By Greg Maki
It’s been 10 years since Times of Grace released its debut album, “The Hymn of a Broken Man,” but it feels like even longer. Back then, Jesse Leach still was “former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach,” and the project was most noteworthy for being his reunion with Killswitch guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. Leach, of course, rejoined Killswitch the following year, and the band has released three records since then. So while “Hymn” hewed closely to a comfortable metalcore foundation, with some deviances, the long awaited follow-up, “Songs of Loss and Separation,” sees the band—now a trio with the addition of drummer Dan Gluszak, who toured behind the first album—finding a somber sound of its own.
As the title indicates, this is not a feel-good collection of tunes. A sense of hope permeates a large portion of the Killswitch songbook and some of the first Times of Grace album, but you won’t find it here. An Alice in Chains-like darkness takes its place, and at times the vocal layering even recalls vintage Layne Staley/Jerry Cantrell. That comparison is merely a reference point, though, as Times of Grace fully comes into its own across the 10 tracks here.
It’s a heavy record, thematically if not always sonically, with lyrics peddling in doubt and depression. If listening to Killswitch is like being in the eye of the storm, an area of light while thunder, lighting, wind and rain rage around you, Times of Grace is the aftermath of that storm, the destruction and desolation left in its wake. With slow, plodding tempos, hypnotic guitar tones and vocals full of anguish whether clean or harsh, “Songs of Loss and Separation” achieves a melancholic beauty from the first notes of “The Burden of Belief” through the final droning sounds of “Forever.” Metalcore roots poke through just a little on “Rescue,” the record’s lone, brief moment of optimism, while the heaviest tracks—my early favorites—“Medusa” and “Currents” offer thick slabs of metallic sludge.
If you like your music as background noise, this is not a record for you. It requires the listener’s attention to reveal its complexity and is a rewarding experience for those who give it.
Wicked Good Records/ADA Worldwide – July 16, 2021