One of the biggest and most important metal bands of the post-2000s landscape, Massachusetts' Killswitch Engage were perfecting metalcore when the rest of the heavy music world was still playing around with nü-metal. Bonafide genre classics Alive or Just Breathing and The End of Heartache are chock full of anthems, cementing the five piece as the masters of the 'crushing verse/big melodic chorus' template.
Nearing almost a quarter century of existence, we feel like it's high-time for the Killswitch Engage back catalogue to get a Deep Cuts article. With eight studio full lengths to comb through, whether it's with original and current vocalist Jesse Leach or his mid-career replacement Howard Jones, we're confident that there are plenty of great Killswitch Engage rarities that need more limelight. So what made our top 10? With every album represented, read on and find out we've exhumed…
Kicking off our top ten is an underrated gem from 2013's Disarm the Descent. The sixth album from Killswitch Engage, it saw the return of vocalist Jesse Leach for his first record with the group in over a decade. Taken from the special edition, "Blood Stains" is a heavy track that never gets mentioned, despite it's roaring verses and the ultra-melodic chorus. Our case for it's inclusion on this list is strengthened with the lyrics touching on the LP's title – and that was still not enough for it to get included on the standard edition of Disarm the Descent.
"In The Unblind"
A song with it's history dating back to the very first Killswitch Engage demo, "In The Unblind" has had quite the life for a fairly underrated track. There's a few versions of the tune floating around – the aforementioned demo, as well as the version that wound up Killswitch's 2000 self-titled debut, a cleaned up remaster that came to life four years later, and then a completely re-recorded version in 2002. Killswitch Engage would compose catchier and more melodic material later, but hearing "In The Unblind" in its earliest forms shows how much potential the act had from the very start of their career.
"I Would Do Anything"
Killswitch Engage 2009's self-titled effort was the group's first underwhelming release. Compared to the trio of metalcore classics that came before it, Killswitch Engage was lacking in the songs and to be honest, cajones. Of course there are still some moments of quality dotted throughout – seemingly are tucked away at the end of the full length – including our choice "I Would Do Anything". With a huge, huge chorus, it would have easily fit into As Daylight Dies album, and maybe should have been pushed as a single/film clip. For those who haven't checked out the second self-titled record in a while, fellow deep cut "In A Dead World" is also well worth your time.
"Let The Bridges Burn"
The least streamed track from As Daylight Dies – and never played live – it's a travesty that the fantastic "Let The Bridges Burn" was relegated down to only being on the LP's special edition. It packs all the best elements of the band – melodic hooks and riffs a plenty – plus some other underused aspects, like the crunchy bass line, post-rock style guitars and occasional blastbeat. Top that off with Howard Jones at the peak of his game, and you've got the Killswitch Engage classic that never was.
"My Life For Yours"
We've dipped into a special edition well once again with the highly under-appreciated "My Life For Yours". Lifted from the deluxe version of The End of Heartache, the chorus passage – especially the pre-chorus – sees some outside of the box production style, giving the massive melodic refrain even more weight. Despite sounding like perhaps a pre-pro demo, the debuting Howard Jones is in full voice, both roaring and passionate. Most telling is the strength of The End of Heartache that the experimental and melodic "My Life For Yours" wasn't good enough to make the final album.
One of the many artists signed at the time to Roadrunner Records, Killswitch Engage, along with label-mates Trivium, Opeth and Dream Theater, all contributed to the God of War: Blood & Metal soundtrack. "My Obsession" is peak Killswitch Engage – maybe a little by the numbers, but everything you'd want from them. Not a ton of info is out about our selection, but judging by the song's style and production it was presumably birthed during the 2009 self-titled album sessions. As we touched on before, that LP is far from their best moment, so "My Obsession" could have been a highpoint for that record; much like it is for the God of War soundtrack.
"Prophets of Treason"
Unearthed from Atonement II: B-Sides for Charity, "Prophets of Treason" is another forgotten gem that somehow didn't make the album proper. Fortunately the EP – released to benefit Covid-19 relief efforts – the Killswitch Engage boys decided to bring this tune into the public eye. It's slower pace and open-string-ringing main-riff keeps things fresh between the usual chugging, and of course it wouldn't be Killswitch without a mountainous chorus. Despite coming from the sessions of their eighth record, the veterans of the scene still have quality in spades with off-cuts like "Prophets of Treason".
We've decided to go back into the band's underrated debut with "Rusted Embrace". A super heavy track – it's 2004 remaster sounds even beefier – there are no real melodic elements to be heard, with the tune about as gnarly as Killswitch Engage gets. That ending breakdown has got to be in the running for the most brutal thing they've recorded to date. With a mountain of other great riffs, it's a truly forgotten ‘Jesse' era diamond. Fortunately with Killswitch Engage deciding to shine a light on their earliest output with their recent live stream/DVD set, these early-days songs have gotten the second life they deserve.
"Triumph Through Tragedy"
The muscular "Triumph Through Tragedy" is an old school sounding jam from Killswitch Engage's seventh effort, 2016's Incarnate. On an album teeming with deep cuts – common place for any band more than half-a-dozen records into a career – "Triumph Through Tragedy" might be one of the heaviest songs from Killswitch Engage in a long time. Featuring some low death growls and instantly head-bobbing grooves, it's a tune that any fan of Killswitch who thinks they lost their tough edge needs to check out ASAP.
"When The Balance Is Broken"
A bonus track from the groundbreaking Alive or Just Breathing, it's clear that there was not going to be enough room on the LP for all the great material the band had – hence the exclusion of the excellent "When The Balance is Broken". Eventually being heard by the greater public on the 2005 reissue, the song is exactly what you'd expect to hear from a mid-00s Killswitch Engage record. Heavy as hell, but with a nice melodic refrain. As there was no space on the final album even for this amazing relic, "When The Balance Is Broken" has been forgotten for far too long.
So, how did we do? As one of the biggest metal artists of the 00s and beyond, we know that there's bound to be a ton of Killswitch Engage fans out there ready to point out the tracks we missed – so what are they? Sound off in the comments below!