I really wanted to settle into this album before reviewing it. I’ve taken some time and listened to it all the way through numerous times. Sometimes it’d be 2-3 times in a row. Sometimes I’d take a break for a couple days and listen to other music then pop it back in.
What I CAN tell you is that it’s not my favorite Killswitch Engage album. Out of their now 7 albums, it may rank as #4. Now on the same token, I frequently listen to every album KSE has released fairly equally. So it’s not a bad thing when I say it’s not my “favorite”, because it will get listened to as much as the rest and I thoroughly enjoy “Incarnate” and it will most definitely be in my top 10 of 2016. Most likely my top 3.
So let’s get into the details.
It’s as Killswitch as anything they’ve released. There is a certain tone on this album though. I think it meets somewhere between “Alive or Just Breathing” and “Killswitch Engage II”. If you’re familiar with those 2 albums… There’s sort of this dark undertone, even with the light shining through. It’s a little more raw in style and production than “Disarm the Descent” was. While the formula is the same as it’s always been, they take some chances but it’s really just subtle things.
The vocals are the most noticeable difference. Jesse is clearly the most confident he’s ever sounded and by doing so he’s singing much more than before (at least on a KSE platform). Don’t take that as a “sell out” or “radio” thing cause that’s not true in any case. The singing doesn’t take away anything and really it just fits the mood of the songs. It’s the RIGHT way how to do it, unlike All That Remains’ last album *clears throat*
There are some extremely heavy moments on “Incarnate”, plenty of catchy melodies that will stick in your head, intricate and groovy riffs, and certainly some new classics that will be a forever staple in the KSE setlist.
Favorite songs? Well I don’t know about you, but my #1 favorite song from this is the song they contributed to the Game of Thrones mixtape last year, “Loyalty”. Honestly it’s just everything I wanted in a Killswitch Engage song and even though it’s a bonus track, it’s my favorite. But as for the ones I feel standout the most:
Alone I Stand
Hate by Design
Cut Me Loose
Strength of the Mind
Upraised (Embrace the Journey)
Until the Day
We Carry On
Triumph Through Tragedy
I imagine many would also choose “Just Let Go”, and overall I can see why. I’m just not a fan of the chorus of the song. Everything else but the chorus. That’s me though. “Upraised (Embrace the Journey)” is most defintiely the spiritual and musical successor to “Just Barely Breathing” and is also one of the longest songs they’ve done since then. It’s not often they hit the 5 minute mark in their music. “We Carry On” isn’t all that different from “Always” from the last album, but I enjoy this song more. “Reignite” is the punkiest song they’ve ever had and actually sounds like it could’ve been on “The End of Heartache”. Most recently we were given a treat for “Record Store Day” with the release of 1 extra bonus track, “Define Love”, which of course turned out to be another highlight.
Did you realize that I named nearly the entire album as a highlight? Well you know we’re talking about a Killswitch Engage release, right? They are masters of their craft and “Incarnate” only adds to their growing legend. Howard Jones fans… Devil You Know has a 2nd album. Stop complaining that he’s not in Killswitch. There’s every reason to like/love both bands, and 0 reason to want Howard back in this band when stylistically both bands are similar and if anything, Jesse IS Killswitch, and Howard’s voice fits Devil You Know perfectly and is better suited to his voice. Best of both worlds. Stop comparing.
“Incarnate” also was the first album since 2002’s “Alive or Just Breathing” that Jesse was actually involved in the songwriting and where the music was actually written with him in mind as “Disarm the Descent” was mostly written while Howard was still in the band and shortly after. I don’t really think it makes a difference. The band has also stated they don’t plan to wait another 3 years between releases, so we can look forward to another new album sooner than later (hopefully!)