American metalcore outfit Killswitch Engage were at the fore of the early-2000s metalcore wave, achieving chart success and garnering Grammy nominations while selling millions of records. Forming Killswitch Engage in Westfield, Massachusetts, the band's four founding members already had strong fan followings when they got started. Bassist Mike D'Antonio was formerly the leader and principal songwriter of Overcast, often considered a progenitor of the metalcore genre. When Overcast split in 1998, D'Antonio spent a year searching for the right combination of players to fuse hardcore and metal with melody. During the summer of 1999, D'Antonio connected with Adam Dutkiewicz, who was the drummer for Aftershock, and Joel Stroetzel, Aftershock's guitar player. After Jesse Leach -- vocalist for Corrin and Nothing Stays Gold -- joined, the foursome took the name Killswitch Engage.
Killswitch Engage made their debut by opening for In Flames on tour. Their combination of brutality, sophistication, and originality caught the attention of the Ferret label and the band was quickly signed. Ferret released Killswitch Engage's self-titled debut album in June 2000 and it immediately captured rave reviews. The group combined heavy riffs mixed with both singing and screaming vocals, which covered a range from low-pitched death growls to higher-pitched hyena screams. Stroetzel developed a guitar rhythm that galloped, and the others kept pace as they combined elements of hardcore and metal in their melodies.
During 2001, the band recorded "Numbered Days" for local Boston radio station WERS' Nasty Habits live CD, a compilation with bands such as God Forbid, Haste, Unearth, and Poison the Well. That same year, Killswitch Engage signed with Roadrunner Records and started recording their second full album, Alive or Just Breathing, at the Zing Studio in Westfield, Massachusetts. They expanded to a five-piece with the addition of former Aftershock drummer Tom Gomes, as Dutkiewicz moved over to guitar. The album included favorites such as "Self-Revolution," "Just Barely Breathing," and a re-recorded version of "Temple from the Within." Andy Sneap was signed on to mix and master in his English studio. The album aimed at even more of the growling bass tone, heavier guitar crunch, and thicker/faster double bass that permeated the band's music, and it was greeted with high praise upon its release in May 2002, shooting to number 37 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart.
Tours with Soilwork and Hypocrisy finished before the band suffered a setback that June; lead singer Leach suddenly left the group, citing voice problems and personal issues (he later went on to join metal outfit Seemless). Breaking up was not an option, but Killswitch were still unsure of their future -- until auditioning Howard Jones that is, vocalist for local metalcore outfit Blood Has Been Shed. The band and Jones clicked immediately, and his charismatic yet menacing stage presence sealed the deal. He made his debut with the band at summer 2002's Hellfest, and the guys stayed on the road for the remainder of the year, both at home and abroad, winning over skeptics along the way. Gomes exited the group following their stint on 2003's Ozzfest, and he was replaced by another Blood Has Been Shed alum, drummer Justin Foley.
The End of Heartache appeared in spring 2004, debuting at number 21 on the Top 200 and even earning Killswitch a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance. Much touring followed, including acting as main support for Slayer and spots on package tours like Ozzfest and Taste of Chaos, while the band also released the DVD Set This World Ablaze in late 2005. Killswitch Engage further rocked a main stage spot at the U.K.'s Reading Festival in the summer of 2006. All of this activity ultimately led up to the release of their fourth full-length, As Daylight Dies, that November. In 2009, Killswitch returned with a second self-titled album and found themselves jumping onto the Billboard 200. Three years later, the band announced the departure of singer Jones, who was replaced by original frontman Leach. He marked his return to Killswitch on their 2013 album, Disarm the Descent. The set debuted well inside the Top Ten on various album charts, and the track "In Due Time" was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. After several tours in support, Killswitch took some well-deserved time off.
In early 2015, the band teased a 40-second snippet of "Loyalty"; the track ended up on Catch the Throne, for the Game of Thrones television series. They also began informally demoing new tracks. After a summer tour, Killswitch entered the studio. In December, the single "Strength of Mind" was released to the Internet. The album Incarnate was released in March of 2016, and debuted at number six on Billboard's Top 200; it was followed immediately by a national tour. In 2017, the band entered the studio to record album number eight, which featured a vocal duet with both Jones and Leach. The resulting Atonement was released in 2019. ~ Eleanor Ditzel & Corey Apar