Leave it to Killswitch Engage to lead by example in the virus age and give a little extra to fans. 2019 was a fantastic year for the Massachusetts natives. Their powerful album Atonement through Metal Blade Records was the first full-length in two years. The rest of the Atonement sessions became a gift in the form of Atonement 2: B-Sides for Charity. All proceeds go toward Covid-19 relief and they released it exclusively through Bandcamp.
People tend to think B-sides are throwaways, but Killswitch Engage leave nothing to chance. The album cover shows a flaming blue lion. That is what crashes out at you as you hear the first track “To The Great Beyond”. Incinerating riffs charge up before Jesse Leach roars out “Suicide…” into the midst. The track is tried-and-true metalcore with some mosh-worthy breakdowns before dissolving into a cesspool of horror chords.
“Hollow Convictions” exercise Jesse’s fuller vocal range going from southern rebel yells to a majestic chorus. It breaks the seal off the album, setting an undeniable tone and dynamic for the rest of the EP.
Halfway through is “Killing the Leviathan”, which could be a Mastodon song they buried in their vault of madness. The dark whale hunt is a battle between strobing, voluminous chugs from the guitarists and galloping double bass as if an apocalypse steed tread on the shore.
Atonement 2 is a powerful angle of a typical B-sides collection. There is only one forgetful track in “No Devotion” but for bonus tracks, it is a powerful mix showing the 20-year veterans still have a lot left in the tank. That is shown with the one-two punch of the final two songs. “I Feel Alive Again” should be a brand-new CM Punk entrance theme with the bright pop-punk enthusiasm of the squealing bends and shiny melody. It gives off an inspiring injection of belief and energy into listeners and easily should be a new music video.
As Icarus went too high up and fell victim to the oppressive sun, so does Killswitch Engage with the end stranglehold “Prophets of Treason”. It isn’t a metaphor of hubris, but rather a tactical descent into how dark the band goes to explore treachery. It is easily their bleakest and most nihilistic track, a finishing move. The main riff bookmarks the song and seems to venture into thrilling prog territory. In the middle, there is a blistering undercurrent of hammer-ons under the crash of the drums. Ending with how it began, but with a siren call that becomes more distant, it is easy to opine that this contribution to Covid and to loyal fans is aggressive and classic like bareknuckle boxing.
Atonement 2: B-Sides for Charity prove they can flex a message of resilience even with scraps. The gesture of goodwill paired with the raw production value makes for a solid next chapter of these modern metal legends.