This second album on Roadrunner sees Killswitch Engage with a change in line-up. There is a new vocalist, who had to take over from the awesome Jesse Lynch. Lynch (who is credited with additional backing vocals on this album and remains friends with the band) was a singer who could move vocally from banshee to siren with effortless grace, unfortunately he left the band for family commitments soon after the recording of 2002’s fantastic Alive or Just Breathing.

Howard Jones now fills his place and while under the pressure of having a lot to live up to, he does not disappoint. This won’t come as a great surprise to those following KsE as Jones has been singer for a long time now, making his debut (in true baptism of fire style) at New York’s Hellfest just one week after arriving. The two have very similar styles (in this band, at least) although Jones’ husky tones add more depth to the melodic sections.

They also have a new sticksman in the shape of Justin Foley, who is as brutal and technically proficient a replacement for Tom Goves (who departed in late 2003) as they were likely to find. Both new additions are members of Blood Has Been Shed, who continue to record when their drummer and frontman are not busy with Killswitch.

The remaining trio of Mike D’Antonio (bass), Joel Stroetzel (lead guitar), and Adam Dutkiewicz (guitars, vocals, additional percussion, producer of all KsE’s albums, and drummer on the previous recording!) make up the rest of this most interesting group.

The main attraction of Killswitch Engage for me has always been their ability to mix styles so well. Right the way from thrash metal fret-mastery to the most chugging of riffs, all the way to hauntingly melodic instrumentals – these boys can play. Check out the chorus of A Bid Farewell for a Bay Area influence, Rose of Sharyn for one hell of a groove, And Embers Rise and Inhale for the softer, more gentle side of the band – not that you’d dare call them a bunch of girls to their faces. The End of Heartache has such a great crossover of styles that anyone should be able to find something to enjoy. A metal album that’s fun for all the family if ever there was one.

the track Rose of Sharyn is available to download from www.roadrunnerrecords.com, and is a great representation of what the band are about. A quick, powerful start gives way to a harmonised groove that slows down, speeds up a notch and then drops into the ‘bit that you can whistle to’ where Jones shows us that while he is a mighty growler, the fella can certainly hold a note or two. In fact, follow the links on the bands official site and you can listen to the whole album (albeit in poor quality) on an End of Heartache ecard that was available at least four weeks before it went on sale, although this is no substitute for purchasing the album and cranking it up LOUD on an old-fashioned CD player.

As previously mentioned, Adam Dutkiewicz handled the production on all of KsE’s releases so he should know how the band should sound. Dutkiewicz is well aware what knob twiddling is all about, having produced others such as From Autumn To Ashes and Every Time I Die. The depth of this album is such that it could have easily been a case of overkill – fifty layers of a guitar track and it still isn’t heavy enough? Not in this case though; a more well rounded auditory experience is hard to find.

The End of Heartache is a truly impressive record, but it doesn’t actually deliver any more than Alive or Just Breathing. Two years have passed, and while Killswitch Engage still sound achingly fresh, they have not added anything new to their sound. It’s not that more of the same isn’t welcome, as no-one plays like these guys and I can’t blame them for not wanting to mess with the formula, but with a band this technically impressive I did expect a certain progression in sound. Still, that is the only criticism of an otherwise outstanding release which is well worth your money.

Killswitch Engage have a fearsome live reputation and are currently on tour around North America until the beginning of June co-headlining with Sweden’s finest metallic export, In Flames (whose latest opus Soundtrack To Your Escape I can heartily recommend), AND you’ve the added treat of seeing As I Lay Dying open for them. If you get the opportunity, haul your ass off to see them – you won’t be disappointed.

Killswitch Engage
The End of Heartache (2004)

Genre: Rock/Metal
Record Label: Roadrunner

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