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Killswitch Engage is an American metalcore band noted for their abrasive, hard-hitting sound. They have also been recognized for taking pop constructs and re-working them into their own nihilistic style.
The band formed in Westfield, Massachusetts, US in 1999 and was birthed out of the dissolution of the two Boston heavy bands, Overcast and Aftershock. The idea of Killswitch Engage was sparked by a jam session shared between Overcast bassist Mike D’Antonio and Aftershock guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. The second guitarist of Aftershock Joel Stroetzel was later invited to join the group. Stroetzel a guitarist noted for his technical and inventive style was a former student of Berklee College of Music and is influenced by the likes of virtuosic metal guitarists such as Zakk Wylde. The lineup of Killswitch Engage was eventually completed with the addition of former Nothing Stays Gold vocalist Jesse Leach. The band called themselves Killswitch Engage after an X-file episode written by influential cyberpunk author William Gibson.
Killswitch Engage landed their first gig opening up for the likeminded metal band In Flames. At this show they promoted their first release, a four track demo tape including the song “Soilborn”.The band released their debut album one year later on 4 July 2000 through l Ferret Music. Though this album was not a commercial smash it heated interest in the band and garnered the attention of Roadrunner Records. The group would later enter in a contract with the label.
The group’s next album “Alive or Just Breathing” gained the band a good bit of exposure and placed them at No. 37 on the Top Heatseekers chart. In the early 2000s the band experienced a hefty amount of fluctuation with their lineup. Pete Cortese from Overcast joined Killswitch Engage as their second guitarist, but left less than a year later. Still determined to be a band that featured two guitarist Dutkiewicz moved from drums to take up the position of second guitar. Aftershock drummer Tom Gomes was accepted into the band to fill the opening.
Perhaps the biggest change up for the band was vocalist Leach’s abrupt departure. Leach quit the band 3 days before the band was to play a show. After auditioning several vocalists (one being Philip Labonte of All That Remains) they decided on ex-Blood Has Been Shed vocalist Howard Jones. Justin Foley of Blood Has Been Shed also joined the Killswitch Engage lineup replacing drummer Gomes.
With this line up the band perhaps experienced the greatest success of their career. The group played MTV2 Headbangers Ball in 2003 and in 2004 released their third album “The End of Heartache” which climbed all the way to 21 on the Billboard 200 chart. Not only was this album a commercial hit it was also herald by the critics and was nominated for Best Metal Performance for the 47th Grammy Awards. The group continued their stride touring a few high profile festivals and releasing yet another commercially successful album “As Daylight Dies”. This album went to No. 32 on the Billboard 200.
The band released one more album with lead singer Jones, which would be the band’s second self-titled release. The band started a search for a new lead singer and recruited the groups initial frontman Jesse Leach. With the induction of Leach, the band went on to put out their sixth studio album, “Disarm the Descent”. The album did exceptionally well on the charts and with critics. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 on the Top Hard Rock Chart and the Top Rock Albums Chart. Its leading single “In Due Time” was nominated at the 2014 Grammy Awards for “Best Metal Performance”.