Disarm the Descent
When Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones announced he was leaving the band in 2011, some wondered if it might mark the end for the famously ferocious Boston-based metalcore act. But the band decided to soldier on. And after auditioning a number of potential singers, it was decided that the best man to fill Jones' shoes actually wore the shoes Jones once filled himself: original lead singer Jesse Leach.
Leach left Killswitch in 2002 after the band's first two albums, citing struggles with his voice and depression. Fast-forward a decade, and Leach seems to be in a much better place as he resumes his role as Killswitch's primary lyricist and growler in chief. "These guys have welcomed me back with open arms," Leach told loudwire.com. As for the sound on this sixth effort, Leach reported, "The music is definitely the fastest Killswitch record ever. … There's definitely melody attached, but I pulled out some new styles vocally, yelling and screaming and growling and layers, and it sounds massive."
Some pretty massive spiritual messages get layered in among all that yelling and screaming and growling too.
The opening lines of album opener "The Hell in Me" sound grim as Leach laments, "Fall down into the chaos/Staring into the depths of pain, darkness and suffering." Uh-oh: hard-core metalcore nihilism alert, right? Not so fast. Leach soon says he doesn't want those dark, broken things inside to rule him, telling us he wants to "understand this part of me that bleeds and captures my spirit," so he can "loosen its grip." Better yet, he knows he can't do it alone, and we then hear these prayer-like petitions for spiritual release: "Protect me from the hell that burns inside me/ … Bring light into the darkness/ … Lead me out of the darkness/ … Will You set me free?" "Turning Point" treads similar territory as a man moves from struggle and despair to strength and determination, undergirded by "truth that will not change."
"All That We Have" champions the critical importance of forgiveness as it relates to healing from past hurts: "Forgiveness is all we have/Wounds will heal as time goes on/Nothing else will give you a peace of mind." Leach also observes, "Years spent holding onto anger and hatred/The feeling that things will never change/it eats you up inside," then poignantly asks, "Are you willing to just let it go?" He concludes, "Let all your anger go to find a peace of mind."
While avoiding explicitly Christian language, "The Call" practically begs fans to come to the altar and surrender their lives to God. We also hear, "Leave behind this shell of flesh and bone/In the end, we will answer to the call."
"Always" echoes Jesus' words in Matthew 28:20 with, "I am with you always/From the darkness of light until the morning/ … When hope seems lost, down and lowly/I am here with you always." "Beyond the Flames" recalls Proverbs 5 as a man strives to resist the charms of a seductress. The song warns, "Her dark embrace will suffocate/Choking my senses." And despite the carnal, momentary pleasure of her sensual "fire," the man says, "Now I am searching/For what's beyond the flames" as he longs for "the substance that can't be corrupted or changed."
The band affirms, on "New Awakening," "There is more to life than this/We are more than just this flesh," proclaiming, "I will not live in fear." "In Due Time" finds a man pondering whether a mistake will be his undoing before the song tells us that time and perseverance will eventually triumph over despair. "A Tribute to the Fallen" describes the ultimate victory of good over evil in this way: "You cannot break this love with hate." It also frames life as a spiritual battle between those two forces. Similar themes saturate "No End in Sight," on which Leach let loose these laudable lines: "We may suffer, but nothing will break our spirit/ … Separate from the ways of the world."
"You Don't Bleed for Me" calls out Pharisee-like hypocrites who fail to practice what they preach: "Fly your flag of righteousness/When underneath it is deviousness, it is greed and lies/ … With your plastic smile/I don't believe a word you say/ … Your words betray/The life that you live is a lie/The truth remains/I see through you."
Album closer "Time Will Not Remain" exhorts, "None of us should be thought of/As anything less than a potential to change the world."
Jesse Leach never actually sings—screams—Jesus' name on Disarm the Descent. But virtually everything on this album, lyrically speaking, bears witness to his Christian faith. Themes of redemption, salvation, deliverance, forgiveness, truth, light, hope and grace claw their way out of the cacophony in just about every single song. So often, in fact, that the decidedly mainstream Disarm the Descent ends up laying claim to more references to the Christian faith than some avowedly Christian albums do.
Wanting to learn a bit more about Leach's background, I came across an extensive interview with him in the April 2013 issue of HM (formerly Heaven's Metal, now The Hard Music Magazine). In it, he affirms that he is a Christian, and that his lyrics are informed by his beliefs.
"Killswitch is a very much mixed bag," he continues. "We equally say that half of the members are definitely not even spiritually minded—never mind believing in a Christian God. So it would be very inaccurate … if we were to come out and say this is a Christian band. … We just happen to have a few guys who believe. … I think that we're called—in whatever we're called to do—we just do it the best that we can." Elsewhere in the interview, Leach says of his faith, "It's ever-present—just 'cause it's who I am."
And that's exactly what we hear coming through loud and clear (mostly loud) on Disarm the Descent.