THE END OF HEARTACHE
New England quintet Killswitch Engage is taking metal to the mainstream. The group's sophomore album, "Alive or Just Breathing," was the first by a so-called New Wave of American Heavy Metal band to sell more than 100,000 copies.
This ferocious follow-up is less innovative and more of a grower, but still brutally engaging: Thrash riffs from "Master of Puppets"-era Metallica are tweaked, then sweetened with Iron Maiden-style twin-guitar harmonies. Drums drop like sledgehammers. And new vocalist Howard Jones not only unleashes a testosterone-soaked battle growl but has a majestic, inspirational singing voice as well.
Killswitch Engage uses a reverse-Nirvana formula: Jones screams the verses, then sings the choruses. Elderly listeners -- er, Gen-Xers -- will probably wish he'd shriek less; Jones even growls on the title track, essentially an epic power ballad (and whatever happened to guitar solos, by the way?). But melodic cranium-crushers such as "When Darkness Falls," "Rose of Sharyn" and "Wasted Sacrifice" contain enough gear-shifting guitars to entice any card-carrying hesher to flash a devil-horns sign.
Along with thrash purists Lamb of God and guitar-solo-friendly Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage is tapping a stake into the heart of the rival faction known as nu-metal (e.g., Korn, Limp Bizkit) with every double-bass drum beat. "We will prevail!" Jones declares on the final track, his voice soaring. For listeners seeking old-school headbanging with a modern, impressive Jekyll and Hyde singing style, "The End of Heartache" delivers on its promise.
-- Michael Deeds