If you were one of the lucky ones who held a ticket to the sold out final night of The 14th Annual New England Metal and Hardcore Festival on Sunday, April 22nd and stayed through to the bitter end then you witnessed something that the rest of the metal community will be envious of for a lifetime. I am, of course, talking about the reunion of Killswitch Engage with original singer Jesse Leach and their triumphant headlining set at the Worcester Palladium which concluded the 3-day NEMHF.
While a black curtain hid the stage, Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited” played as a video montage showed Killswitch at their goofiest until the final shot featured the most recent photo of the five members and digital flames swallowed the pic up until the band’s logo appeared.
The moment the black curtain dropped and “Numbered Days” kicked in, electricity was felt throughout the entire venue. If the power on Leach’s mic was ever to cut out (It didn’t), he’d definitely have some strong back up as almost the entire audience sang along (And throughout) the sixteen song set. When they began “Self Revolution” next and followed with “Fixation On The Darkness”, the possibility of Alive Or Just Breathing being played in its entirety was exciting. Not being a band to follow trends, however, they strayed pretty quickly and quelled any fans fears that they would abandon former singer Howard Jones’ impressive catalog.
As a tribute to Jones, Leach gave his all to “Rose Of Sharyn” and if possible, made it better. Truly a highlight of the night was Leach’s take on the Jones-era songs. Dare I say, Leach sang some of Jones’ songs better? I’m a fan of both versions of the band but moreso the Jesse-fronted incarnation so take that last comment as you will.
I wondered for a moment, given the circumstances leading to this, if guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz would be a tad more serious for tonight’s momentous occasion. I was proven oh so wrong as soon as the guitarist made his appearance on stage sporting a Fu Manchu mustache, jean shorts, doo-rag and tuxedo tee. The best example of the dichotomy between the guitarist and the frontman had to be during “Fixation…” when Leach embraced the crowd and sang atop the pit relishing in the glow from sharing the stage with his brothers again while Dutkiewicz ran back and forth on the stage, swinging his guitar like an axe. It was an amazing moment despite the absurdity.
After going deep into the KSE catalog for the three pronged attack of “Prelude”, “Vide Infra” and “Temple Within”, Leach introduced the Jones-sung “The Arms Of Sorrow” off As Daylight Dies as his “favorite Killswitch song…and I didn’t even write it…”. There were too many perfect moments like that then there is space (or time) on this blog to type. The positivity was overwhelming from the opening until the final notes of “Holy Diver” concluded and that’s a testament to what Leach will be bringing.
There was no new album announcement or new songs premiered. Through and through, Killswitch’s performance at NEMHF was a showcase of the band’s solid musical legacy and of the refreshed, re-energized KSE. It was truly a spectacle to behold and I, for one, am humbled at the opportunity to have witnessed this. Easily one of the most anticipated reunions this year, this performance just solidified that they will be putting out THE most anticipated metal album this year as well.