It seems like an eternity, but it's only been just over a year since original vocalist Jesse Leach rejoined Killswitch Engage. Over that period of time, I've been dying to see Leach perform with Killswitch. Last night in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire that dream finally became a reality and Leach and his bandmates in Killswitch Engage did not disappoint in the slightest.
My buddies and I got into the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom (really nice venue by the way, excited to potentially come back for the Clutch/The Sword show in September.) just as opening band Affiance was getting on the stage. Affiance is a relative newcomer to the scene but they definitely made a impression with brief but energetic set. These guys had solid stage presence and their take on metalcore is unique with mostly clean vocals instead of the typical scream/sing/scream formula. These guys were visibly excited to be touring with Killswitch, who clearly had a huge influence on their sound and playing to their audience gives them a lot more exposure. A couple members of the band were going around selling CD's, so I picked up a copy of their debut record The Campaign to help them out. Affiance is an up-and-coming band to look out for over the next few years and a really nice opener for this tour.
The World Alive hit the stage next and their set just frustrated me. On one hand, they have good screams and some nice guitar leads. On the other hand, they have abysmal clean vocals, awkward synth lines that don't gel with the music and tedious breakdowns. I really would enjoy their music if it wasn't for the clean vocals, synths and one-note breakdowns but they are just too prominent to look over. However, I do have to applaud them on their cover of "94 Hours" to honor As I Lay Dying, who was originally slated to be on this tour but clearly had to drop off due to the Tim Lambesis's attempted murder plot. It didn't have quite as much as punch as the As I Lay Dying's version , but it definitely did the original justice and I give The Word Alive props for doing it. The Word Alive has some redeeming qualities to their music, but the flaws made their set just average to me.
Hardened metal veterans Darkest Hour were up next and per usual, they tore shit up. I had see them twice before, but this time was easily the best time I've seen them. There's just something about their bland of melodic death metal/metalcore that was made for a live setting. John Henry is an amazing frontman who is always spot-on vocally and loaded with energy (he capped off the set by diving into the crowd.) Musically, they were also flawless and though their setlist was pretty standard (save for "Violent by Nature" and "Sound the Surrender",) it's always great to hear "With a Thousand Words to Say But One", "Savor the Kill" and "Doomsayer (The Beginning of the End)" live (the latter is one of my all-time favorite live songs.) Darkest Hour is a consistently fantastic live band and I'm looking forward to hearing new material from them later this year.
Miss May I was up next. They are just decent on record to me, but they excel in a live environment. Levi Benton is an elite frontman who effortlessly works the crowd and gets everyone in the room amped. The insane following these guys have developed over the past few years has a lot to do with his energetic presence and passionate vocals. Their music isn't overly complicated by any means, but it's catchy and the breakdowns hit pretty hard live. Miss May I isn't amongst my favorite bands, but they're always a good time live and I would definitely see them again in the future.
Killswitch Engage closed out the evening and just flat-out crushed. I've been a diehard Killswitch Engage fan since I was first getting into metal seven years ago so seeing them with Jesse Leach back at the helm was an amazing experience for me. The setlist was loaded with songs from the new record Disarm the Descent and their classic Alive or Just Breathing, which was sick. Not to say Leach doesn't do a good job with the Howard-era material because he does (the slower tracks like "The Arms of Sorrow" and "The End of Heartache" were stirring,) but the material he originally did the vocals for were just incredible. The Alive or Just Breathing opening 1-2 combo of "Numbered Days" and "Self Revolution" was the highlight of the set for me. When Leach screamed "The time approaches" to kick off "Numbered Days" I went into a full-on frenzy. Throughout the night his vocal performance was sharp as could be. His clean vocals are arguably the best in all of metal and his screams are almost as striking. In addition to Leach's strong vocal performance, it wouldn't be a Killswitch show without guitarist Adam D's hilarious on-stage antics. Between running around the stage and dancing like a madman, throwing various prizes from the Hampton Beach arcade into the crowd (he actually stuck a plastic snake my friend threw on stage in his mouth) and going on a rant about how much of a pussy Sidney Crosby was, Adam D consistently entertained. Some people might think he's a douchebag with his on-stage presence, but I think he's completely hilarious and he seems like a great dude to me. Another one of the highlights of the show is when Jesse asked who was from New Hampshire and who was from Massachusetts. The amount of my fellow Massholes that were in attendance was insane and largely outnumbered the people from New Hampshire. It didn't matter if people were from Massachusetts or New Hampshire, everyone in the room was losing their shit for Killswitch and it was just an awesome experience. Killswitch Engage has always been a great live band, but they have really hit their stride with Jesse Leach back on vocals. No offense to Howard Jones, but Leach is a superior performer in my book and I'm stoked to for their next tour that hits the New England area.
The Word Alive 5/10
Darkest Hour 9/10
Miss May I 8/10
Killswitch Engage 9.5/10
3/14 Dropkick Murphys
4/10 At the Gates/Converge