By Steve Jenkins
When you think of influential bands that have defined an entire genre, which has also led to an outbreak of overwhelming talent and copycats, Killswitch Engage would be near the top of that list. Since their inception in 1999 with original vocalist Jesse Leach, to their mainstream success and rise to the top with former vocalist Howard Jones. Now in 2016, Jesse Leach is back and stronger than ever, with one of his proudest and impassioned efforts to date, Incarnate. We spoke to Jesse about the new album and how he feels about it, along with what it’s like to be back in the saddle after a decade long absence.
“From what I can tell, it seems like it’s really positive. We are all really happy with the new record and I think that it’s going to translate into our live show. I think that even if people are going to be on the fence about it, we’re going to show them that this is what we do and this is what we love. I’m trying not to pay too much attention just yet about what people are saying, but it’s definitely an album that we’re all proud of as a band, so that for me is step one of this process.”
With big shoes to fill, Jesse had no trouble getting back into the groove with the 2013 release, Disarm The Dissent, receiving responses nothing short of amazing from fans new and old. Jesse tells of how things have changed the second time around and what not only within the band, but also within himself.
“Well, with Disarm the Dissent majority of it was already written instrumentally before I even re-joined the band. Me being there this time from the start of the recording process definitely gave it a different vibe this time around. Hearing the demos from day one and knowing that they were written and crafted for me, and for my voice, made a whole world of a difference and I think that’s why sonically this album ended up the way that it did. Because we all made a conscious effort to write for each other. I’m stoked on that.”
“My entire life has changed. My personality has changed. It’s like I’m a different person completely from who I was back then. With that being said, there’s a confidence attached with myself personally and as a performer. I’ve really worked hard, especially in the past 4 years, on my voice and improving and getting more stamina. My whole mental state of mind is different. I’m a lot more prepared for life on the road and performances than I was back then, for sure.”
Plans to play their 2002 classic, Alive Or Just Breathing, in its entirety in front of keen Soundwave Festival goers were laid to rest earlier this year when the festival was cancelled. Many people were looking forward to seeing Killswitch tear us a new one, including themselves. But there are definitely plans for them to return here again soon; it’s just a matter of waiting.
“Yeah, absolutely. All of us were really bummed.” Jesse says in regards to their Australian run of shows being cancelled. “Every opportunity we get to go to Australia we jump at, we love Australia. So of course we were bummed but it just didn’t work out. We discussed getting over there regardless but it didn’t line up and we’re all pretty bummed about that. It just means the next time we get there we have to have more of a party. We plan on getting there as soon as we can, just working on the details.”
No doubt when Killswitch do return to destroy our venues, they may do so under their own vices with a possible string of headliner shows. Showcasing their crushing riffs, power chords, tenacious vocals, blistering drums and almighty breakdowns.
“That’s the way we’re going to do it. I certainly hope that’s the case. If not this year, then next year. I would prefer it to be this year for sure.”
Besides screaming into a microphone for a living, Jesse is an avid writer of not only strong and powerful lyrics for heavy music. He also dabbles in poetry and even spoken word performances, which he took around Australia in early 2015. Telling stories, reciting poems, answering questions and meeting his fans. Jesse lets us in on where he mustered up the lyrical content for, Incarnate.
“With this record it came from everywhere. World events, stuff that’s going on here in the United States, whether it be the corruption in politics or the inherent racism; the racial tensions here, the police brutality in New York. There’s a lot of stuff as far as the world goes. As for me personally, it’s just my view of the world and telling my story. There’s a lot of soul searching on this record for me lyrically as I’m still figuring who I am right now after having getting off a World Tour, it changed me. My view of the world is different. I found a humility out there on the road and it changed me I think for the better. I did a lot of soul searching.”
March 11th is the date that KSE fans get to hear the work of which Jesse describes as his proudest release – musically, sonically and lyrically. The kings of metalcore will continue to reign supreme with this monster of an album, and Jesse can’t wait for you to hear it and form your own opinion. But what’s even more exciting to him and the rest of the band is the sheer intensity that will be delivered when Incarnate is performed onstage in front of thousands of eager fans.
“I don’t know what people can expect. It’s a tricky, tricky word. But I would say that you’re going to get what we always give, 100%. Emotion and soulfulness but, you know, our live show always has a bit of party in it and a lot of jokes because of Adam D. I’ll tell you what, I’m definitely excited. For me, I put everything I can on stage and I leave a little bit of myself up there. It’s my therapy and it’s my way to keep myself sane so I’m looking forward to getting out there and sort of representing who I am onstage with my boys.”
Incarnate is out on 11 March 2016 via Roadrunner Records. You can find the album review in the latest issue of HEAVY Music Magazine (Page 13) which is FREE and available HERE.