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Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
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Killswitch Engage – Incarnate

The leaders of the pack are back, and they’ve come back with a vengeance. Killswitch Engage, one of the bands credited with helping kickstart the modern Metalcore sound, have returned with their follow-up to the highly acclaimed 2013 record, Disarm the Descent. Incarnate, by definition means an embodiment of flesh, something in form; generally human. The name is referring to themselves as a band, as they have regained a ‘strong sense of self’. It certainly feels like they are back, but back with their best yet? Not quite.

The album is a standard affair for the band. Alone I Stand opens the album in a similar way to Daylight Dies from their 2006 album of the same name. The riffs are familiar, but Jesse’s vocals have certainly settled back into the band sounding greater than ever. Hate by Design sounds very old school Howard era in the instrumentals, but Jesse adds a sharp edge with his unique melodies and emotional delivery.

Strength of the Mind has been out for a while, and it is understandable why it’s the lead single. With a great bouncy riff and chunky, upbeat rhythm guitar combined with uplifting lyrics and memorable melodies, it’s certainly the strongest track on the album and sounds more modern than their previous tracks, even sounding (dare I say it) djenty in places!

Quiet Distress is a great listen with a soothing acoustic section at the beginning, subtly developing into a hard-hitting punky attack. It feels like a homage to My Last Serenade off their debut album Alive or Just Breathing, but with a more technically proficient base.

Throughout the rip-roaring verses and soaring choruses, I can’t help but feel like something sad is happening. The likes of Make Way For Man, Periphery and Erra have taken the Metalcore sound so masterfully refined by Killswitch Engage over a decade ago, and expanded on it in such an innovative way, this album feels trapped in the past. The genre is being pushed in such interesting ways that Killswitch seems to have become stationary in their sound. There are moments that sound near identical to their 2009 self-titled, even more déjà vu when you take into account Disarm the Descent. It seems that Killswitch have been left behind by their own legacy, the sound they arguably helped create has moved on and left behind its father.

The album by no means is boring or bad, it just feels like a Killswitch Engage album. After 6 (7 if you include their unsigned debut) albums, you want something more than just a Killswitch Engage album, and it’s about time they tried that. Tracks like Strength of the Mind tease new stylistic choices and innovative sounds but only develop them enough to tease. Incarnate is definitely a good album and will be loved by Metalcore fans whichever side of the Howard/Jesse argument you’re on, but there is certainly a shadow looming over the bands future. I’ve been a fan of this band since I started listening to metal, and there has never been a bad KSE record. This is no exception, but I feel sad to say that if they don’t start to experiment a little more, that fact might change.