December 5, 2021

New Fury Media

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This Fire Burns: On ‘As Daylight Dies’, Killswitch Engage helped to define modern metalcore

After Killswitch Engage released The End Of Heartache in 2004, the metalcore band was a very, very big deal. Armed with then-new vocalist Howard Jones, the album made a big impact on metalcore’s commercial viability, which coincided with the downturn of nu-metal’s commercial viability. Bands like Lamb Of God, Chimaira, Shadows Fall, Bleeding Through, and plenty more were becoming high sellers, even in the age of digital downloading.

Fast-forward 2 years later, and 2006 had a lot of prominent metalcore releases. Underoath’s Define The Great Line was a big one, Misery Signals ushered in new vocalist Karl Schubach with Mirrors, and All That Remains released the fan favorite The Fall Of Ideals. Few, however, were as impactful as KSE’s As Daylight Dies – both from a critical and commercial standpoint. Eventually going Gold in the USA, the album was also well-received by critics, no doubt helping the band to greater heights. Why was it such a success, though?

(Editor’s Note: The Special Edition of the record, released in 2007, contains their cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver”, “This Fire”, and two new songs.)

It’s not like As Daylight Dies was some radical departure from KSE’s previous material, after all. If anything, Killswitch Engage more or less refined their melodic metalcore sound to a crystallized sheen. Every member of the band shows improved musical chops here, whether it’s the incredible range of vocalist Howard Jones, the measured and frantic drumming of Justin Foley, and the band’s obvious twin guitar skills. “Unbroken” is a good example of the band’s ability to go from extremes in just over 3 minutes, ending with a nasty, riff-laden breakdown section.

One of the more overlooked aspects of the record is how certain songs transition seamlessly into the next. Take the 1-2 opening punch of the title track that segues into the rip-roaring good time of “This Is Absolution”. One of the band’s best tracks to date, it’s a fun metalcore romp that evolves into one of As Daylight Dies‘ emotional centerpieces. It’s difficult not to be moved in some way by the outpouring of emotion in the voice of Howard Jones, and the positive, hopeful lyrical content that drives the band.

We haven’t even gotten to what’s arguably the band’s most popular song, “My Curse”. No doubt helped by its inclusion in Guitar Hero III, it’s an accessible song to newcomers with a huge chorus that most bands can’t even come close to writing. It features some of the same emotionally vulnerable vibes as “The Arms Of Sorrow” and even “The End Of Heartache” from the band’s previous album, and guitarist Adam D’s engaging backing vocals help the song take on a different form that certainly helped the band gain the attention of metal fans everywhere.

As Daylight Dies still has plenty of lasting power even today. It’s rather difficult to find fault in how the band executes their modern melodic metalcore sound, and while the band’s previous two records are just as good as this one, AOJB and TEOH were also important stepping stones for Killswitch to find a wider audience. Even the lesser-known, non-single tracks are great here – the bright melodies of “Reject Yourself” and the pummeling “Still Beats Your Name” are essential KSE songs. There’s not really a skippable song here, and for many, this is an essential metalcore album in getting into the genre.

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