During the COVID lockdowns of 2021, Killswitch Engage decided to play a gig with no audience and stream it. Not only that, the setlist consists of 2019’s ‘Atonement’ in full, along with the 2000-released self-titled album in full, which along with some additional tracks makes for 20 songs and a running time of just over 70 minutes. This band have had some quite incredible stability in that singer Jesse Leach, guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel with bassist Mike D’Antonio (bass) were there at the beginning while Justin Foley (drums) has been around for more than 15 years. However, Leach did leave for a number of years, being replaced by Howard Jones, before coming back. This often leads to fans stating that one singer is better than the other (a favourite topic of fans of bands like Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Genesis etc.), but to my mind each is perfectly suited to the material they were working on at the time and I enjoy both periods. True, my absolute favourite KS material is “My Curse” which is a Jones song, which may be why it doesn’t feature here. But there is no ill will between the singers and Jones has appeared in concert with KS at times, although this time that was not possible due to restrictions.
For a band who have been as successful and active as Killswitch Engage for more than 20 years, it is somewhat strange to realise that this is their first live release, and they have chosen to do so when there is no audience involved. This means that it comes across in an almost artificial manner, with Jesse not even attempting to speak to an invisible audience so it is as if the band are performing almost for themselves as opposed to the people watching. This may appear differently in the video, but it is certainly what it seems like based just on the audio, although they are putting in a high energy performance. There are times when I do wish the guitars were a little higher in the mix and the drums a little less, while there are some moments (such as on “Prelude”) where it all seems to drag somewhat, something which probably would not have been the case with a crowd involved.
What is in no doubt throughout is that Jesse is a force of nature, with his hardcore rasp and high energy driving the music on, and when he is singing the band feels quite different indeed. They may be playing the entirety of two albums recorded more than 15 years apart, yet the material does appear seamless and it all fits together well. Playing the whole of their debut after so many years will certainly mean a great deal to their fans, especially as they can directly compare against the most recent, and while I would have preferred to have heard the guys feeding off the energy which comes from their audience it is great to be able to finally hear them in their natural environment.