Artist: Killswitch Engage
Album: Alive or Just Breathing
Release Date: May 21, 2002
Alive or Just Breathing is an album I can't stop coming back to. Released back in 2002 by Massachusetts metalcore pioneers Killswich Engage, this album put the genre on the map and stands as one of the greatest metalcore releases of all time. Combining the simplicity and aggression of hardcore punk with the technical brutality pioneered by Swedish melodic death metal bands like At the Gates, with an extra helping of melody just for good measure, Killswitch Engage crafted a masterpiece.
Many bands suffer from the "sophomore slump," a second album that pales in comparison their debut, but not Killswitch Engage. With Alive or Just Breathing they took everything on their debut album and made it forty time better. All the way through, there is not a single bad song. From the opening number "Numbered Days," to "Self Revolution," to live staples like "Fixation on the Darkness" and "Life to Lifeless," to their breakout track "My Last Serenade," to re-recordings of the songs "Temple From the Within" and "Vide Infra" from their first album, there are so many songs that stand out.
In terms of musicianship, this album is fantastic. The guitar work of Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz is out of this world, with a heavy, crunchy, metallic sound, and a range from thrashy riffs to big melodic hooks. Mike D'Antonio's bass is loud and heavy and stands out in the mix consistently. Dutkiewicz pulled double duty and also laid down the drums for the album as well. The drumming is great and layered with interesting fills and lots of variety. Vocalist Jesse Leach delivers one of his best performances across the entirety of this album. From low grows, to mid-ranged and high screams, he shows of such variety, and damn can that man sing. His clean vocals are so melodic and beautiful.
One thing to note is that this was Leach's final album with the band for quite some time. He left shortly after the release of this album and was replaced by Howard Jones who would sing on their third album, The End of Heartache, and the next two after that. Jones left the band in 2012, and Leach returned to the band for their sixth album Disarm the Descent.
Take a listen to this masterpiece below and let me know what you think!
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