After Killswitch Engage set the bar incredibly high with their last release, Disarm the Descent, the iconic metal core quintet had an extremely difficult task in living up to expectations. Unfortunately, on this new album, entitled Incarnate, the band have seemingly gone a few steps backwards. To firstly clarify this statement, Incarnate is by no means a bad album it simply feels like a stumbling block for a band who have had so much momentum over the past few years. With Jesse Leach once again fronting the band, Killswitch had a new burst of life and vigour, epitomised perfectly with the aforementioned Disarm the Descent, an album which brought a new intensity to the group’s signature sound.
If you’ve listened to any of the singles from this new record, then it’s fair to say you’ve heard the best of what it has to offer. Second track Hate by Design is one of the album’s fleeting highlights, combining all the elements that have made Killswitch Engage such a reliably brilliant band. Jesses’ soaring vocals perfectly complement the head-bang inducing chug of the guitars featuring a whole variety of awesome riffs and a wailing guitar solo. It also has one of the key components this album is missing most, which happens to be a memorable chorus. Too many songs on Incarnate go in one ear and straight out the other without really having much of an impact. After listening to this record multiple times it’s hard to really be able to repeat back any choruses or melodies, something usually unheard of when referring to a Killswitch album.
Despite this album suffering from being slightly unmemorable, it is interesting to hear the band incorporating somewhat different ideas into their sound. The track Cut Me Loose has an intriguing and brooding atmosphere to it as it builds towards its chorus. This change of pace certainly helps the flow of the album and stops it becoming completely one dimensional. Incarnate also seems to feature quite a large amount of punk rock and hard core influences, as tracks like Reignite are played at breakneck speed adding a much needed element of pace into the record. Strength of the Mind brings a really groove metal swagger too and is definitely one of the few tracks worth digging this album out again for.
As mentioned earlier there isn’t anything specifically bad about Incarnate, it just feels a little lacklustre when compared to the band’s last release. This may be the reason as to why this record seems somewhat dissatisfying, but when you know what a band is capable of its very disheartening to hear them churn out something mediocre. Ultimately it’s hard to imagine coming back to this album again. You only have to look at the band’s set lists and think what songs from Incarnate are worthy of dethroning anything from the groups impressive back catalogue. It’s also necessary to think about how you would feel hearing this from any other band. Due to Killswitch Engage being one of the most reliably consistent bands in today’s metal scene it’s hard not to let them off the hook for producing an almost completely forgettable collection of work.
Only time will tell where this album falls in relation to the bands previous efforts but for now it doesn’t seem to be setting the world on fire. Hopefully Incarnate is a grower of a record and eventually proves itself to be better than it first appears, but it’s difficult to be that optimistic at this moment in time. It’s worth saying again that Incarnate does have its fleeting moments of what makes Killswitch great and there are tracks that should be able to stand the test of time. However, with the amount of great material this band already has, remembering Incarnate’s existence is certainly going to be tough.