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Killswitch Engage and Anthrax
$48 advance, $199 door
From the Promoter
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE exists deep within the eye of the storm, wielding the thunderous power of the elements like metallic alchemists, touching a nerve with the disenfranchised, and crafting populist anthems that both challenge the status quo and rally those who society casts aside. Across multiple albums, videos, and worldwide tours, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE forged a musical foundation steeped in classic heavy metal, melodic death metal, and early punk/hardcore, and built a following across economic, political, religious, international and social divides.
No matter the climate, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE makes trend-resistant, timeless heavy music that has elevated them to the critical and community status of the greatest of American metal bands. The fiercely individual yet collaboratively resilient New Englanders have also commanded respect and appreciation from all corners. Having shared the stage with acts ranging from Rise Against to Slayer, the diversity and versatility of their touring reach is unparalleled. As headliners on celebrated tours like Ozzfest, Vans Warped Tour, Taste of Chaos, Rockstar Mayhem, and countless international festivals, their influence reigns on a worldwide scale.
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE anthems, singles, and live staples, like “Fixation on the Darkness,” “My Last Serenade,” “A Bid Farewell,” “My Curse,” “Always,” and “In Due Time," have had staying power and appeal to all generations of metal fans worldwide.
The band’s seventh studio album, INCARNATE, possesses a stack of new KILLSWITCH ENGAGE anthems certain to set the heavy music world ablaze once more. A defiant cry to let go of the past, to keep away from scars that resurface, “Cut Me Loose” will resonate with anyone who struggles with anxiety or depression. "Hate by Design" also challenges our habit of tearing down when we should be building up, while “It Falls On Me” was penned during singer Jesse Leach’s solitary trips into the wilderness, where deep reflection and meditation resulted in the most intense of spiritual yearning. “The Great Deceit” is the heaviest song on the record, a scathing screed against the corruption that exists within government, organized religion, and other institutions. It’s not so much choosing a side as calling “bullshit” across the board, enlivened by the spirit of The Clash and Bad Brains that’s also a vital part of the Killswitch DNA.
“I find myself not in the light and not in the darkness, but dead in the middle, pleading to both sides, trying to find balance and peace,” says the singer, with characteristic honesty and humility. “I haven’t lost my faith, per se. But I’m not swallowing the contradictions or the dogma of everything we were all taught.”
As cofounders of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Adam Dutkiewicz, rhythm guitarist Joel Stroetzel, bassist Mike D’Antonio, and Leach (who returned four years ago after a decade-long absence) together with longtime drummer Justin Foley employ unrelenting determination to continually release powerfully potent work. Ever the technician, Dutkiewicz’s impressive skills as a producer (a discography that includes work with August Burns Red, Every Time I Die, and Parkway Drive) is part and parcel of the KILLSWITCH sound. Foley’s power and dexterity has been evident since he first emerged in the band Blood Has Been Shed. In addition to his undeniable stage presence and rhythmic heft, D’Antonio works behind the scenes most of the band’s cover artwork, merchandise, and web presence. Stroetzel is the most dyed-in-the-wool metalhead of the bunch.
Leach wears his heart on his sleeve like never before, coming out of the experience of making INCARNATE a brand new person. It’s an album of reclamation and redefinition, from a band that still rules the scene.
Leach sounds more confident and inspired than ever on INCARNATE. But this was no easy feat to achieve. He came back into the band he cofounded after the writing process for Disarm the Descent was largely finished. The band was quickly on the road behind the well-received album. Following the long touring process, Leach was determined to put a definitive stamp on this new album.
“I really wanted to make sure that where I was at in my life was really represented properly on the record. I took a couple weeks to just soul search. I fell into a bit of a depression and because of that I came up with some pretty dark stuff,” he confesses. “By the time the record was done, I realized I'd changed. I was a different person. That has never happened to me before with a record.”
The closest he’d come to this type of transformative experience was with Times Of Grace, the project where he first reconnected with Dutkiewicz after years of estrangement. The record the pair made together under that moniker reignited their electric songwriting and their honest give-and-take in the studio.
“Jesse is a very passionate dude with a lot of things to say,” notes his longtime friend and collaborator. “Vocal tracking is probably my favorite part of the recording process. We’d end up having deep conversations about life, politics, religion. The kind of conversations old friends might have over a cup of coffee.”
Leach pins much of the creative confidence of INCARNATE on the band’s defiance of compromise. “As a creative individual I refuse to phone in anything. I refuse to let stuff slide. I don't care about deadlines or the business side of things,” he says. “If we don't deliver a record that's got our souls on it, then we're doing ourselves a total disservice. And we’d be doing our fans a disservice, too.”
All of it has kept them enveloped in the most excitingly relevant pop culture touchstones of any given era since, ever since they formed back in 1999.
Alive or Just Breathing (2002) was certified silver in the United Kingdom as were The End of Heartache (2004) and As Daylight Dies (2006), both of which were certified gold in the United States for sales in excess of a half million copies. Each of the band’s most recent albums, Killswitch Engage (2009) and Disarm the Descent (2013), debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 Albums chart.
INCARNATE arrives as one of Rolling Stone’s Most Anticipated Metal Albums of 2016. “Strength of Mind” premiered via postmodern content network and powerhouse brand Nerdist, even as the band graced the cover of Revolver in Star Wars regalia, just before The Force Awakens smashed box office records. This is nothing new for KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. They’ve always been present in the heart of the culture with invitations to contribute to HBO’s Game of Thrones, WWE, God of War, Guitar Hero, Resident Evil, and even Freddy vs. Jason.
Two Grammy nominations, three Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, and two Boston Music Awards are just a small part of the fruit of their labor. The real evidence of the band’s impact lies in their fiercely devoted fans around the world.
The reckless abandon of creative passion, the search for higher truths and personal justice, and the authentic reality of the duality within all people – the light, the dark, the playful, the deadly – these are the components that comprise KILLSWITCH. They are the elements of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, INCARNATE.
It’s rare that a career gets a second shot, let alone a whole second act, but then Anthrax isn’t your average band. Formed in New York in 1981, the group that would go on to sell over ten million records and become the living embodiment of America’s hi-top wearing, riff-spitting, ear-thrashing answer to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal has undergone not one, but two complete eras - but that isn’t their real achievement. More than the group who let a fledgling Metallica crash on their studio floor in 1983, who became a lightning rod for geekdom by immortalizing Judge Dredd with “I Am The Law” in 1987, who enthusiastically raised a middle finger to the critics and unimaginative fans alike by collaborating with rappers Public Enemy in 1991, and who - in 2011 with the release of Worship Music - proved that classic albums aren’t a bygone concept, the story of Anthrax is one of gritty determination in the face of outrageous odds.
The liveliest fourth of the Big Four, they’re arguably the only member of that legendary fraternity who’ve kept their eyes so firmly focused forward and who’ve so consistently delivered the goods, both on stage and in the studio. Ironically, it was on stage alongside those immortal co-conspirators where the story of Anthrax’s 11th studio record began. Seeing their names in lights next to Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica had a catalyzing effect on the band weary from years of toil and changing times. According to bassist Frank Bello, it wasn’t just a potent reminder of what they did back in the 80s, but also of how far they’ve come.
"Charlie, Scott and I have talked about how we have to credit Metallica with what we’re doing right now,” he says. “When the Big Four got back together back in 2009, it kinda reminded us that we belonged, that we really were part of that group of bands. We didn’t forget it but maybe people did - it suddenly made sense. It was like, 'wow, we’ve been busting our asses for all those years,' and then we released Worship Music - that was the catalyst. We knew we had something awesome, but it was about everybody giving it a chance - we sold a lot of records. It’s testament to how great metal fans are, because they came back.
“We’ve been doing this for 35 years now,” Frank continues. “We are who we are, we can’t be something we’re not, we can’t bullshit people…that’s just a New York mentality.”
As with any band, Anthrax has its creative turbulences, but those add up to their unique chemistry. While all five members contribute ideas and make suggestions to pretty much every song, drummer Charlie Benante makes early writing inroads with foundation riffs and other ideas, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian has a very particular way of incorporating his intense lyrical ideas into the band's music, Bello has proven to be a very talented melody writer, something that has helped set the band’s music apart from others in the same genre, Belladonna crafts his vocals to best utilize that soaring voice of his, and guitarist Jon Donais brings crushing leads. In the end, the five bring it all together to create what simply is Anthrax music.
Scott will be the first to admit that the For All Kings (Megaforce/North America • Nuclear Blast/International) backstory hasn’t exactly been conventional or without its setbacks. In the summer of 2012, Charlie realized that due to his ongoing carpel tunnel syndrome, he would be unable to join the band on all tour dates going forward. But Charlie wasn’t about to just sit around at home, so began writing riffs for the new album.
“When the Mayhem tour was over,” said Scott,” Frank, Charlie and I got together in the Jam Room in my house in L.A. and started arranging, and out of those first sessions, we had like four skeletal arrangements. Those first sessions were unbelievable.”
Crucially, Charlie would employ a secret weapon that would become central to the process of creating an album that would stand tall in a back-catalogue bejeweled with some of the most important and influential releases of all time: a mutant guitar called The Shark.
“It’s a weird story,” he says. “Paul Crook, who used to be our guitar player (1995-2001), hooked me up with a good friend of his from Las Vegas, Mark Katzen, who spent all his time making custom guitars. I wanted this Eddie Van Halen replica of his, which is taken from an Ibanez Destroyer but it kinda looks like an Explorer now. Mark made an exact replica for me and from the time I got it, there was just something strange about it - it’s like I just wanted to keep playing it. About a year later I heard that Mark had passed away, and I had this weird feeling about the guitar, like he packed it with riffs and went, ‘here, take this and do something great with it.’"
The result, in short, is a record that’s as diverse as it is satisfying: a feast for the ears, and something of a victory lap for a band that bears the unique distinction of inventing what they do while still being the best at what they do. From the straight-ahead, no-nonsense fury of “You Gotta Believe” and “Evil Twin” to the sprawling, heavy-riffing masterpiece of “Blood Eagle Wings” (original working title, “Epic,”) to its stately title track, “For All Kings” was - as Joey reveals - as much fun to record as it was to listen to. Chalk it up to the masterful efforts of Grammy-nominated Worship Music co-producer Jay Ruston, whose credits span the likes of Stone Sour, Killwswitch Engage, and Steel Panther, among others.
“It’s awesome working with Jay,” says Joey. “It’s like we can just nail a track and move on. I love that confidence, and we’re doing some crazy things. ‘Listen to Zero Tolerance,’ man - that song is so fast!"
There have been other changes, too. In 2013, it was announced that Rob Caggiano, longtime lead-player who’d become known for his startling solos as well as his backstage antics, left the band to resume his role as a producer, but not before he’d introduced the band to highly respected shredder Jonathan Donais from New England bruisers Shadows Fall.
It would be an emotional experience for Jon, who confesses to the unique problem of simultaneously being a fanboy of a band in which he’s now a full-time member.
“I grew up with them,” says Jon. "I still remember being in junior high, on a beach trip in Maine and my parents got me State of Euphoria. I just loved it as soon as I heard it. Anthrax was a huge influence on me and my other band so it’s still kinda weird for me. I mean, Scott is just a top-notch rhythm player - there are a lot of classic riffs going on! I was working most closely with Charlie. He’d go, ‘alright, gimme some Dimebag, no - go for Randy this time. Ok, now gimme some Eddie.’ It was intimidating, I mean these guys are legends."
It’s about more than just the music though, and true to Anthrax form, For All Kings isn’t just infused with pop-culture references, but deeper subtexts that bespeak the thoughtful artistry that underpins everything that they do. As Charlie explains, while Anthrax’s 11th studio record doesn’t have a running theme, there’s a significance to it all that comes straight from the heart.
“A king to me doesn’t mean King Henry the Eighth,” he says. “My Dad passed away when I was five years old, I never really had that Dad relationship so I looked elsewhere for role model and inspirations. KISS was a big thing for me, they were like kings to me. And that’s who this record is dedicated to - those people, maybe they’re sports figures, family members - the people that are big in your life.”
Look closely at the album artwork, and you’ll notice the fingerprints of one such hero in the band’s life - the inimitable work of godlike comic artist and longtime Anthrax supporter Alex Ross, whose immortal depictions of classic DC and Marvel characters are in a league of their own.
There’s an interesting parallel there, because there’s little that Anthrax does that doesn’t have a story or thought-process behind it. Take “Blood Eagle Wings,” for instance, and consider the wide-eyed imagination that inspired it. Says Scott:
“I was sitting in my hotel room in London the day before hosting the Golden Gods, specifically with the intent of needing to write - I was so behind, and when I’m at home with my wife Pearl and my son Revel I just don’t have the discipline. I can’t go, ‘Daddy’s gotta go write!’ If I here him playing, it’s like, ‘alright, I gotta go play, there’s some Lego Star Wars shit I gotta be a part of.’ So I was sitting there in London banging my head against a wall, and Pearl goes, ‘go get out for a walk,’ so I did, and I started thinking about London and the blood that every great city has been built on - the murder, the bones and the blood of so many millions of people. Any great city is built on the blood of the innocent: Rome, New York, Los Angeles, London, or go watch Chinatown. The last season of ‘Hannibal’ also happened to be on TV at the time, where I learned about the Viking practice of slicing a person’s back open and pulling the lungs out, so…”
“Evil Twin” isn’t just influenced by the shocking state of international affairs, but by the emotions accompanied by the realization that you suddenly have everything to lose.
“Lyrically there’s no overall concept,” Scott adds. "I have a child now, and this is the first record I’ve ever written lyrics for since I’ve had a son. That’s how I view the world now. You bring a child into the picture, and it makes everything so much scarier. Out of fear comes anger and it makes you hate the world that much more. You’ve got this human being you would take a bullet for - I would do anything to protect my son - so most of the album comes from that place. I don’t write happy lyrics, but to have a child in this world and then tell me that I shouldn’t be angry? That was a huge well of fear in my belly to draw from.
The result is an album that’s as ferocious as it is sublime, as current as it is classic. From the straight-ahead thrashing brilliance of opener “You Gotta Believe” and “Breathing Lightning” to the seven-minute majesty “Blood Eagle Wings,” For All Kings is the quintessential Anthrax record, and proof positive that you can’t keep a good band down.
Joey Belladonna - vocals
Frank Bello - bass
Charlie Benante – drums
Jonathan Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar
Thrash Metal band formed in February 2004 and based in Denver, Colorado, USA.
David Sanchez: lead vocals, guitars (2004 - present)
Pete Webber: lead drums (2010 - present)
Reece Scruggs: lead guitar, vocals (2010 - present)
Nick Schendzielos – bass (2015 – present)
Jesse De Los Santos: lead bass, vocals (2009 - 2012)
Shawn Chavez: lead guitar, vocals (2004 - 2010) (d. 2015)
Ryan Bloom: drums (2007 - 2009)
Haakon Sjogren: drums
Marcus Corich: bass
Tyler Cantrell: bass
Richie Tice: drums
Mike Leon: bass