Killswitch Engage - The End of Heartache (Cover Artwork)

Killswitch Engage

The End of Heartache (2004)


The last memory I have of my beloved car before it was stolen in 2002 was driving home late at night on the Capital Beltway, stuck in a traffic jam, listening to Killswitch Engage's newly released Alive or Just Breathing, at an unfathomable volume, with the two front windows rolled completely down. Although I'd love to have my car back, I think its last (legal) ride had it going out in a blaze of glory. Unlike my car however, Killswitch Engage have been on an incredible ascendancy in the past couple of years, with the band largely spearheading the re-emergence of metal into the mainstream arena, and doing such with their integrity fully intact.

On Killswitch Engage's meteoric path, the band has whethered a dramatic line-up change with the addition of Blood has Been Shed's commander Howard Jones into the lead vocal position, and drummer, Justin Foley coming on board as well. Although Jones' vocal style differs widely from former vocalist Jesse Leach, I think the band is now stronger than ever in that domain. Jones' melodic bellows are delivered effortlessly, and with undeniable passion, and his screams (in both audio and visual mode) are strikingly sinister. "A Bid Farewell," the disc's opener, puts Jones' range on the line, as he becomes the epicenter of a dramatic convergence between melody and intoxicating guitar riffs. The band treads on similar terrain on the single, "Rose of Sharyn," as well as the stunning title track.

Musically, The End of Heartache is a healthier sounding release than Alive or Just Breathing, with greater soul and more teeth, even if the band beats to death a series of riffs throughout the tweleve tracks. The fifth song on here, "Breathe Life" is one of the most flexible sounding songs that Killswitch Engage has ever written, as it ebbs and flows through a variety of chugging tempos, and builds into a monolith of pent up aggression, held back only by its crassly abrupt ending. One element of change that's pretty noticeable on "The End of Heartache" is the insertion of gang vocals on a handful of tracks, including the closer, "Hope Is..." Gang vocals in metalcore is something that should be treated with caution, but Killswitch Engage do well in making such a device define a song's edge. The eighth track, "Declaration," captures the band toying around with some serious Swedish death-metal influences, and while some may decry how prevalent this has become among metal bands these days, I think Killswitch Engage properly treat the song as a fine transition between the mostly melodic title track, and the crushing follow-up, "World Ablaze." My only grievance on "Declaration" is that Jones' screamed vocals tend to flame out towards the end of the song, and the track ends (again) on an abrupt note.

I'm not entirely sure why "The End of Heartache" should be scrutinzed with the ever-nebulous standard of perfection as the endzone, but Killswitch Engage do things that well... other metal bands only dream of doing with their music. I've argued before that Bad Religion's trilogy of Suffer, No Control, and Against The Grain, are perhaps the best 90 minutes of US punk rock ever created, and I don't think it's a stretch to argue that Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing, and The End of Heartache, together make up perhaps the best 90 minutes of US modern metal ever released. The End of Heartache is an essential purchase.