Machine Head – Civil Unrest (And other recent singles) Review

Civil Unrest is the new single from veteran Bay Area Metal band Machine Head. It is the third non-album single made since the controversial Catharsis album and their very public split with long term band members Phil Demmel and Dave McClain.

Some comments sections on the internet are absolutely lighting up at the moment with people shocked and appalled that Machine Head have suddenly made a political song about race relations due to current events in the news. The thing is though; Machine Head writing about racism is nothing new. Machine Head writing about politics is nothing new. Machine Head writing about current events is nothing new either.

Their last album featured the track ‘Bastards’ about the current political climate in the US, prior to that the non-album single ‘Is There Anyone Out There?’ was about feeling disbelief about and disconnected from racist musicians in the news at the time. Even on their classic The Blackening album there’s a track called ‘Slanderous’ full of anti-racism lyrics. Before that, their fan favourite song ‘Imperium’ opens with the line ‘fuck your prejudice.’ Oh yeah, and all the way back to their 1994 debut album Burn My Eyes they’ve been talking about racism and current events, like Rodney King and the L.A. Riots. Heck, on the track ‘Old,’ which is basically the title track of that album, the first thee words are ‘‘1994. Corruption. Racism.’’ That’s the current, political and racism boxes all ticked in the first 30 seconds.

In short, you really shouldn’t be surprised about it!

Now that the educational portion of the review is over, we can discuss the actual music. The first track, ‘Stop The Bleeding’ features guest vocals from Killswitch Engage’s Jesse Leach. I figure Rob must have decided to do this because the guitar itself is very Killswitch sounding. The first 30 seconds of the track could almost be Killswitch if you didn’t know any better. It’s a nice, catchy up-tempo riff, with a sort of loud/quiet dynamic. Towards the end though, it sounds classically Machine Head, slow riffs, harmonics, groove that could fit on the first two albums if the tone weren’t so bright. In the way Zakk Wylde has a signature sound, so does Rob Flynn. New drummer Matt Alston also does his best job of attempting to stay true to the established Machine Head style. Definitely not a throwaway song.

The next track on here is ‘Bullet Proof’ which is a lot heavier, dirtier and nastier. Its got a similar stock market/wall street lyrical theme as ‘In Comes The Flood’ from Bloodstone & Diamonds and musically it mixes the heavier moments from Through The Ashes Of Empires (think the ”On Your Grave I Will Stand” section of ‘In The Presence Of My Enemies’), with the clean-but-not-clean moments in the style of The More Things Change, topped off with the nice guitar solo trade-offs in the style of all the albums since and including The Blackening. Its basically a career retrospective in one song. For my money, this is probably the best individual song the band have put out since Bloodstone & Diamonds.

Overall, Civil Unrest is just two short and angry songs released spontaneously in a strange year, but if it is any indication of the future, I think maybe Machine Head should be album to find their feet again after their midlife crisis of the past few years.

While I’m on the subject, I have never reviewed the other two songs the band put out since the line-up change; ‘Do or Die’ and ‘Set It Off.’

‘Do Or Die’ was a fast and very angry song, with slightly cringey lyrics (‘step into the terror dome’?!?), and a slightly ‘off’ production, but overall a decent song in the vein of the Blackening/Locust/Bloodstone formula. Its not quite there yet, but it is a step in the right direction. The song it reminds me most of is probably ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ – it’s a thrash influenced song about something on the internet that made Rob angry, and it has a prominent guitar solo.

‘Circle The Drain’ on the other hand is a more melodic, catchy radio single attempt like the aforementioned single ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ was. Rob really stretches his vocals here, with some cleans you haven’t heard before and some patterns you haven’t heard since the Nu Metal days. There’s some phrasing that wouldn’t have been out of place on Supercharger, there’s melody that wouldn’t be out of place on US rock radio, but then they save it by having a dirty main riff with trademark harmonics that again could have fit on The More Things Change if the tone wasn’t so bright.

If you imagine all four songs were one hypothetical EP, it is certainly a mixed bag both stylistically and in terms of quality. The one thing I think all of it has in common is that on first listen it may be either mildly disappointing to hardcore fans or downright off-putting to the less devoted out there, but that it really does grow the more you listen. I think Machine Head may have stumbled slightly in recent years (not the car crash the internet would have you believe, but certainly a stumble none the less), however I think if they’re able to adjust and grow from here, then the future is still very bright for them.

Killswitch Engage Albums Ranked.

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series. Here I’ll be doing a run down, buyer’s guide, what’s hot and what’s not, best to worst, whatever kind of way you want to call it… I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (aka. My subjective favourite) to Worst/Least Good (subjectively, in my opinion)… and then pretending it is a factual list of truth and wisdom. Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number, well, I think you’ve seen enough of these types of articles over the years to gather where this is going…

I’ll chose one band per day.

DAY 2 – KILLSWITCH ENGAGE:

01. Disarm The Descent (2013) – When this was first announced I was a bit skeptical, I was always a big fan of Howard Jones and was sad to see him go. From day one of actually hearing it however, I was utterly convinced, and it has only grown on me since then. Individually, it has some of the absolute best songs the band have ever released.  As a whole, it flows well and makes a good journey. The production is great. Jesse’s vocals are better than the early days and the lyrics are pretty great too. Inspirational even. I know that the history books are probably already written and that ‘Heartache and ‘Just Breathing are the ones that will make all the Top 100 Lists, but in my mind this should be right up there with them. Its my favourite for sure.

Best songs: ‘In Due Time,’ ‘The Turning Point,’ ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ & ‘A Tribute To The Fallen.’

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02. The End Of Heartache (2004) – I may personally prefer Disarm’ more, but if you need to choose a first Killswitch album, this is probably the one you should choose. Its consistent, strong, confident, perfectly paced and it has utter classic songs on it that will never not be in the live set, will never not be on a compilation and will never not be on playlists. Definitive all time Killswitch anthems. Even the on the nose artwork is iconic. It is probably the ultimate example of the band, and one of the ultimate examples of the whole subgenre. Its one of those top 100 list classic albums that every Metal fan should own.

Best songs: ‘A Bid Farewell,’ ‘When Darkness Falls’ & ‘The End Of Heartache.’

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03. Alive Or Just Breathing (2002) – The breakthrough album and the one where a lot of people first heard of the band. When ‘My Last Serenade’ first came on music tv in the midst of the Nu Metal era it was unlike anything else on the air at the time. The band seemed so futuristic at the time. Although Jesse’s vocals have improved considerably over time, they are still pretty great here. Although the band have become more diverse and also become more polished over time, this album represents the rawer, heart on sleeve, idealistic recipe for what the band what the band would go on to perfect with the next album. (Without being too unrefined, like the one that preceded it). If you like your hardcore, you’ll probably in fact prefer this one over ‘Heartache. Most of all it has monster tunes.  

Best songs: ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ ‘Temple From The Within’ ‘Self Revolution’ and the aforementioned ‘My Last Serenade.’

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04. Atonement (2019) – Their newest album sees the band focusing on choruses. It feels a bit more streamlined, its high on melody and catchy as hell. Its also one of the most even and least frontloaded of their career. Add to that a guest vocal appearance from Testament’s Chuck Billy and ex-singer Howard Jones and you’ve got a damn strong album. I’ve heard a few reviewers not liking this one, but I don’t get that at all, with songs this good and choruses this memorable, its an absolute winner to me.

Best Songs: ‘I Can’t Be The Only One,’ ‘The Crownless King,’ ‘The Signal Fire’ & ‘Know Your Enemy.’

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05. Incarnate (2016) – Following up the masterpiece that was Disarm’ can’t have been easy, and on top of that, being just another album and not having a hook like ‘’the first album with Jesse back’’ or ‘’the first one with Howard’’ also puts it at a bit of a disadvantage in the reasons to recommend it stakes, but this album shouldn’t be overlooked. I think I like this record more than the average fan. It may not be their best album ever, may be a bit uneven, and may be their most frontloaded album to date, but it is still absolutely worth your time. It’s a really worthy sequel to Disarm’ and while it may not reach quite the same heady heights, it isn’t the disappointment some people make it out to be. Its also nice to see them trying new things, one of the songs* sounds like Megadeth at points and one of them sounds almost Djenty.

Best songs: ‘Hate Be Design,’ ‘Alone I Stand,’ ‘Until The Day*’ & ‘Strength Of The Mind**’  

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06.  As Daylight Dies (2006) – Sort of the Incarnate of the Jones-era, it follows up a classic so has to live in its shadow a bit, it has some utter bangers and a very strong lead single, but although its still good it’s a little bit more uneven and not quite as good as the previous record. If all the songs were as good as the best songs, you’d have a contender for the number one stop, but as it stands now, unfortunately its just a good Killswitch album but not an all-time great. Still totally worth owning, but maybe not one you’ll be listening to in full over and over for years and years to come. I can’t foresee them playing the whole album live in full, even if it does feature one of their biggest hits*.  If you can, try and get the version with a cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ on it.

Best songs ‘My Curse*,’ ‘The Arms Of Sorrow,’ ‘This Is Absolution’ & ‘Still Beats Your Name.’

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07. 2nd S/T (2009) – This one got a bit of a critical panning at the time due to its lighter production job and the public’s patience for metalcore wearing thin after so many years. History hasn’t really done much to change that opinion. I’ve always been a staunch defender of this album (in and of itself) but there’s no arguing that the albums above it on this list are better than this one. That being said, it does have three of my top ten ever Killswitch songs. It’s a real shame that this album tanked, as I’ve seen the band live three times since its touring cycle and they didn’t played a single song from it live at any of them. Baby with the bathwater scenario if ever there was one. I truly believe if the best 3 songs on this record were on a different album, they’d have a completely different reputation.

Best songs ‘Never Again’ ‘The Forgotten’ & ‘This Is Goodbye.’

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08. Early S/T (2000) – This album is their pre-fame debut album on a smaller label, but you can sort of look at it more as a demo, many of the tracks from it have been re-recorded over the years. Its their shortest album, its their most abrasive sounding album and its got the rawest production of their career. Its not really my thing though. Everything it does right, is done better elsewhere. The best songs have been recreated better elsewhere. The songs which haven’t been remade aren’t all that amazing. Its got the weakest drumming and vocals of any Killswitch album. Its worth a look for curiosity, but it isn’t a must-have.

Best songs: ‘Temple From The Within,’ ‘Vida Infra’ & ‘Irreversal.’

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Killswitch Engage – Atonement Review

2019’s Atonement is the 3rd album since Jesse Leach rejoined the iconic metalcore band, Killswitch Engage. I’ll skip to the end right away and say this album is no disappointment. There are a bunch of new songs fit for any future KSE live sets or compilations.

The sound, performance and production are all top notch. More or less similar in quality to the past two albums. Sonically; it is crystal clear and perfectly produced. As classy as you can get without tipping over into overproduced. The band pound away with the same ratio of aggression and contemplation, and nail it perfectly.

Unusually for Killswitch, there is a guest vocal performance from an outisder, from Testament’s Chuck Billy. They add him over one of the thrashier songs (‘The Crownless King’) and he really suits the music. Also; in contrast to the outsider guest spot, and in a nice mirror to Jesse Leach’s guest vocal performance on The End Of Heartache, during the time that Howard Jones was the singer, now that Jesse is the singer, Howard Jones pops up here for a guest vocal performance, on the track ‘The Singal Fire.’  

I’m not just saying it due to the above fact, but the best song on the album is definitely ‘The Signal Fire.’ Next time I see Killswitch I really hope they play it live.

Other highlights include the opener ‘Unleashed’ and ‘I Can’t Be The Only One’ (which I imagine will become a single and a live favourite).  I am also rather fond of ‘Know You Enemy’ which channels Dimebag at times in the riffs, and the album closer ‘Bite The Hand That Feeds’ which is arguably the fastest and heaviest one on this album. There’s plenty of new songs to get excited about, and very little if any in the way of filler.

Initially I was a bit sceptical about this album before getting it, as they said it was their most diverse album to date, and then the first song they released from it, ‘I Am Broken Too’ wasn’t exactly a big rager like ‘In Due Time’ or ‘Strength Of The Mind’ or ‘This Is Absolution’ …and I feared that they might be loosing their touch. Luckily the album is not all in that style anyway. And furthermore, do you know what? The more I listen to that song, the more I like it. It may be a bit mid paced and overly earnest, but dammit if that chorus doesn’t sound better and better each time I play it. As long as there are ragers there too, it doesn’t hurt to have a calmer moment to break things up.

Overall; this is a very strong album and a welcome addition to the Killswitch catalogue. If you don’t like Killswitch already, it won’t change your mind, for all the media talk of it being their most diverse album, it pretty much sounds like modern Killswitch and nothing else for the majority of its duration, but if you like modern Killswitch you shant be disappointed, as it is an expertly performed, produced and written modern Killwitch album, and that’ll do just fine.

I went to go see Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage live in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena tonight, (February 1st 2019).

I went to go see Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage live in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena tonight, (February 1st 2019). It was my second time seeing Parkway, after they decimated Download Festival and were so powerful that they made Guns N’ Roses, even with all their money and with Slash and Duff back in the band, still pale in comparison. It was my third time seeing Killswitch, who I had seen supporting Bullet For My Valentine on Incarnate and Headlining over Trivium on Disarm The Descent.

I wasn’t sure if the gig was going to go ahead though, as it had been snowing prior and I was afraid (given that we live in Britain and they close down all the schools if a snowflake looks at them funny) that it might be called off, but luckily by the time I needed to leave, the roads were clear. (This must sound funny to my Canadian readers, but seriously, google ‘frozen Britain’ and see what the British reaction to snow is like).

Rather than arrive late and hang at the back like I did for Architects a few weeks ago, I new I had to be in the front row. Parkway at Download had whetted my appetite, and I needed more.

So I got there just as doors opened and didn’t have to queue in the post snow chill, but got to walk right to the front without any trouble at all.

The speakers usually play the same few songs at all the gigs I go to. Walk by Pantera, Snap Your Finger Snap Your Neck by Prong, Sad But True by Metallica, Psychosocial by Slipknot.

Not this time. They played some obscure hardcore punk. I couldn’t pin point anything I recognized from my meager 20-30 album Hardcore punk collection. I am not an expert, but I heard something that sounded like or was early Suicidal Tendencies (pre-Thrash) and something that sounded like but probably wasn’t Black Flag.

Not important, but just, different that basically every concert I’ve went to since 2012.

To open the evening where Deathcore lads, Thy Art Is Murder. Their front-man announced he regretted eating fruit around the start, and ended up barfing on stage around the end. He was a weirdly unprofessional burping, farting lads lad who was very charming, like how Orange Goblin‘s singer won me over with his topless enthusiasm a few months ago. Their music was Deathcore, which I am not too familiar with, but I know Metalcore, and I know Death metal, and its basically a mixture of that. There were death growls and blast beats, but there were beat downs and grooves. They were fun enough, and their guitarist has a fun sweeping style of leads/solos that reminded me more of Periphery or Dream Theater (or the Periphery song with John Petrucci from Dream Theater guesting on it). The drummer was very fun to watch, he was very inventive as a blast beater, and did it in more ways than I knew existed, and alternated hands and speeds and cymbals the way Tommy Lee would for a rock beat. They even had a catchy bit in ‘Puppet Master’ where the intro sounded a bit like Lamb Of God‘s ‘Redneck’ gone evil.

I enjoyed them. A much better support band than Beartooth had been last time. I’d be happy to see them again. A heck of a lot more than Asking Alexandria had been at Download. Generally, one of the better modern bands I’ve seen supporting people I like, but whom I didn’t know the support act beforehand.

It takes strength of the mind

Then the room got a bit fuller. After a Thin Lizzy ‘Boys ‘Back In Town intro; metalcore legends Killswitch Engage took to the stage. I have written before about how utterly majestic KSE are live, and how captivating it is when a whole room full of people sing ‘The End Of Heart Ache’, with its big long…

”This distance
This disillusion
I cling to memories
While falling
Sleep brings release
And the hope of a new day
Waking the misery
Of being without you”

…all done in perfect time, in its entirety. As a music fan it is one of the purest joys you can experience. Its crazy how good it makes you feel. And the band are always such fun, with Adam D clowning around like a hyperactive toddler making better masturbation jokes than Blink 182 ever did and brightening up the room with his infectious sense of fun and his big smile.

You knooooooooow me, you knooow me all too well!

I’ve also said before that Jesse is one of the, if not the, greatest live singers in the genre. Almost no-one can sing cleans that well live. He is a master of this type of music. Sam Carter, Ashe O’Harra and Jesse Leech are probably the best clean singers I’ve ever seen with my own two eye. Up there with Maynard incomparable James Keenan.

They played a set-list that was mostly greatest hits (Rose Of Sharyn, My Curse, End Of Heart Ache, All In Due Time, My Last Serenade) with a few early numbers (Fixation On The Darkness, Breathe Life) and it was more compact than any other time I’d seen them but no less potent.

The crowd seemed to really, really love ‘Always’ too, and Jesse doing the very last line while the band were all silent was some Freddie Mercury level skills. They played the two best songs off the new album too, (‘Hate By Design’ and ‘Strength Of The Mind’) which are even better live than on record, with more of a crushing Pantera groove to them.

Darkness will give way to light

Speaking of better live; ‘My Last Serenade’ is so, so good live. Joint with ‘End Of Heartache’ for the most audience participation (and augmented by all the fun guitar squeals and extra shenanigans) it is just excellent live in every way. And of course, they finished on my favourite Killswitch song, the fantastic ‘All In Due Time’ which turned me from a Jesse-reunion skeptic into the kinda guy who goes and sees em three times even though I don’t go to that many gigs.

Building a revolution to heal nations

If it was over then, it would’ve been enough. A solid opener, and mighty Killswitch doing themselves proud with a perfect set-list, excellent performance and decent sound & lighting. That would’ve done me nicely as a gig.

But I wasn’t ready for what happened next.

Now, I’ve banged on and on in this blog numerous times about how good Parkway were at download festival, and if you’ve met me in real life I’ve probably talked about how Ire is a modern classic that deserves to have the reputation sort of The Blackening has. You’ll have noticed the new album Reverence was high in my most played albums and highly ranked in my end of year list for this year just gone.

Well, that’s about to get a whole to more, because I have just seen. The. Best. Show. Of my whole life. No qualifications. No caveats. No exceptions.

I am not been hyperbolic. I am not exagerating. This was the best concert I have ever seen in every way. Visually, muscially, sonically, intangiable x-factor magiaclly. It was absolute bliss.

The set-list leaned heavily on the newest two albums, with just one song from Atlas and Deep Blue each, and two songs from Horizons, but otherwise all newer stuff since the change in direction.

The sound was immense, and the cruch and chug of big riffs like ‘Absolute Power’ or ‘Crushed’ was immense and made you pull that satisfied ”riff face” even harder than usualy. My view was perfect for most of the show, with a spot where I could see every member and even every cymbal on the drum kit. And the band’s performance was so bombastic, confident and commanding that it felt like witnessing something truly extraordinary.

The way Winston would sweep his hands or stomp his feet, or when he got topless and the end and would throw fists, always timed to some musical highlight like a conductor or film director was so entertaining. He is such a fucking golden rock star like we were back in the 1980s again. Having only been born as the ’80s died, its great someone is that for this generation and I don’t just have to read about it in old books.

The crowd were so into it, doing a gigantic circle pit during ‘Idols and Anchors’ and clapping along to the drumbeat in ‘Writings On The Wall’ like it was ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen. They sang out not one or two but five or six songs guitar lines like when you see footage of Maiden or Megadeth playing South America. It was a brilliant vibe.

And that’s all without mentioning the fucking sheer spectacle of it all. If you haven’t been paying attention, it might be surprising to learn that Parkway Drive have become one of the most explosive live bands of the modern era. (Or any era).

The evening started with a dubstep or electronic noise while various lights were going off on the empty stage, with crazily loud concussion bombs going off to match the ‘the truth drops like a bomb’ lyrical theme.

Behind use, we could feel heat. Then in unsion we turned and saw that the mixing desk behind the crowd had pyro on it. And then the band, marched through the middle of the crowd, carrying flaming torches like a strange religious ceremony until they got up on stage. Then, wearing matching black outfits like some kind of Apple technology expo, they moved in choreographed and weirdly alien or robotic unison until the music really kicked in after the intro.

Crushed by the fist of god

Attention, attention, welcome to the stage

The first few songs they played in a tasteful white lighting set up. But it just got bigger and bigger.


You never miss your shadow
Till you’re alone, alone in the dark

There were various lights. And then there was smoke. And then there were fire balls. And then there were towers of fire. And then there were rows of fire. And then there were hydrolic platforms going up and down. And then there was a string quartet.

And we all go to heaven in a little row boat

Let’s get this straight, while you’re listening


And then there was an acoustic moment somehow behind the audience again. Then there was mini fire works. Then lights, lasers and fire together. Then well timed concussion bombs, like literally going ‘bang bang bang’ when Winston sang ‘bang bang bang’ in ‘Absolute Power.’ There was a Kiss-esque shower of sparks from the ceiling bouncing off their heads.

We’ve been waiting for the sky to fall!

At one point he came out with a bottle, and a rag in it, and set it on fire for real with a real lighter, and tossed it onto a big floating PWD shield, and there was really well timed explosives that made it look like he blew it up. And they just kept adding in more and more pyro and explosives until it looked like the whole building was on fire, and Winston would sweep his hands and flames would match the directions, such as during ‘Crushed.’

The truth drops like a bomb
Bang, Bang, Bang, drop the hammer of conscience


Between the spark and the ember
You are smoke threading the wind

Messages written within our columns of fire
No life blooms from the ashes of ire

Slayer had more pyro than I expected on their Farewell tour, but this made them look like a bar band with a packet of sparklers. It was almost Rammstein levels. At one point they had everything going off all at once in complete strobe light sensory overload destined to trigger epilepsy and PTSD sufferers in a way I would genuinely advise them not to attend due to. Absolute bloody war. I’m surprised health and safety let them get away with it to be honest.


Burn your heaven, flood your hell

Bombastic doesn’t do it justice. It was so well thought out and planned, cribbing all the best ideas from Motley Crue and Kiss and updating them with touches of Maiden and Rammstein and Tool but somehow feeling like a really cohesive and excellently orchestrated performance piece than a cobbled together greatest hits of concert ideas, the spectacle side of things was off the charts.

And all that being said, if they had have came out in day clothes and played the same set in an empty room with not so much as dry ice or a single light, it would’ve still been the best concert I saw in the last decade purely on the utter majesty and perfection of the performance. Songs like ‘Vice Grip’ are so goddamn triumphant sounding that when you see it live you feel like your team won the world cup. Songs like ‘Wishing Wells’ and ‘Chronos’ are so well constructed that you feel like a tween discovering the love of music for the first time. Songs like ‘Wild Eyes’ and ‘Karma’ are sing along fun that you just don’t have enough of as an adult. And best of all, ‘Bottom Feeder’ and ‘Crushed’ just level the place. When he sang ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and the payoff riff after the build up came in I got the kind of euphoric rush normally exclusive to a wedding day or the birth of a child. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the best part is…not by much!

Speaking of the birth of children. This will probably be my last concert for a while. Ozzy with Judas Priest got cancelled due to Ozzy’s ill health (just like my first ever Ozzfest, Ozzy didn’t play due to a quad bike accident.). My son is going to be born just a few months before Kiss say farewell and Download rolls around again so as much as I love music I’m not traveling for any of that this year, and so far nobody seems to be playing in between now and then.

As a last concert for a while, possibly of the year, I could not have asked for a better one. Hands sown the best concert of my life so far. If you ever get the chance to see Parkway live I advise and border on demand that you go. I hope to high heaven that they release a live DVD from this tour. This is how live music is done!

Until next time…

Killswitch Engage – Incarnate Review

KiIncarnate2016llswitch Engage are one of the biggest and most beloved of all the bands that came from their scene, and have consistently released top quality material since their inception, staying more or less successful and critically acclaimed throughout, with only a few dips.

After previously estranged frontman Jesse Leach returned with their previous album, 2013, their star has risen arguably even further and they are constantly called things like ‘the best live band in the world’ online and in the press. That album was amazing and the tour for it was great. When Incarnate came out in 2016, it wasn’t met with the same unending praise and I was a bit too skeptical to pick up a copy initially from people I respect telling me it wasn’t up to scratch.

When they came to my city on tour supporting this record I realized how silly I had been. Live, tracks like ‘Strength Of The Mind’ and ‘Hate By Design’ absolutely smashed it and sold me completely on this record. I got myself a copy and still to this day find myself wondering what the heck that negativity was about.

Incarnate is a damn fine album. It starts strong, it has strong singles and the deep cuts are all strong. The production is excellent, the vocals are excellent, the choruses are memorable. Some of the lyrics are amazing. There is a good mix of light and heavy, a good mix of adventurous and straight forward. It is very much the ‘As Daylight Dies’ to Disarm The Descent’s ‘The End Of Heartache’ – the comparisons are many – its not just as instant but still has amazing singles, the opening track takes a while to get going, there’s a flow-breaking slow track halfway through, and its not the big talking point due to a singer change anymore… but its still a damn fine album. Don’t make my mistake and miss out on it if you heard someone else say its not as good. Being almost as good as Disarm The Descent but not quite is still better than almost anything else.

For me; tracks like ‘Until The Day,’ ‘Quiet Distress’ and ‘The Great Deceit’ are amazing and up there with the best material on any Killswitch record. The three singles; the bouncy ‘Strength Of The Mind,’ the typical Killswitch single ‘Cut Me Loose’ and especially the amazingly catchy ‘Hate By Design’ are some of the band’s best singles yet and I couldn’t imagine a Greatest Hits or Live album without them now, and the album works more or less perfectly from start to finish with basically nothing worth skipping.

If you like this band; Incarnate definitely deserves a place in you collection. Its not only a decent album, its more, its a damn good album. If this was your first KSE album and you didn’t have to compare it to all their legendary material, I can’t imagine you finding it anything less than astounding.

I Went To Go See Tesseract and Animals As Leaders Last Night:

I went to go and see Tesseract last night (Wed 5th November 2014) at Sound Control, Manchester, with Animals As Leaders and Navene K as support acts. This is the third time I’ve seen Tesseract live… I saw them live without knowing their music last year and that caused me to get into them, I saw them again after getting into them, and now I’ve went to see them a third time with my Brother. My brother loves Tesseract like yo fat momma loves Big Macs.

The previous times I’d seen Tesseract they had Ashe O Hara on vocals, but this time, they’d lost Ashe and been reunited with original singer Dan Tompkins (no relation to fictional doctor Leslie Tompkins). I am a huge, huge fan of Ashe, so I was a little skeptical going in, but on this evening, I learned that Dan is an awesome front man, punching the air to all the Djenty rhythms and getting everyone psyched up. His voice was incredible, very talented dude. It was pretty much like Killwitch Engage getting Jesse Leech back and still being awesome even though I preferred Howard Jones. I prefer Ashe, but that in no way takes away from what an amazing singer Dan is (amazing being appropriate seeing as how he says the word “amazing” a heck of a lot in his stage banter.)

The setlist was more focused on Dan era material, and the heavier end of that, but still with all the great stuff from the Ashe era too. The band were as awesome as ever, with the band’s clear leader and genius Amos Williams rocking the house and keeping the ship afloat with sheer power and enthusiasm. Everyone else, as usual were superb musicians with great flair and kept up to their usual high standards. Great band. Really seem to love playing too.

It was a pretty great gig. Nice venue with good sound (I’d never been to Sound Control before, but I’d happily go back!). Some selfish-jerk crowd surfers started pissing people off but I never got hit by one so I didn’t get too annoyed personally, I just saw a lot of people being upset by them.

Oh yeah… the support bands. The opening act was one guy, called Navene K, on his own, with a mounted guitar and a drumkit, and he’d play one, then the other, switching between the two, playing a mixture of Djent and Dance music. It was really good and the guy was an astounding drummer. Very entertaining.

Animals As Leaders were incredible. I was skeptical of an instrumental band live. Can’t sing along. No focal point? But… nope, it was really good. And people went nuts for it. Circle pits and everything. They cheered for parts of songs. Parts. And multiple parts per song. Some of the music was so complex people cheered when they pulled it off without messing-up. Once they even sang along with the music. Literally sang ‘doodle—ooh, ooh, — dooodleoodleoodllle –ooh.’ It was charming.
They really won me over, and I’m very glad to have seen them.

Anyway, in summary, the support bands were good and the headliners were excellent too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tesseract concerts are an excellent way to spend your time. Get yourself on down to one… and P.S. Altered State is a masterpiece.

Amateur Batfan: Vol. 7 – Batman Year Two Fear The Reaper

Hello and welcome to the seventh installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

Today I’m in a good mood, listening to Killswitch Engage’s stupidly good (and secretly good – its so much better than you remember, even when you remember that its awesome) new album Disarm The Descent, and I’ve finished reading the lengthy Knightfall storyline at last. When I was reading that, several things reminded me of this entry’s book and put me in mind to write about it for this blog series, such as the presence of the character Dr. Leslie Thompkins.

When I was reading Knightfall, apart from the excellent prequel and follow-up stories packaged in with my edition, I felt like it was really old, and from an era before comics were marketed towards adults as much. I thought back to things like Batman Gothic and Batman Venom and Year One, and I thought to myself, Knightfall must be before all of those stories. Even the artwork for them most part wasn’t a patch on them.

Much to my surprise, Knightfall was actually newer than all of them, and newer than this book, which it often reminded me of, Year Two Follow The Reaper (A two part collection from 1987 and 1991 respectively, but that works nicely as a single book).

Its about a villain called The Reaper who looks interesting and, like Knightfall’s Azbats is a vigilante just like Bruce Wayne’s Batman but without the mercy. (If you haven’t read Knightfall, its about Bruce Wayne getting his back broken by Bane and then letting Azreal become Batman, but Azreal-Batman [“Azbats” for the purpose of convenience and distinguishing him from the real Batman] proves to be a crazy, violent and dangerous Batman). The Reaper carries around big scythe-blades and likes to be much more violent and permanent in his dealing with criminals than Batman does, slicing people up etc.

Personally; I liked this guy better than Azbats (well, in the first story; its two different people in the two different stories). I don’t know why I feel so compelled to compare the two stories though, maybe because they were both printed on similar type of paper, instead of the nice thick glossy paper that all my other Batman books are. Or maybe its just because of Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who knows?

Anyway; much like the character, I like the book too. It might have no big revelations or character deaths/injuries that echo for years to come, but I found it a rather good read; better certainly than the amazon reviews would suggest. I mean; it might be a bit heretical to say, but I thought this was a more solid and well written story than The Dark Knight Returns… I just didn’t fall in love with that book the way popular opinion suggests I should have.

I think if I ever wrote a Batman story I’d like to include the Reaper or at least reference him tastefully.

Batman

Batman Year Two Fear The Reaper:

– Writers: Mike W Barr
– Art: Todd McFarlane, Alfredo Alcala,
– Colours: Steve Oliff, Gloria Vasquez, Olyoptics

– Writers Full Circle: Mike W. Barr
– Art Full Circle: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer
– Colours Full Circle: Tom Ziuko

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Continuity Full Circle: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One
– Timeline Full Circle: Early, but Post-Robin

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne
– Batman is Full Circle: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: The Reaper (Judson Caspain), Joe Chill, Mr. Morritz,
– Villains Full Circle: The Reaper (Joseph Chill Jr.), Marcia Duncan,

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson as Robin, Dr. Leslie Thomkins, James Gordon (Police)
– Allies Full Circle: Dick Grayson as Robin, Alfred Pennyworth, Dr. Leslie Thomkins, James Gordon (Police)

-Bystanders: Rachel Caspian, Greta (Caspain’s Butler), Blinky Sutton, Moran Jones, Jonathan Heymer, Martin (Heymer’s Bodguard), William Golonka, Bukowski (Police), McGinley (Police)

– Bystanders Full Circle: Joan Lincoln (Reporter), Joey Chill III., Rachel Caspian, McSurely, Moose, Morgan Jones, Miranda (Hooker), Rhonda (Hooker),

Cameos: N/A
Cameos Full Circle: The Joker, The Penguin, Two Face

– Story: [Spoilers Ahoy:]

In the first story, James Gordon is promoted to Commissioner. The story begins with him on a television talk show denouncing Batman but defending him against comparisons to a more violent vigilante from Gotham’ past called The Reaper.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is involved in the construction of a new Wayne Foundation building, and dating a woman called Rachel Caspain, who’s mother was murdered before the story begins.

Rachel’s father, Judson Caspain is then revealed to be The Reaper, and the story follows some of his violent reprisals on criminals, motivated by the loss of his wife to crime.

Gordon, who has warmed to Batman since the events in Year One, signals Batman to meet him and tasks him with stopping The Reaper. Batman locates him trying to kill prostitutes (who are still criminals in his eyes) and they fight, Batman is outmatched and returns home injured. Dr. Leslie Thompkins patches him up, but he awakes he reaches for a gun, suggesting it might be the only way to fight crime successfully.

Later The Reaper kills a criminal in the middle of a Police Swat Team stand-off situation ramping up the stakes for Gordon. Batman meanwhile is learning to be a better marksman at a shooting range, much to Alfred and Dr. Leslie’s distaste.

During the next battle between the Reaper and Batman (now carrying a gun), Gordon mistakes Batman to be just as bad as all the other criminals and looses faith in him. Batman then makes a deal to team up with gangsters in order to catch The Reaper, as it would be mutually beneficial to them, and the gangsters make Joe Chill (the man who murdered Batman’s parents) Batman’s partner for the duration of their plan. There are plenty of flashbacks and Batman finds this whole thing incredibly distasteful but goes along with it initially. Chill and Batman confront The Reaper but Batman finds it difficult to use a gun.

Later Batman has to foil some Police plans to preserve his own agenda and this further strains the relationship between him and Gordon. Furthermore his Reaper hunting limits the time he can spend with Rachel, straining that relationship too.

Bruce then lures Joe Chill to Crime Ally to murder him where Chill murdered Bruce’s parents, but before he is able to pull the trigger, The Reaper shows up and kills Chill. The two fight it out, stumbling into a construction sit and up a building, Reaper is exposed as Judson Caspain while about to fall to his death, Bruce attempts to save him, but Caspain chooses to fall instead. Bruce then buries the gun in the foundations of the still-under-construction Wayne Foundation building forsaking guns forever.

The story ends with a distraught Rachel becoming a nun.

In the second story The Reaper returns, only it turns out to be Joe Chills son, out for revenge against Batman, and teamed up with the equally dangerous Marcia Duncan.

Rachel learning of the Reaper’s return is hounded by press, and moves in with Leslie to lay low. Reaper steals the gun buried in the Wayne Foundation building and plans to kill Batman with it. Leslie is beaten up and Rachel is kidnapped to lure Batman.

Batman confronts and defeats Reaper only to be shot in the back by Marcia, and wake up in a death trap bombarded with reminders of his parents murder, designed to make him kill himself. Marcia and Reaper fall out when it is revealed she doesn’t care about revenge but making money from a bounty on Batman.

Robin comes to save Batman, ineffectively, but the threat to Robin’s safety motivates Batman enough to man up, escape the trap and stop Chill Jr.

Chill Jr.’s own son Chill III has been following them throughout the whole story and observed all of this. Finally he falls from his hiding spot and lands by the defeated Reaper. Batman uses Chill III as emotional leverage to convince Chill Jr. to stop being the Reaper, disposes of the gun once more (along with the Reaper’s mask) and Rachel goes back to her life as a nun.

– Tone: I have no problems to report with the tone. It isn’t too silly, it isn’t too dark. Its kind of somewhere in the region of the other two Wagner Batman books I discussed. This is what I’d like to call the standard Batman tone. It has a similar tone to the aforementioned Batman Venom and if you discount the supernatural elements, kind of similar to Batman Gothic. As I mentioned above; I’ve recently finished Knightfall which included The Revenge Of Bane and Batman Prodigal packaged in with it; Both those bonus stories share a kind of similar tone to this as well. Its not 100% gritty realism, but its not aimed exclusively at children either. The only problem I have is that they try to establish Robin as being fun, but sometimes its clumsy, as with the line ‘Surfs Up Dude.’

– Art: The art is rather good. Its better looking than the aforementioned Gothic and sort of similar to Venom, Prodigal and The Revenge Of Bane. It’s a lot better than most of Knightfall, better than Gotham By Gaslight but not as good as the modern stuff by Jim Lee or Greg Capullo. Not that you would expect it to be. For its time I think it looks pretty good. I think if you printed it up on glossy paper it would look pretty solid.

Overall: I got given this title by Paul as a much appreciated Christmas present; we had discussed it before when I mentioned I might buy it due to its at the time low price and low and behold now I have a copy! He didn’t rate it all that highly, but I am fairly impressed.

I guess at the time it was released, it might have felt like a bit of a disappointing sequel to Year One, but for me, now, with my tastes and particular set of Batman readings thus far, I found it to be wholly worthwhile.

For me; Fear The Reaper is a pretty damn enjoyable book, with a nice linear and easy-to-follow (but still entertaining) story, adding a bit of depth to the characters. It looks good, it’s a decent length and it has a villain that hasn’t been used to death already.

You know what, too? The Reaper just looks and acts cool. I know that’s a very adolescent way to look at things but it can’t be helped. I really like Spawn for the same reason… because he’s just cool. Maybe its all the Metal music I listen to, but a mixture of Black, Red, Skulls and Blades/Chains is usually pretty cool looking to me. Fun fact – Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, was an artist on this book (in case you skipped the credits above).

Reading it through; it felt like two good episodes of an hour-long HBO TV Show. The Reaper being Bruce’s love interests dad is a cheesy idea on paper, but it actually worked well in context, the team-up with Joe Chill seems like a bad idea on paper, but when its actually going, the mixed feelings it creates are actually entertaining.

The only two major flaws with it I can find are that The Reaper uses his catch-phrase way, way, way too often (seriously, a drinking game based on it might make you quite ill quite quickly) and that the whole Batman might use a gun thing is a bit of a cheap story to tell.

Batman doesn’t use guns. Everyone knows that. Its one of the most Batman things about Batman. If Batman uses a gun, you automatically go “that’s not Batman” in your head. I know this is an early-days look into the character and trying to establish the fact that Batman doesn’t use guns for a new generation (at the time) but at the same time, it seems like a bit of cheap drama to even suggest he might use one. He won’t. Everyone knows he won’t. Unless this is the very first bit of Batman you ever read, the suggestion that he might just will never ring true.

With those exceptions (and y’know, “Surfs Up Dude”) being expected, I think this is a pretty solid read, and I would recommend it.

[Ps. In case you were wondering; here’s my current Batman collection at the time of writing. It doesn’t include what I’ve been lent, like Killing Joke or Man Who Laughs or Year One or Dark Knight Returns, but its everything I own myself at present (with the exception of No Man’s Land, which I didn’t photograph due to having not received volume-3 in the mail yet]

My Batman

My Batman 2

My Batman 3

My Batman 4