When you look back at 2002’s Alive Or Just Breathing it’s difficult to believe just how well this seminal and genre defining album has aged. Even now the music is just so fresh and exciting, who can listen to the crushing `Self Revolution,’ without judging it an absolute genre classic ? Great music, great vocals and great production, the song is absolutely huge in every way, from the battery of the kick drum patterns to the very heavy riffs then the emotional impact of the well thought out and interesting lyrics. The whole album is so clever, balancing between light and shade in a way that no other band even gets close to.
Chugging riffs, uplifting guitar harmonies, catchy choruses and heavy double kick drum filled verses have always been the Killswitch sound, but this album is heavier and harsher than the bands later work, with songs like `Just Barely Breathing,’ and especially `To The Sons Of Man,’ having a much more aggressive and brasher sound than you may be expecting . The music is so well written, thoughtful and just plain good that it’s not hard to see why the band eventually became so successful.
The production is also amazing, the guitar sound is gigantic and the kick drum beaters absolutely pound your speakers, which is especially impressive when you think that it was self produced, with current guitarist (then drummer) Adam D handling a lot of the responsibilities in the studio as well as musically.
Adam is responsible for touches of piano, the superb heavy hitting and kick pedal abusing drum performance as well as a number of guitar riffs that would hint at his future position. On top of all that you still get Adam D’s excellent backing vocals which are so good they always become a real highlight of any Killswitch song.
Pete Cortese, Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroezel have a distinctive playing style which mixes Fear Factory influenced staccato rhythms with quick twin guitar harmonies in a very particular fashion that is laced with both melody and aggression. The album contains a lot of the finest work Killswitch have ever done, which still grace Killswitch concerts to this day such as the singles `Fixation of Darkness’ and `My Last Serenade.’
Standout tracks include the brilliant fan favourite `Life To Lifeless,’ the unique and ever enjoyable opener `Numbered Days’ and the previously mentioned ` Just Barely Breathing,’ which remains to this day one of the heaviest songs in the Killswitch catalougue.
Alive Or Just Breathing is a undeniably classic album, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.