Record Review - 1 May 20 2004

After 2003 saw the aggressive sputtering angst of nu-metal take its dying gasp, it would only be a matter of time before another form of commercially viable heavy music began to receive the rapt attention of American youth. Bands like Killswitch Engage, shred-ready and packaged for MTV2, exemplify the technically proficient and melodically anthemic metal-core currently sweeping midsized clubs across the country.

The End of Heartache, Killswitch Engine’s third album, showcases a dozen tracks of slickly competent modern metal. Banking on the mosh-friendly stylings and lyrical positivism of modern American hardcore and the flashy riffing and sinister melodicisms of early ’90s Scandinavian death metal, Killswitch Engage displays a fusion that is competent but wholly derivative.

Vocalist Howard Jones’ delivery alternates between gruff tough-guy barks to over-the-top dramatic crooning. His overwhelmingly positive lyrical approach — the words “rise,” “hope” and “prevail” probably appear more prominently than any others — seems forced and unconvincing, like much of the band’s delivery.

Frequently set to a backdrop of chunky, groove-heavy staccato riffing, the fleet-fingered licks that serve as a melodic centerpiece for much of Killswitch’s songs sound rather hackneyed — like generic Swedish metal B-side material from a decade ago.

Creative shortcomings aside, The End of Heartache is a respectable piece of seasoned metal professionalism. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz’s production job is nearly flawless and the band’s playing is impeccable, while the songs themselves will likely find appeal with those looking for a step up from a diet of Disturbed and Limp Bizkit.

Killswitch Engine plays the Masquerade at 7 p.m., Fri., May 21. $20.