We narrowed Killswitch Engage’s best songs to a Top 15
Killswitch Engage are easily the most popular and famous bands to come out of the USA’s metalcore scene. Hell, they’re probably responsible for starting it. From the early days of their initial demo, Killswitch successfully blended and mastered a style which is as responsible for pulling influences from their Swedish Death Metal contemporaries as they are their Hardcore punk brothers and sisters.
In celebration of this incredible band, I’ve painstakingly gone through their entire catalogue (I know, what a hard job!) and hand picked Killswitch Engage‘s top 15 tracks. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy feat, but hey someone’s got to do it. Right?
1. Just Barely Breathing
Killswitch Engage’s Just Barely Breathing, when looking at lyrics only, is a great poem that remarks on the chaos of mankind. Hysteria, hatred and tortured souls are many of the negative words that are evoked thanks to vocalist Jesse Leach. But it’s the soaring, painful, almost post-grunge vocals of Leach’s which take Just Barely Breathing to new heights with the “Are we Alive or Just Breathing” screams.
Allowing for the guitars and double kicks to take this Killswitch Engage track into a very solemn and painfully observant outro. It makes you wonder the inner turmoil that Leach must’ve felt during the writing of Alive or Just Breathing.
2. The Arms of Sorrow
The Arms of Sorrow is as ballad-heavy as you get. With some heavily produced vocals thrown over the mix we get a side of vocalist Howard Jones which isn’t as metalcore as much as it is heavy rock. Thanks to the smart vocal melodies which seem to fall behind the mix and the quick guitar plucking that echoes – we have a haunting ballad that is memorable and worthy of the title – one of the best Killswitch Engage songs.
3. Holy Diver
Yes, yes, I know. Not technically a Killswitch Engage because it’s a cover of Dio’s Holy Diver. Thanks, Dad!
Killswitch Engage managed to take this track of Ronnie James Dio’s and inject it with fresh metalcore blood which somehow results in some kind of bizarre metal-cum-battle cry song that metalheads can raise their banners to with pride. It gives you pause to realise just how good Dio could’ve been were he plucked from his prime and left in the 2000s to lay waste to the unsuspecting hordes of metalcore bro’s.
4. Rose of Sharyn
Rose of Sharyn is easily the most well known and famous Killswitch Engage track. After an exhausting tour off the back of Alive or Just Breathing, Rose of Sharyn was what the band needed to thrust them into the annals of Heavy Metal stardom. At a reach, Rose of Sharyn is probably the #1 anthem of the metalcore generation. A generation which praised dark and depressing lyrics, soaring screams and the style of swedish death metal mixed with thunderous drumming.
5. Life to Lifeless
Another song from the Killswitch Engage album Alive or Just Breathing. Seeing a trend, yet?
Life to Lifeless is a classic metalcore track. Containing a mosh-worthy repetitive breakdown which is simple in its execution yet so effective where the screaming is clearly inspired by In Flames and the chorus gives room for the clean singing of “Life to Lifeless, into Eternity” to highlight Jesse Leach’s range.
6. My Curse
I’m not sure if the Killswitch Engage track, My Curse, is the best example of Howard Jones’ vocal gymnastics but it’s pretty damn close. My Curse is fast, punchy and is the kind of track where the entire pit erupts into a vocal frenzy (at almost any Killswitch Engage show).
7. Reject Yourself
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of this article is giving verbal hand jobs to Howard Jones and rightfully so. The force and vocal control behind Reject Yourself is the shining light of this track. It cements Howard Jones as easily the most talent metalcore and hardcore metal vocalists. While the twin guitar assault of Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz melts your brain at the bridge.
8. This Fire Burns
While originally appearing on the special edition of Killswitch Engage’s album As Daylight Dies, This Fire Burns is probably known as the entrance song for CM Punk from 2006-2011 when he was still wrestling for the WWE. Interestingly though, it was originally listed on the album as “This Fire.”
If that doesn’t say enough for you that it was the theme song for one of WWE’s most controversial and most outspoken wrestlers then I don’t know what will.
9. Eye of the Storm
Eye of the Storm is a virtual vocal and guitar assault. The gradual build up leads on to a quest up the Howard Jones vocal mountain. With the lyrical content being very positive and the clean chorus: “Through the eye of the storm / you are never alone” establishing Jones as the virtuoso of the group. Still, there’s plenty of metalcore elements to digest, with the addition of a truly sludgy bassline which isn’t heard often in this metal sub-genre.
10. Hate by Design
The more things change the more they stay the same. Truer words couldn’t be spoken when it comes to the Killswitch Engage story. Hate By Design is a powerful song which highlights the return of Jesse Leach to the band in stronger form. This track also sees the band return to its roots in the blending of Hardcore and Heavy Metal whilst still providing that modern take on the genre.
11. My Last Serenade
It’s little surprise this song was played in the background on The End of Heartache Bonus DVD disc when the documentary talked about Jesse Leach’s exit from the band. The Last Serenade is as sombre as it is savage. Starting with a light and airy chorale of voices and then breaking into a typical hardcore metal breakdown while still leaving room for the pain in Leach’s voice to seep through in the chorus. Little surprise here that this made our Top 15!
12. Life to Lifeless
As far as Killswitch Engage time signatures go, Life to Lifeless is by far the simplest. Hell, it’s practically rock n roll in its execution. The screams on this track are guttural, ferocious and they’re basically the highlight of the Alive or Just Breathing album.
13. A Bid Farewell
Has any intro track ever left your hairs standing on end and with goosebumps running up and down your body like A Bid Farewell? Yeah, me neither. A Bid Farewell is a fantastic first track for so many reasons but I’ll try and narrow my reasoning down to just a few points. The riffs alone are a great summary of what to expect in substance and style for the entire End of Heartache album.
The power and execution of Howard Jones’ voice is night and day when you compare it to Alive or Just Breathing. Finally, that drumming assault is going to leave with a brain melt and the need for a new pair of underwear – all at the same time!
Thank you for coming to my Killswitch Engage TED Talk.
14. The Element of One
I make no apologies that the majority of these tracks hail from the Alive or Just Breathing album. Call me sentimental if you wish or just an old fart. Still, find me a song that demonstrates the early maturation of Jesse Leach’s voice and a strong understanding of how to mix acoustic guitars into an absolute belter of a metal album better than other song on this album. You can’t and you won’t.
15. The End of Heartache
Like the name suggests, The End of Heartache tells the story of breakup, loss and then picking yourself up and moving on to conquer a new day. In essence, it’s a powerfully positive song which helps you get over the end of a relationship. It also marked the exit of Jesse Leach and the entrance of Howard Jones as vocalist. The End of Heartache was the second single off the band’s album The End of Heartache and it’s a great note for us to end this article on.