About Killswitch Engage
Massachusetts outfit Killswitch Engage were at the fore of the early-2000s metalcore wave. With their infectious meld of New England hardcore and Swedish death metal, they achieved chart success and garnered Grammy nominations while selling millions of records. Since their inception, they've navigated shifting trends in metalcore, and have been restless in discovery of new musical ground without sacrificing the heart of their sound. From their gold-certified, Top 40 The End of Heartache in 2004 to 2016's chart-topping Incarnate, Killswitch Engage have established themselves as one of heavy metal's most commercially successful (and critically acclaimed) acts.
Forming Killswitch Engage in Westfield, Massachusetts, the band's four founding members already had strong fan followings when they started out. Bassist Mike D'Antonio was formerly the leader and principal songwriter of Overcast, often considered a progenitor of the metalcore genre. When Overcast split in 1998, D'Antonio spent a year searching for the right combination of players to fuse hardcore and metal with melody. During the summer of 1999, D'Antonio connected with Adam Dutkiewicz, who was the drummer for Aftershock, and Joel Stroetzel, Aftershock's guitar player. After Jesse Leach -- vocalist for Corrin and Nothing Stays Gold -- joined, the foursome took the name Killswitch Engage.
The band made their debut by opening for In Flames on tour. Their combination of brutality, sophistication, and originality caught the attention of the Ferret label and they were quickly signed. Ferret released their self-titled debut album in June 2000 and it immediately earned rave reviews. The group combined heavy riffs with both singing and screaming vocals, covering a range from low-pitched death growls to higher-pitched hyena screams. Stroetzel developed a guitar rhythm that galloped, and the others kept pace as they combined elements of hardcore and metal in their melodies.
During 2001, the band recorded "Numbered Days" for local Boston radio station WERS' Nasty Habits live CD, a compilation with bands such as God Forbid, Haste, Unearth, and Poison the Well. That same year, Killswitch signed with Roadrunner Records and started recording their second full album, Alive or Just Breathing, at the Zing Studio in Westfield, Massachusetts. They expanded to a five-piece with the addition of former Aftershock drummer Tom Gomes, and Dutkiewicz moved over to guitar. The album included favorites such as "Self-Revolution," "Just Barely Breathing," and a re-recorded version of "Temple from the Within." Andy Sneap was signed on to mix and master in his English studio. The album aimed at even more growling bass tones, heavier guitar crunches, and thicker/faster double basses that had already permeated the band's music, and it was greeted with high praise upon its release in May 2002, shooting to number 37 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart.
Tours with Soilwork and Hypocrisy finished before the band suffered a setback that June; lead singer Leach suddenly left the group, citing voice problems and personal issues (he later went on to join metal outfit Seemless). Breaking up was not an option, but Killswitch were still unsure of their future -- until auditioning Howard Jones that is, vocalist for local metalcore outfit Blood Has Been Shed. The band and Jones clicked immediately, and his charismatic yet menacing stage presence sealed the deal. He made his debut with the band at summer 2002's Hellfest, and the guys stayed on the road for the remainder of the year, both at home and abroad, winning over skeptics along the way. Gomes exited the group following their stint on 2003's Ozzfest, and he was replaced by another Blood Has Been Shed alum, drummer Justin Foley.
The End of Heartache appeared in spring 2004, debuting at number 21 on the Top 200 and even earning the band a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance. Much touring followed, including acting as the main support for Slayer and spots on package tours like Ozzfest and Taste of Chaos, while the band also released the DVD Set This World Ablaze in late 2005. Killswitch further rocked a main stage spot at the U.K.'s Reading Festival in the summer of 2006. All of this activity ultimately led up to the release of their fourth full-length, As Daylight Dies, that November. In 2009, Killswitch returned with a second self-titled album and found themselves jumping onto the Billboard 200. Three years later, they announced the departure of singer Jones, who was replaced by original frontman Leach. He marked his return to the band on their 2013 album Disarm the Descent. The set debuted well inside the Top Ten on various album charts, and the track "In Due Time" was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. After several tours in support, Killswitch took some well-deserved time off.
In early 2015, the band teased a 40-second snippet of "Loyalty," which ended up on Catch the Throne, Vol. 2: The Mixtape, for the Game of Thrones television series. They also began informally demo'ing new tracks. After a summer tour, Killswitch entered the studio. In December, the single "Strength of Mind" was released online. The album Incarnate was released in March of 2016, and debuted at number six on Billboard's Top 200; it was followed immediately by a national tour. In 2017, the band entered the studio to record album number eight, which featured a vocal duet with both Jones and Leach. In April 2018, it was announced that former singer Howard Jones would appear in duet with Leach on the song "Signal Fire," on a forthcoming album. The band canceled some tour dates during the spring of 2018 so Leach could undergo surgery on his vocal cords. The band returned to recording and touring after his recuperation and in August opened for Iron Maiden for two sold-out shows at the O2 Arena in London. They signed to Metal Blade in the U.S., Music for Nations in the U.K., and Sony in the rest of the world. Killswitch Engage completed Atonement, their eighth studio offering, in the late spring of 2019. Produced once more by Adam D., it was issued in August. Album-opener "Unleashed" was later nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. ~ Eleanor Ditzel & Corey Apar