Sound — 7
As Ethel Merman once sang on Broadway, probably dying for her words to be quoted in a review of a metalcore album, "anything you can do, I can do better." I should imagine that American heavyweights Killswitch Engage would challenge her on that point. It isn't their job to move with the times or break boundaries. It's not even their job to play riffs you haven't heard thirty times before, but they take it upon themselves to play the style better than anyone else through sheer strength of character. That approach will limit your shelf-life but there are signs of rejuvenation behind the songs of "Disarm The Descent", generic though they may be. Mostly it owes to the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach, who rejoined last year in place of the long-serving Howard Jones. My initial impression is that the band aren't quite so risk averse this time around - Howard's Killswitch wouldn't have opened an album with a blastbeat, for example but it's immediately evident that besides the change in frontman, it's business as usual. Modern metalcore which is reasonably heavy and melodic, without going overboard on either one.
Joel Stroetzel and Adam D keep their picking hands very, very busy with tight, fast rhythms and string-skipping. It's all part and parcel for a band who helped to sculpt that riffing style but the flair with which they apply their technical prowess is impressive, especially on "The Call", an alarmingly fast track with punishing tremolo picking. The aggressive tempos drive the album through thick and thin, including some melodically sparse moments around the middle, and will at the very least ease fears that all the personal difficulties surrounding the band have taken the wind out of their sails. Whether you really enjoy it is down to the strength of your appetite for more material.
Lyrics — 6
Other than the lyrics, which strike a predictable balance of angst and moralistic sheen, everything's a little less Hollywood without Howard. He accompanied the band right through their rise to superstardom with his theatrical bellow so a period of readjustment is needed to get reacquainted with Leach's rougher style. He does very well but the band aren't the same as they were when he left it and there's an element, I think, of readjustment for him as well. Echoes of his predecessor linger in the vocal melodies and the way harsh and soft are layered ("Beyond The Flames", "In Due Time") but he works best, as he always used to, with a bare scream. He's finding his feet and you'd expect him to stand up straight on them in due course.
Overall Impression — 7
What we know about Killswitch Engage is that they love this stuff, absolutely lick it up, and so do their fans. What we can't be too sure about is what really differentiates this album from the last or the next besides the personnel and the changes they entail. Perhaps it's just gut feeling. If so, most of us should agree that they've regained form on "Disarm The Descent" after a difficult patch in the last few years and not just that. There should, after all's said and done, be a ringing consensus that Jesse Leach fully deserves his place back in the ring today with one of contemporary metal's prize fighters.