Courtesy: Metal Blade Records
Killswitch Engage is stepping up and doing its part to help those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The released its new record Atonement II: B-Sides For Charity Friday to all digital platforms. The widespread release of the six-song record b-sides collection, whose proceeds will go to benefit the Center For Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, comes a week after the band debuted the collection through its official Bandcamp page. Considering it is a collection of b-sides and consists of only six songs, it will be considered by this critic to be an EP instead of an LP. According to front man Jesse Leach, the songs featured in the recording were originally recorded during the sessions for the band’s 2019 album Atonement, but ended up not being included in the album’s final presentation. The record presents plenty for audiences to appreciate in terms of its musical and lyrical content. That is proven right from its outset in ‘To The Great Beyond,’ which will be discussed shortly. ‘Killing of Leviathan’ is another positive addition to the EP since it is composed of only six songs. That song will be addressed a little later. ‘I Feel Alive Again’ is one more notable addition to Atonement II: B-Sides For Charity and will also be addressed later. When it is considered with the other noted songs and the record’s other trio of songs, the whole of the record proves itself to be among this year’s top new EPs.
Killswitch Engage’s new EP Atonement II: B-Sides For Charity is a record that the band’s longtime fans will applaud just as much as metalcore and metal fans in general. It is a work that, through its musical and lyrical content, proves itself to be one of this year’s top new EPs. That is proven right from the record’s outset in its opener, ‘To The Great Beyond.’ This song shows real growth from the band in comparison to its past records. Right from the song’s opening bars, audiences get a sound in the arrangement that is more of a death metal work than the metalcore for which it has come to be known over the course of its life. The metalcore elements are still there throughout the course of the nearly four-minute work. However, they are nicely balanced with the more energetic guitar riffs and rapid fire drumming, the steady low end from bassist Mike D’Antonio and vocals from Leach to make the song’s arrangement a powerhouse start for the EP and clear proof in itself why the record’s musical content is so important to its presentation. The fire in the song’s musical arrangement works well with the equally engaging content in the song’s lyrical theme.
The lyrical theme presented in this song is intriguing in that Leach noted in a recent interview that the songs featured in this record were “written during a very difficult and uncertain time of my life. They are written with two perspectives: that of a struggling, angry, frustrated man having a crisis of faith, life, and love and a man finding the will and the strength to change perspective, try again, and to fight through it all.” This song’s lyrical theme would seem to have been written from the second perspective as he seems to be addressing his acceptance of his mortality, just as we all should. This is a very difficult topic for anyone to address, but he has seemingly done so here, and done well in the process. Leach sings in the song’s lead verse, “Suicide of the mental/In the mind, transcendental/Cauterized the wounds of a past life/Beckoning from the birth unto the afterlife.” He adds in the song’s chorus, “I look beyond this mortal encasement/Severed beyond/beyond containment/I am prepared to die/Hear the battle cry/Feel the spirit fly/To the great beyond go I/I am prepared to die/As I testify/To the great beyond go I/Unafraid of my fate/From within burns the will to live.” Leach adds to the discussion in the song’s second verse, singing, “Cut down this bitter dissension/Killing the path of ascension/We’re holding on to the fear of the next world/This fleeting location amid the many dimensions/I have escaped to death and resurrection/Unafraid of my fate/To the great beyond go I/I look beyond this life/I am prepared to die/Hear the battle cry/Feel the spirit fly/To the great beyond go I.” This comes across as being quite the deep discussion, and one that could easily motivate and inspire many listeners to have their own change in mentality about such a difficult topic. To that end, it is just one of the songs included in this record that serves to show the EP’s strengths. ‘Killing of Leviathan’ is another notable addition to the EP.
‘Killing The Leviathan’ offers listeners another heavy, up-tempo work that shows its own sign of growth from the band. This song actually boasts more of a thrash metal approach than the pure metalcore sound for which the band has come to be known. The metalcore elements are there again. But as noted, the thrash approach is more evident than the metal core elements, even as the two elements are relatively balanced. That continued exhibition of growth from the band through the song’s musical arrangement is another positive sign for the band and for audiences as they take in the record. What’s more, the energy in the song’s arrangement works well with the song’s lyrical theme, which comes across as being about overcoming one’s own inner demons.
The seeming theme of the noted internal struggle is inferred as Leach sings in the song’s lead verse, “Leviathan is now approaching/Seeping/Crawling on me/Drawing closer to the center/Anxiety torments me/I know you by name/It’s always the same/Fall from the light consumed within/Deep inside/My hell is closing in.” The song’s chorus adds to the inference as Leach sings, “Crawl deep under my skin/Screaming/Leviathan, I’ll kill you within/You will not win against me/Leviathan, this is the end/This is the end.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “The voices in my head/This war is fought within/You can’t control me/I will destroy in the end.” Leach puts the accent on his statement in the song’s third and final verse, singing, “Ever-changing circumstance/Triggering this dark war dance/I’ll fight against you/I will annihilate you/The killing of Leviathan.” Again, this certainly would seem to be Leach making a statement about battling himself internally, and telling those inner demons, those negative thoughts, that he will succeed. This is truly another inspirational statement for any listener. It’s one more way in which this record proves itself so notable. ‘I Feel Alive Again’ also proves the strength of KsE’s new record in its own way.
‘I Feel Alive’ stands out in part because its arrangement is yet another sign of growth and change from the band. Instead of the death metal or even thrash elements, this song blends together the band’s familiar metalcore elements with a much more melodic side that could be argued to be more of an emocore sound. That is evident in the balance of the screaming and clean vocals from Leach and the harmonics in the guitar work. It is yet another welcome change of pace that the band’s most devoted listeners will appreciate. It also does well in illustrating the emotions evoked through the song’s positive lyrical content.
The lyrical content in question comes from that less positive perspective that Leach discussed in the noted interview. That is inferred as Leach sings, “One last caress in a world so desperate/Holding on to a shred of hope only by a thread/Waiting for someone/Someone to be there/To remind us that we can heal our disrepair/Can we not see there is a need/A need to disconnect this cycle of dismay/This desperation is now deeper than you know/Longing to hear a voice say you’re not alone/So with these words I’m reaching out/To say that I fought through and found my way again.” This lead verse seems to show someone who is dealing with those difficult thoughts and emotions, but isn’t just ready to give up, which would explain the sound and feeling in the song’s arrangement. Things seem to get better for him as he sings in the song’s chorus, “This is where it all began/I found the strength to try again/I feel alive again/I fight beyond the pain.” It would seem that he found that inspiration and managed to fight those feelings and thoughts. Of course that is proven in the other noted songs, that he won that inner battle. Leach adds in the song’s second verse, “Looking through the darkness/The nothing/The worthlessness/Looking for the light/Beyond the grey of sorrow’s song/Before the fall is where the last hope is found/Desperate for a release/To give just a glimpse of peace/A fleeting clarity/A sense of things beyond our eyes/We may never be complete/but in this life we seem to feel alive.” This would seem to be someone who was searching desperately for that help and clearly did find it. Once again it goes right along with Leach’s noted discussion about the songs in this record reflecting his won personal struggles and his overcoming them. Because these experiences and thoughts are so relatable, it makes them that much more ability to connect with listeners, and this song proves that just as much as the others featured in the EP. When all three songs are considered along with these three songs, the record in whole proves itself to be another strong offering from Killswitch Engage that the band’s established fans will enjoy just as much as hard rock and metal fans in general.
Killswitch Engage’s new follow-up to its 2019 album Atonement, Atonement II: B-Sides For Charity is a strong new offering from the band and a work whose musical and lyrical content is certain to engage and entertain a wide range of listeners. That is proven through the record’s musical arrangements and its lyrical themes. All three of the songs featured here serve to support those statements. The same can be said of the record’s other trio of songs. All things considered, the record proves itself a great purchase for hard rock and metal fans and for KsE’s established fan base, and a great way to help others who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. It also proves itself to be one of the year’s top new EPs. The record is available online through all major digital outlets. More information on the EP is available online along with all of the band’s latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.