Last week, during one of my daily perusals of this very blog, I came across a rather scathing recounting of Killswitch Engage’s self-titled album, which came out earlier this year. This caught me a bit off guard, as I considered it to be one of my favorite albums of the year and a step in the right direction from Daylights Dies, which was at first very disappointing but grew on me after some time. I was even more surprised when I saw that most user comments tended to agree with the blog entry.
Most of the criticism seemed to center around Killswitch’s supposed inability to stray from their winning formula. People seemed to think that their sound had become stagnant, and that there wasn’t enough variety between albums and songs. Now I don’t disagree that KSE has a pretty standard formula for their songs and a definitive sound that really hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years, but I am disagreeing that this is necessarily a bad thing. I want to ask you guys if you think it’s better for a band to stick to a relatively confined style through their career like Hatebreed, Cannibal Corpse, or Motorhead, or is it better to expand and experiment like Mastodon, The Haunted, or Cave In.
My initial thoughts are that it is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I’d imagine that just as many people would probably bitch if Killswitch went straight mainstream and stopped screaming or even if they went tech-deathcore and stopped singing. Those are extreme examples, but you understand what I’m saying. We are reluctant to change with our favorite bands. The way I see it, they already made their mark with Alive or Just Breathing and End of Heartache, which are considered to be modern classics that influenced countless bands in the last ten years. They’ve decided what their style is, and that they aren’t going to vary it too much. I don’t understand why people are surprised or disappointed by this. All that’s left to decide is with those self-imposed restrictions, did the band write good songs? I think they did, but that is very subjective. If you like this style of metal, I don’t know if anyone besides maybe All That Remains does it as well. After putting out great, groundbreaking albums, good albums just seem to pale in comparison, and some bands seem to never get out of their own shadow. I think this is evident with bands like Slayer and Metallica, who both have a streak of classic records that if they never put out another album, they would still pack the concert halls just based on the strength of the catalog. They’ve already proven themselves and consequently don’t have to with new albums. Now KSE isn’t on that level yet, but they could be one day.
Personally, I prefer bands that take chances and rattle cages. Playing it safe is pretty boring, and I like being pleasantly surprised putting on a new record by a familiar band that conquers new territory. I liked it when Avenged Sevenfold and Mastodon both stopped screaming. (One was embraced slightly more than the other; double standard anyone?) But more importantly, we as fans should manage our expectations and realize that some bands are experimental and others set in their ways, albeit we all get thrown a curve ball every now and again like Machine Head’s Burning Red or Megadeth’s Risk. So if you thought Killswitch was gonna reinvent the wheel, like Rob Halford said, “You got another thing coming!”
Originally posted on MetalSucks.net