Killswitch Engage has been through some changes the past four years; changes that often end a band’s career. As many know, vocalist Howard Jones announced his departure in 2012, leaving big shoes for the band to fill. It was without question that the band decided to hire Jesse Leach, the original vocalist who brought the metalcore classic Alive or Just Breathing a decade ago. Naturally, this divided the fans, pitting Leach fanatics against Jones fanboys, arguing which vocalist is better. Essentially, Disarm the Descent is Leach’s response to this question. However, while Disarm the Descent doesn’t quite best display Leach’s vocal ability (as seen on Times of Grace), it is an invigorated improvement from the band’s lackluster self-titled release in 2009.
Disarm the Descent starts off fast, heavy and in your face and doesn’t ease up at all. Songs like “The Hell in Me” and “New Awakening” start with heavy chugging and near blast beat drum patterns followed by fast alt picking bringing the intensity up to dial 11. In both songs, harmonized twin guitar riffs in the chorus are ridiculously catchy and become a trademark of Killswitch Engage. However, the breakdowns are rather lackluster and have been done to death by pretty much every band in existence. The aggressive edges to the songs, especially in “New Awakening,” are pure musical ecstasy partnered with Leach’s clean vocals.
“A Tribute to the Fallen” takes on a thrashing gallop, but unfortunately isn’t much more than a basic structure of a hardcore song. Leach’s vocals sound less strained than Alive or Just Breathing while his cleans are really catchy. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz’s growls in this song are unusually disappointing and weak in this song. One thing about Killswitch Engage is that they add little elements of eccentric guitar riffing within in each song, which is fun to listen for. For example, a faint repeated guitar pattern is played behind the chorus, which adds structure and warmth. Also, the riff near the end of the song is very creative and a personal favorite. I love sliding riffs and this lick really adds flair to the song.
In “You Don’t Bleed for Me,” the beat follows a similar gallop beat to that of “A Tribute to the Fallen.” I hate to say it, but the chorus almost sounds like a Trapt song. As weird as that sounds, it’s not quite as distasteful as you’d imagine. I loved the choice to end on an a capella scream. This was a bold move to really show off Leach.
“Beyond the Flames” and “The Turning Point” are the heaviest songs on the albums providing the punchiest riffs that are backed with intricate licks. Dutkiewicz compliments any vocalist and shows this by backing up Leach’s vocals with a soothing choral harmony maintaining the high energy.
“In Due Time” sounds very similar to “Beyond the Flames.” Heavy chugging dominates this song while the end of riffs give an illusion of complexity while being nothing more than a string bend and a pinch harmonic. There is a solo in this song, and while it has a little more soul than the other solos in the album, it is a reminder that Killswitch Engage has never really been a melt-your-face-off-guitar-solo kind of band.
The album hits a bump with “Always” - a bass heavy song. It just doesn’t bring the same amount of energy as the rest album. The lyrics are generic and Leach’s vocals performance could not have been possible without the help of Dutkiewicz on backup. This song is similar to “Circles” from 2009’s self-titled album.
Disarm the Descent is a lot less melodic than some of Killswitch Engage’s earlier efforts leaving the melody just for the choruses. I feel that the album picks up from where Leach left off at the end of Alive or Just Breathing while mixing elements from Times of Grace within it. It’s definitely a step up for me from the self-titled album put out in 2009, but doesn’t top As Daylight Dies. The structures of Disarm the Descent’s songs are lacking and quite boring. Leach’s screams are certainly better than Jones’s to me, but despite Leach’s improved vocal performance in this album, he still can’t seem to touch the cleans that Jones was able to. I was afraid that the band would take a “generic radio rock” path as many have seen All That Remains and Jones’s Killswitch take, but this album certainly doesn’t do that. Fortunately, the album is an impressive display of the band’s ability to put out heavy music after 14 years together. Welcome back, Mr. Leach.