Meat and potatoes; that is what metalcore popularisers Killswitch Engage have served up with Incarnate, their seventh album, heavy-metal meat and potatoes. There is nothing wrong with meat and potatoes; it is a very sustaining meal where you know what you are getting, and if the cook makes a hash of it then it’s probably safe to conclude that they don’t belong in the kitchen, but it’s also not a meal you are going to go out of your way for and it certainly won’t surprise you.
Alone I Stand opens the album, and in many ways it stands as an exemplar of Killswitch Engage’s sound and as a microcosm for Incarnate: we’ve got double-timed kick on Justin Foley’s drums, Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel providing solid lead and rhythmic guitar work, Mike D’Antonio unobtrusively slipping into the pocket with his bass reinforcement, and plenty of screams and growls from Jesse Leach – not that he restricts himself to this style of vocal delivery with his forays into clean, melodic, singing being most pleasing. Dutkiewicz also acted as producer on Incarnate, and his efforts have resulted in the highest production values yet heard on a Killswitch Engage recording.
Fitting with metalcore’s musical roots in hardcore punk, the songs on Incarnate are three minute something sonic jabs – especially the uber-thrashy The Great Deceit – with the exceptions being Alone I Stand’s four-and-a-half minutes and the positively epic (by comparison) five minutes thirty of Embrace The Journey… Upraised, which flirts with the idea of being a progressive metal song, but ultimately – and disappointingly – proves too demure. Lead single Strength Of The Mind is Incarnate’s standout song, with rhythmic and lead runs that left me thinking of Meshuggah and Mastodon, and Leach judiciously deploying his full vocal range over the course of the song. Ascension proves to be a suitably brutal, pounding, end to Incarnate, but ending with a fade-out feels a little like a gyp.
Killswitch Engage haven’t deviated from the recipe they’ve used throughout their seventeen year career, which is a shame as they are working with quality ingredients which beg to be applied to more than just a plain tasting meal.