Sound — 8
Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz has always been at the forefront of metalcore, and although he's not entirely breaking ground with his new project Times of Grace, he still proves his strength lies in hard-hitting riffs, complimented by inspiring melodies and slick production. On this record, however, he's also providing bass and drum duties, showcasing his multi-instrumental skills. His drumming shines on songs like "Live In Love" and "Hope Remains", while "Fight For Life" shows his combination of darkness and melody that always shines through. In addition, Adam shows that he's not afraid to throw in a solo here and there, such as on the record's lead single "Strength In Numbers". One thing Killswitch Engage has had that I've always enjoyed are their clean guitar passages, and they play a vital part in shaping the mood for the listener. "Until The End Of Days" boasts an awesome clean intro, while "In The Arms Of Mercy", an instrumental interlude, provides an almost atmospheric tone throughout the song and proves to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music Adam has written in his career thus far. Aside from "In The Arms Of Mercy", the song that really stood out for me musically on this album though was "The Forgotten One", which is all acoustic, mixing country with some flamenco and melodic passages. One thing I did notice though was that the intro of "Where The Spirit Leads Me" sounded a lot like As I Lay Dying's "Forsaken", ironically produced by Adam in the past. No matter, though; for the most part, the record shows Adam's versatility as a musician, and really speaks of his talent.
Lyrics — 9
Along with Adam Dutkiewicz for the ride is ex-Killswitch Engage singer Jesse Leach, who brings back a sense of optimism that music has been lacking for a while now. You wouldn't be able to tell with most of his vocal delivery, though. At some points on the record, Jesse sounds downright visceral in songs like "Live In Love", despite his optimistic lyrics ("Through all this condescend compassion for weakness, it takes so much more strength to be selfless and live in love."). Towards the end of "The End Of Eternity", Jesse takes on some death metal style vocals. When he's not sounding carnal, his clean vocals are uplifting and tinged with emotion. His voice sounds vulnerable yet strong on "The Forgotten One" ("Words slowly lead me to the cracks in my disguise, my flesh a prison for the man behind these eyes. I sing the epitaph for an unnamed king, carved in this tombstone of the lost pieces of me."), and the chorus of "Fight For Life" is one of his best deliveries to date. It's not just Jesse singing though; Adam shows that he's got some pipes on him as well, whether it's songs like "Fall From Grace" or the chorus of "Hope Remains". It once again proves the versatility Adam possesses with his musicianship. My favorite song in terms of vocals and lyrics, though, is the closer "Fall From Grace". The song is mostly sung by Adam, and the verses tell the story of a man who has lost his will to live ("At the end of your road, hanging by a thread, he'd give and he'd think for this to just go away. The scribbles on the soul thrown, I tried to hold on tightly, but it's all slipping through my fingers."). However, once the chorus comes, the subject in question turns it around on the listener and proclaims his will to live just like that ("Even through this pain, I will feel again. Even through these tears, I will love again."), with only a soulful vocal delivery guiding him through the journey.
Overall Impression — 8
Now I admit, I am a Killswitch fan, so I am aware of possible bias in grading this album. However, even if I weren't a fan, I would still have to go out on a limb and say this is an early contender for album of the year. From the heavy "The End Of Eternity" to the battle cry of "Strength In Numbers" to the intimate "The Forgotten One" and "In The Arms Of Mercy", Times of Grace have a little something for everybody. You can try and write off Times of Grace's debut as another Killswitch Engage copy, but that's where you'd be wrong. It's the album that Killswitch should have put out in 2009, it's the album that is uplifting and inspiring in every sense of the word, and it's the ultimate triumph of two former bandmates that have persevered through the toughest of trials to put out their emotions for the world to see. And for that, they should be commended.