Killswitch Engage

support Revocation + Tenside
author AP date 02/11/19 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Six years have passed since Killswitch Engage last played a headlining concert in Denmark, and it was at this very same venue, with a similarly populous crowd. The Westfield, MA-based metalcore icons have released two full-length albums in that period (2013’s “Incarnate” and this year’s rather disappointing “Atonement”), so for those fans who did not muster up the cash to watch the band warm up for Iron Maiden in Copenhagen in the summer of 2018, there is plenty of new material to be heard tonight. It has long been the group’s custom to invite interesting and often hyped artists along for their tours as supports, but even so, the choice of technical death metal crew Revocation is quite surprising, considering the type of listener that Killswitch Engage themselves would attract. It is thus with a sense of intrigue that I waltz into the venue, expecting this to be, at the very least, a diverse evening.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen


Tenside

Unfortunately none of that diversity stems from the opening act Tenside. As the first song, “This Is What We Die for” off the Munich-based quartet’s 2017 album “Convergence” is aired, one thought dominates my mind; namely, that it feels like this German band has followed a step-by-step guide to writing metalcore. Nothing whatsoever diverges from the familiar formula of harsh growls in the verses, clean singing and whoa-ooh-oh chanting in the choruses, and a palette of standard-fare guitar riffs to provide the foundation for it all. Not surprisingly, the crowd’s reaction is muted at best, with a single person’s lone moshing during the second song “Eternal Contempt” representing the only action on the floor apart from slightly bobbing heads here and there. And while the four musicians are by no means glued to the ground, they honestly do very little to give the atmosphere inside the room the kick it needs. There is a hint of promise in the brand new song “As Above So Below”, which catches my attention with a heavy groove not entirely unlike what one has heard on later records by Lamb of God, and the punchline “This is not a fucking invitation!” certainly strengthens that connection. The sound of this track is by no means original, but it does provide a moment of hope in what is otherwise a bland set of dime-a-dozen metalcore. “Alright! You guys are fucking fun! This is great!”, tries frontman Daniel Kuhlemann shortly after, but his comment mainly inspires amusement, given that the ‘fun’ we are having consists of a dozen people upfront jumping up and down during the penultimate “Iron Will & Golden Heart”, while the rest of us stand with our arms crossed wearing the wrinkles of skepticism on our foreheads. He makes a final plea for no one to stand still for just before the closing track “Faith over Fears”, but it once again falls on deaf ears and leaves me excited about the band’s imminent exit. At the very least, Tenside are consistently average.

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Revocation

The audience remains inanimate as Revocation initiate their onslaught with “The Outer Ones” (the title track to their 2018 album), but it is hard to tell if this is because the complexity and intensity of the music forces shock in people, or because it goes over their heads. Unlike the previous band, however, this Bostonian four-piece are anything but dull, with guitarist/vocalist David Davidson and bassist Brett Bamberger in particular putting on a show for us. When the former is laying down his deep, guttural growls, the latter looks like a blur of hair by virtue of his breakneck headbanging, but when an instrumental passage hits, the two like to face each other off, putting on one after another bizarre expression as if to underline that while Revocation is a very extreme band, the musicians are not afraid to inject some humour into their performance as well. In that sense, they are similar to Killswitch Engage, who of course have their own jester in guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. It takes a while, but when the breakdown in “That Which Consumes All Things” eventually arrives, the crowd transforms into a sea of fists and moshing at last. It seems like people have judged Revocation to be worthwhile now, because the chaos continues into the following “Madness Opus” in spite of its more traditional, mid-tempo death metal groove. It is a rare change of pace in a concert that offers few opportunities to catch one’s breath, and while the technical tremolo melodies and mechanistic drumming never cease to amaze, there is a point to be made that the set could do with some more variety. It arrives late in the set with the eerie “Starless Darkness”, which clocks in seven minutes of proggier material before “Dismantle the Dictator” (taken from 2009’s “Existence Is Futile”) delivers the final beating. Still, even with the constancy of the show in mind, the band manages to hold my attention captive for the entire duration and make the most lasting impression out of the three bands on the bill tonight.

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Killswitch Engage

The five musicians of Killswitch Engage emerge from backstage to the tune of “Final Countdown” by Europe, which is only natural given that the band’s concerts also tend to finish in a cover song — namely Dio’s “Holy Diver”. It is put in stark contrast by the bursts of blastbeat and tremolo chug that erupt from the first track proper (“Unleashed” off this year’s “Atonement”), and all remaining notions of AOR are swept under the rug once vocalist Jesse Leach lets his growls loose. Despite his 41 years of age, Leach continues to develop both as a singer and a frontfigure, with his clean voice sounding golden and his antics reflecting a man completely in love with his profession. And when “Hate by Design” off 2016’s “Incarnate” is aired, it is clear that the rest of the band, too, are here to entertain; bassist Mike D’Antonio is taking every opportunity to brandish and swing his instrument in between his bouts of headbanging, while Adam Dutkiewicz on the lead guitar darts across the stage looking like a jock, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth and a bandana that states “BEER” adorning his head. Curiously, although there are a lot of arms up in the air crowd-side, the atmosphere is more muted than I was expecting — at least until the staple “My Last Serenade” (taken from 2002’s “Alive or Just Breathing”) is played as the fourth track on the setlist. As always, this classic piece evokes a massive singalong from tonight’s attendance, one which is replicated by the following “This Fire” — one of the bonus tracks from the group’s 2006 album “As Daylight Dies”, which, for me, remains the last truly memorable Killswitch’ album.

When the aforementioned song draws to a conclusion, Leach jokes that “even [his] mom didn’t like the new album”, and while his comment is of course brimming with irony, I’m sure I’m not the only person here thinking there is some truth to it. If you ask me, Killswitch’ have been flatlining for the past 13 years, neither taking any chances by innovating on their sound, nor by looking back at what made their early material so unforgettable. The result is songs like “I Am Broken Too” and “Ravenous” that leave me frustrated by their genericness, and this opinion finds support in the lack of energy from the audience when they are played. Indeed — by slotting in the classic “Rose of Sharyn” (off 2004’s “The End of Heartache”) right in between those two tracks, the Westfield, MA-based outfit makes an own goal, underlining the fact that very few of these new creations measure up to their heyday in the early- to mid-‘00s. “Rose of Sharyn” sees a rare moshpit materialise, and although Leach has trouble mimicking former vocalist Howard Jones in the chorus, it delivers a standout moment in what is otherwise turning out to be a somewhat disappointing concert in my book. The fact that Dutkiewicz has toned down his jesting as the years have passed does nothing to alleviate the underwhelming experience, though I must still commend the man for delivering an excellent performance without any sign of tiring. “My Curse” and “This Is Absolution”, both of which are quickly established as highlights, witness him doing the duck lips and executing endless spins and twirls amongst his colleagues, who themselves also seem to be very into it now that the crowd is showing some enthusiasm.

Killswitch’s show tonight is thus not entirely unenjoyable. But it does not leave a lasting impression either, except in the field of showmanship. The band could not have assembled a more predictable setlist if they tried; even some of the more common early-‘00s tracks like “Temple from the Within” and “Life to Lifeless” are nowhere to be heard, and when the five musicians are not busy promoting their latest creations, what we are given are only the most obvious Killswitch’ hit singles. It thus bothers me even more that “Holy Diver” has, once again, been picked as the set closer — I mean, hasn’t this song been played enough times by now? Once the group is done with the “Atonement” cycle, it is possible they will return to winning ways, bringing with them more interesting setlists to complement their performance-craft to ensure long-standing fans such as myself will not feel like they have seen it all before.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Unleashed
  • 02. Hate by Design
  • 03. The Crownless King
  • 04. My Last Serenade
  • 05. This Fire
  • 06. Reckoning
  • 07. I Am Broken Too
  • 08. Rose of Sharyn
  • 09. Ravenous
  • 10. In Due Time
  • 11. The Signal Fire
  • 12. Always
  • 13. My Curse
  • 14. This Is Absolution
  • 15. The End of Heartache
  • 16. Strength of the Mind
  • 17. Holy Diver (Dio cover)

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