Over the years we have become accustomed to Killswitch Engage delivering some stellar albums. The End Of Heartache will forever be listed as one of heavy music’s Classic Albums while 2016’s Incarnate announced to the whole world that Jesse Leach had returned back to the frontman duties and was back in full flight.
Now 2019 sees the release of Atonement, an album that is so strong that any of the tracks could be a single and an album that is guaranteed to make more than a few journalists ‘Best Of’ lists for this year. This is also an album that Leach himself is incredibly impressed with.
“There are some very heavy topics being touched upon with this record,” says Leach as we start our discussion by focussing on the very heavy title of the album – Atonement. “Between politics, spirituality and mental health and just the general air of frustration and that general desire to find hope in this pretty fucked up world. So I think Atonement for me just came out of causing someone to pay for their transgressions, so it kind of has a double meaning.”
“Then there is the other side of it,” he says going on with his thoughts. “You’ve got what is coming to you in a good way so to me it is kind of a double meaning. There is revenge and causing people to face down their problems and their issues. For me it is also ambiguous enough that it isn’t a concept that encapsulates the entire record. And it also kinda sounds a little bad-ass.”
That leads to us talking about some of the deeper lyrics on the album ‘I am broken to’ and ‘when fear and panic takes hold you must take control’ and how difficult it was for Leach to sit down and put the words into songs. “It was definitely heavy and difficult,” he explains as he reflects on the lyrics. “The great thing about those two songs though is that I am talking to an outside person it is not just me, it includes the listener and with ‘I Am Broken To’ it includes the person I am singing it for. It is about more than just me it is about bringing people together and helping them see that they are not alone in the struggle for mental health. You know there are things like suicidal awareness that are really near and dear to my heart so this was a great opportunity to have a narrative and to create, if I can be so bold to say, these anthems for mental health and let these people know they are not alone… that is super important.”
“It is certainly cathartic,” he says when I ask how writing such personal lyrics makes him feel. “I also just think it is how I am built, I am just a really emotional person… it is just how I am programmed. I think if I wrote any other way I would be being dishonest. You know I try to include other people into my writing so there can be another perspective but what I am good at, and what I know fairly well, is writing from the heart… writing from the soul. That kind of writing serves me well because I do suffer from mental illness and I do have my own issues and that is a big part of who I am and something that I advocate for.”
As we close the interview I ask Leach if there is anything he would like to say to his fans before they go out and buy a copy of Atonement and he says. “First and foremost I have to show gratitude for all the support that the fans have shown us. Number two, just listen to the record start to finish if you have the time. The messages are all there and if nothing else I hope people can find a ray of hope at the end of this record. As fucked up and shit as things are right now in this world there is always hope, there is a chance for change and there is a chance for you to grab life by the fucking balls, man.”