Killswitch Engage have gotten the act of releasing an album down to a fine art. A few years after the last one and just as you’re ready for something new from them, boom, it lands squarely in your lap. True to form, Atonement hits that mark just as squarely as the last few have. And after a couple of listens, they’ve also perfected the art of the album itself. As tired as the phrase may be, it really is “all killer, no filler”. There’s not an ounce of fat to be found here.
Opening track “Unleashed” is the band in their prime, pulling no punches and very much what you’d expect from a Killswitch Engage song. It’s furious and rattles along at a breakneck pace and easily fits in alongside those older, classic songs, as does “Know Your Enemy”. Indeed, the latter is full of venom and fury as it bursts with energy and technical riffs which gallop and twist around each other.
Then, there’s the second track on the album. Arguably, it’s overdue but likely something fans have been clamouring for for a long time. A song featuring both vocalist Jesse Leach and his successor/predecessor, Howard Jones. Having been teased as the band worked on the album, “The Signal Fire” brings both eras together perfectly as both vocalists bounce off each other and now that it’s been done once, you’re going to want more of it, mainly because being careful what you wish for has actually panned out well for once. Elsewhere, “As Sure As the Sun Will Rise” sounds like it could have come from The End of Heartache/As Daylight Dies, albeit with Leach.
“I Am Broken Too” with its darker lyrics finds the band at their most melodic and if there was ever an argument for Killswitch Engage to take a more straightforward metal approach to newer material, this would be the blueprint for it. “Take Control” lures you into a false sense of security with its tame opening and could have come from a hard rock band before its neck-snapping rhythm kicks in. Throughout the album, it’s riffs galore, continuously building before gargantuan breakdowns and at no point does the pattern ever become wearisome. Even as the album hits the final few numbers, you’d be forgiven for thinking they put the strongest material at the start. It’s relentless in top quality songs and the album refuses to stumble, making for the most complete album of their career and one of the best metal albums you’ll hear this year..
Atonement isn’t about trying something new with the Killswitch Engage formula, mainly because it’s not needed – at this point, you know what you’re getting. It’s everything you love about the band and they’ve made it accessible for newcomers without diluting their core sound. Instead, they’ve opted for making their most mature and accomplished album. It’s easily their best work since Leach’s return to the fold, perhaps simply their best album ever.
Atonement is out now