Killswitch Engage continues to get creative3/23/2016
Everything old is new again. In 2012, nearly a decade after he originally left the band, Killswitch Engage reunited with founding lead singer Jesse Leach.
“There was definitely a learning curve,” explained bassist Mike D’Antonio, talking about breaking Leach in on four album’s worth of material. “We let him choose the songs he really wanted to sing. We want him to feel the songs as much as possible. Feel the lyrics. It’s pretty important for him to be able to emote and get those feelings across to the audience, so he has to be able to identify with the songs.”
The next year the band released the album “Disarm the Descent,” but work on that album had begun with previous vocalist Howard Jones, leaving Leach to put his stamp on work that had already been started. But this year’s release, “Incarnate,” is the first new material created completely by Killswitch Engage’s original lineup (plus drummer Justin Foley).
“He knew his craft a bit more by that point,” D’Antonio said of Leach. “Before (when the band formed), it was kind of a head game. He’d psyche himself out, and he would sort of trick himself into having these vocal issues. But he’s more confident now, and he came back into this with a strong work ethic.
“Writing ‘Incarnate’ was really easy. With ‘Disarm,’ we weren’t even sure if the band was going to be a band anymore. There were a couple years of trying to help Howard with the issues he was going through, and it just became clear that it wasn’t going to work anymore. That was scary. It’s a pretty angry record, especially the stuff that I wrote. It was just desperate and lashing out like, ‘This could be the last time I play with this band.’ With the new record, Jesse came back and there was a lot less stress. I feel like we found our center point again.”
The new, stress-free mentality has allowed the band to open up creatively. Foley, a fan of funky time signatures and odd beats, arranged “Incarnate” opening track “Alone I Stand.” The song kicks off in a 17/16 time signature, something that proved to be a difficult — though worthwhile — experience for D’Antonio.
“There are a few songs on the album that are very intricate and very math…ly? Is that a word? There are a few songs that, if you turn your mind off and just count, you can get them down,” D’Antonio said. “But if you get into it and start listening to what everyone else is doing on stage, you’re fucked.”
The band also introduced the songs to its fans in a new way, with a residency in New York City earlier this month. Rather than limiting it to one venue, they played intimate shows in five smaller venues around the city, debuting a different new song at each one.
“Man, the talks that had to happen to get us into that were furious,” D’Antoino said with a laugh. “We’ve never learned that many new songs in a row before. I don’t know if we’re just lazy or what, but we’d never done it in 17 years.”
So 2016 finds Killswitch Engage band members at creative high points in their careers. The first single was released in December, and now the band is ready and excited to get back on the road.
“We were definitely climbing the walls, being off tour for so long,” D’Antonio admitted. “But I think it’s for the best. I think it shows that we really had our minds in the right place. Now we just want to spring these songs on people.” CV