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Words and pix by Robert Forte

Sometimes timing is everything in life and unfortunately for Killswitch Engage, timing did everything but land on their side in terms of the Atonement album and tour cycle.

The underappreciated Atonement from 2019, Killswitch Engage’s first album for new label Metal Blade Records, saw the band continue to refine their old-school metal sensibilities with their unique approach to metalcore.

Atonement’s lead single Unleashed led to Killswitch Engage being nominated for their third Grammy since the band’s original inception in Westfield, Massachusetts back in 1999, further cementing their exalted status in the world of metal.

The album’s sessions also produced an excellent B-Side release that was specifically recorded & released for charity. 100% of the proceeds from the Atonement B-Sides release went directly to the COVID-19 relief organization for Disaster Philanthropy.

Despite the critical success of the LP, Killswitch Engage’s legions of fans have continued to be largely left out in the cold in terms of hearing tracks from Atonement live these past several years.

This condition’s existence can largely be traced back to the lack of large-scale touring throughout the course of the pandemic which has unfortunately continued to bleed into the post-pandemic, live music landscape.

The economics associated with touring today as well as the seemingly other countless obstacles bands continue to face in their attempts to turn a profit when hitting the road sadly continue to limit fans opportunities to see their favorite acts perform in a live setting.

Fortunately, over the course of the past eighteen months some bands such as Killswitch Engage, that have opted to largely avoid more complex and costly coast-to-coast tour runs in recent years are still doing what they can to bring their live shows to the masses.

Killswitch continue to regularly go out of their way to play their fair share of one-off shows or to go out on multiple two to five-show “mini tours” when both the timing and the finances have afforded them that opportunity.

For those lucky enough to reside in the northeast part of the United States, Killswitch Engage launched their latest brief run of shows by kicking things off with nothing short of a wildly entertaining performance at the Hampton Casino Ballroom in Hampton, NH this past weekend.

Fans of the Killswitch Engage universe must have also been especially excited going into this one as the performance on New Hampshire’s eastern seaboard surprisingly also turned out to be a family affair.

Paradise Slaves, making their live debut opening up the show, includes Killswitch guitar player Joel Stoetzel’s brother Tyler in addition to former 36 Crazy Fists vocalist, Brock Lindow.

The band, in many ways, is the exact type of outfit that should always open up for Killswtich Engage. Unique metal vocalist with a wide range, check. Catchy hooks & crunching riffs abound, check. Engaging stage presence that draws new fans into the fold, check.

Lindow is a known commodity in the metal world having fronted Alaska born metalcore outfit 36 Crazy Fists for over two decades. The frontman has always had one of the genre’s more polarizing voices while also being someone the metal community has formed a special bond with over these many years.

Thus, it came as little surprise that despite many fans not knowing what or who a Paradise Slaves was going into the show, the band commanded the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom’s attention in ways that most unknown bands simply aren’t capable of.

Paradise Slaves’ debut album, With Hell in His Eyes is set to be released sometime in the coming weeks.

The family affair up in New Hampshire continued with a ruckus set by Massachusetts hardcore and post-punk outfit Death Ray Vision.

Led by Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D’Antonio, the five-piece ripped through a truncated set that leaned heavily on the outfit’s forthcoming release for Metal Blade Records, No Mercy From Electric Eyes.

The ferocious From the Rafters as well as the equally punishing Behead the King stood out from the band’s limited time on stage in New Hampshire.

Speaking about Behead the King in a previous interview Death Ray Vision and former Overcast guitar player Pete Cortese commented, “Behead the King” is about the helplessness you feel watching the world burn around you and being powerless to do anything about it.”

Death Ray Vision gave the New England faithful a salivating taste of what to expect when the band’s debut LP is released in just a few weeks. Should you be in the Boston, Massachusetts area at the end of this month hit up Sonia in Cambridge on June 30th for DRV’s record release show.

Death Ray Vision have added local Massachusetts music legend Keith Bennett for the new record replacing original lead vocalist, Shadows Fall Brian Fair and DRV’s singer on their last record, Jeff Gard, who now fronts the Jon Donais (Anthrax, Shadows Fall) outfit Living Wreckage.

The singer’s raw vocal talent as well as his hypnotizing stage presence in New Hampshire helped lead the band to a set that had fans banging and crashing into one another ad nauseam while also stoking the fire for the band’s pending release later this month.

Prior to Killswitch Engage hitting the Casino Ballroom stage American deathcore stalwarts Fit for an Autopsy performed an over hour-long set of the exact type of doom and musical violence the band’s legion of fans have come to expect from the New Jersey legends.

One thing that was abundantly clear in New Hampshire was that there was a fairly large segment of individuals that were in attendance to see and hear only Fit for An Autopsy.

This kind of makes sense to some degree as Paradise Slaves, Death Ray Vision and Killswitch Engage don’t exactly play in the same musical sandbox as the deathcore slanted Fit for an Autopsy.

Despite that being the case, Fit for an Autopsy not only kept their own fans engaged throughout the entirety of their cantankerous set, but they also seemingly won over the vast majority of the Casino Ballroom audience in a way that quite frankly, came off as both rather unexpected and kind of a welcoming surprise.

Shortly after 10:00 PM this past Friday the time had finally come, the waiting was over and Killswitch Engage hit the stage in New Hampshire to the cheers and wails of a sold-out crowd that was chomping at the bit to mosh and head bang with Jesse Leach and company for as long as the band would allow.

Any fan of Killswitch Engage, both young and old, must have walked away from the band’s set in New Hampshire thinking, holy F.N. crap, could they have played more of the songs I wanted to hear live tonight?

The answer to that pointed question? Um, not very many more.

My Curse, In Due Time, Hate by Design, Rose of Sharyn, & End of the Heartache were just a few of the many long-time fan favorites Killswitch Engage unleashed in New England this past weekend to the mass delight of the enthusiastic faithful who seemingly sang each and every last word in unison with Leach throughout the night.

Speaking of Leach, the frontman continued to prove why he is one of the most well-liked and respected figures in all of the metal community. Beyond the resplendent talent Leach possesses in terms of his music, his ability to connect and resonate in a positive way with fans off stage is where Leach’s true powers as a human being may ultimately lay.

Spend a minute on Leach’s social media pages, and you’ll find themes of acceptance, struggle, light, darkness, perseverance and humanity touched on.

Yes, there are music-related musings to be found, some of which stray far away from the lens of Killswitch Engage by the way. However, more than anything else the content, Leach’s socials are often focused on introspection and positivity in the wake of the many things in this world that continue to prevent us from connecting with both ourselves and one another.

Leach’s and Killswitch Engage’s time in New Hampshire simply echoed these sentiments while also providing thousands of fans the opportunity to bear witness to one of the single greatest live metal acts touring today.

Killswitch Engage could have ended their set in New Hampshire with a variety of songs that would have sent almost every fan inside the venue home grinning from ear to ear as they stumbled their way out in the brisk fifty-degree summer night on the shores of north Atlantic Ocean.

Instead, the band decided to surprise and leave jaws dropped to the floor when they ended the show in Hampton Beach with two completely out of left field guest appearances for a two-song encore that Killswitch Engage fans will likely be talking about for months, if not years.

First, Anthrax lead singer and long-time friend as well as tour mate of Killswitch Enrage Joey Belladona, joined the band for both a furious and fun take on Dio’s, Holy Diver.

This was followed by former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones hitting the Casino Ballroom stage to close the show out with a frenzied take on the Signal Fire from 2019’s Atonement that Jones had previously provided guest vocals for.

Not every live show fans will pay to see will see them exiting the venue filled with joy, smiling from ear to ear, joyfully exhausted and full of life. In fact, it’s safe to say that most individuals paying exorbitant prices to take in live music these days feel cheated and unnerved with the experience.

Credit to Killswitch Engage, Fit for an Autopsy, Death Ray Vision and Paradise Slaves for being the exception to this rule and for a brief moment in time, reminding a few thousand fans in New England that metal isn’t dead.

Instead, it’s still very much alive and not just breathing.

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