin of all their best previous work. It's never badly executed, but we've heard it many times before; and in a few cases done very much better.

Sonically, it's as slick and as polished as you could possibly imagine. You'd suspect that the commercial form of Brendan O'Brien lurking under the desk occupied by incumbent twiddler Adam Dutkiewicz had a lot to do with the frictionless sheen that characterises every second of this. But that's not enough in itself to raise this record above anything that went before or, more crucially, above recent output by acts that Killswitch Engage inspired. Tracks like 'Lost' and 'Save Me' are absolutely bog-standard fare and as such wouldn't be offered a bed on some of their earlier outings. In truth, only 'Light In A Darkened World' brings anything remotely new, and that's just by pummelling itself insistently towards an ironically lightweight hook chorus.

This isn't a bad album as such and it probably has some worth as a concise showcase for what Killswitch Engage do, and will no doubt sell accordingly. The problem now is that the metal-core genre may have just reached the point where there it has no fresh pastures to explore. It's surely sadly ironic that one of its original pioneers should also be one of the first to crack.

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