"This album will be the death of me," groans Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones as he sinks into a couch. The Massachusetts-based metal band has just finished work on its fourth album, and Jones is feeling a bit worked-over. "There was nothing comfortable about it for any of us," he says of making the record, most of which took place in Atlanta under the watchful eye of superproducer Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Pearl Jam), marking the first time Killswitch guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz has stepped aside for an outside producer.
On first listen, things kick off in the established Killswitch fashion, as power-riffing guitars race alongside galloping drums, but once Jones' voice joins the mix, it's evident where his strain comes from. O'Brien has pushed Jones farther than he's gone before vocally, especially in the clean singing department: every song sounds like he's swinging for the fences to get just the right epic chorus and turn the songs into sing-along anthems. But this time around, things are a little less upbeat.
"We're known for being a pretty positive band — we're almost a self-help band," Jones says. "I feel like Tony Robbins or something. We're known for anthems, but this time I really tried to write from a different place. I've got enough to draw on to write some stuff that can be dark. Maybe there's still a hint of positivity in it, but there are some songs on there that are not positive at all."
Jones says that the album — which will be self-titled and released on June 30th — will continue Killswitch's reputation as a stepping stone for listeners who are just starting to explore the heavier side of things. The band has made a trademark out of mixing its abrasiveness with large doses of melody, as well as for Jones' clean lyrical enunciation, even while screaming.
"With the amount of melody that's in Killswitch, it just makes sense to try to enunciate and be clear, and a lot of people pick up on that, people who don't normally listen to heavier music," he says. "In a lot of ways, we can be a cool gateway band into heavier stuff. You'll start listening to us, and a few months later, you could be listening to Nile or Decapitated."
Killswitch Engage will appear on the main stage of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival this summer alongside Slayer and Marilyn Manson. Download their single "Reckoning" over at Roadrunner Records for the next 24 hours.