After several appearances in UK support slots for the likes of Bullet for my Valentine, Parkway Drive and Iron Maiden, Killswitch Engage make their triumphant return to the Manchester Academy in support of their brand new record Atonement.
Tenside graced the stage first with a proud declaration of “This Is What We Die For”, a mid-tempo, breakdown laden metalcore song and while they may not be reinventing the wheel sonically, they managed to elicit a positive reaction from the crowd and even managed to start a mosh pit; a feat that is usually quite difficult for an opener that isn’t a well-known band.
Accompanied by Mars from Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite, Revocation took to the stage and to call them a bizarre band for the bill would be an understatement. Revocation’s brand of technical death metal/thrash metal seems more at home with a band like Gorguts or Voivod but was surprisingly welcomed by the crowd; despite the majority of their fans being made up of envious musicians who could only dream of reaching the level of technicality on display and the rest being comprised of crazed metalheads just looking to take part in the vicious moshpits throughout their set.
Revocation’s set was fairly convenient for new fans as the majority of the setlist was made up of tracks from their latest album The Outer Ones and provided a fantastic insight into their lyrical content of cosmic horror in the vein of H.P Lovecraft while still ending with the strange Jazz/Thrash odyssey, ‘Dismantle the Dictator’.
In keeping with strange yet entertaining choices, the lights went down and Killswitch Engage entered accompanied by the cheddar fueled hair metal classic, ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe before leading into the devastating breakdown laden opener, ‘Unleashed’ and gave a good baseline for what was to come.’The Crownless King’, upon first listen, seems very reminiscent of ‘Down for Life’ by Testament so it was unsurprising to find that Chuck Billy provided guest vocals on the studio version but what was surprising is how well vocalist, Jesse Leach, managed to imitate his unique brand of guttural vocal stylings.
It was around this point that the band began to perform songs from their now legendary mid-2000’s catalogue, beginning with the dulcet tones of an acoustic guitar accompanied by soft vocals which would eventually lead into the harsh and aggressive attack of ‘My Last Serenade’.
There’s a clear divide between the band’s older material and tracks release since Jesse Leach’s return, this may be due to how much the landscape of metalcore has changed over the past few years but Killswitch have adopted more Thrash Metal elements while still having soaring choruses for songs like ‘In Due Time’ but can still transition effortlessly into more emotional life-affirming tracks like ‘I Am Broken Too’ and ‘Always’.
It’s rare for a band to collaborate with a former vocalist in the modern age due to toxic media publications and drama culture but genuine respect is shown by Leach as he dedicates ‘The Signal Fire’ to former vocalist, Howard Jones, and the crowd reacted accordingly as the aggressive rager began and at no point did the band or the crowd begin to run out of steam.
Few things can be said about ‘My Curse’, the song has since become arguably the most iconic metalcore song of all time, if not one of the most iconic metal songs of the 2000s. The middle of the room was almost uninhabitable by the time the main riff had started and it would only get rowdier by the time the breakdown kicked in.
The rest of the set was comprised of classic after classic after classic, from the slow burn arena metal anthem of ‘The End of Heartache’ to the borderline progressive twist-filled ‘This Is Absolution’ before they finally ended with one of the most iconic covers of one of the most iconic songs in the long and storied history of Heavy Metal; ‘Holy Diver’ by Dio, a track that any self-respecting metal fan has to at least some of the lyrics too.
While the state of modern metalcore has changed significantly since Killswitch’s peak, they have yet to turn their back on their roots while and their live show is as a testament to their skills as performers and it’s with this set that the band demonstrated exactly why they have survived so long while so many of their peers have fallen into obscurity.