The Rickety Old Shack

Killswitch Engage — The End Of Heartache

album cover

Fourteen years ago, today, Killswitch Engage dropped their sophomore album on the world, confirming their arrival as The Next Big Thing in metal. Two years prior, the group stormed onto the scene with their major label debut, Alive Or Just Breathing?, and made an immediate impression on the scene. The debut album was very well received by critics, and the band garnered a sizeable following as a result. Shortly thereafter, lead singer Jesse Leach exited the band and left the group scrambling to find a replacement. Given the range and quality of Leach's performance on the previous record, fans were justifiably concerned that finding a replacement would be difficult.

Howard Jones, of Blood Has Been Shed, was ultimately recruited, edging out All That Remains' Phil Labonte for the vocal position. And, with that sorted, the band continued to tour behind their debut record and eventually began to write its follow-up. As someone who ended up falling in love with Alive Or Just Breathing?, despite initially being apathetic to the whole concept of metalcore, I looked forward to The End Of Heartache with a mild anxiety — the juxtaposition of clean and screamed vocals was crucial to the Killswitch Engage formula, and I knew nothing of Mr. Jones. In the end, those fears were utterly unfounded; Howard Jones, within 30 seconds of the opening track, proved he absolutely belonged in the band.

From the opening notes, until "Hope Is..." slowly fades out, The End Of Heartache is an intense experience of equal parts melody and brutality. Where its predecessor set the gold standard for the metalcore genre, The End Of Heartache further refines and improves the band's chops. Each song is a collection of crushing, catchy riffs, beautiful melodies and sick grooves. While hardly an experimental record by the band's standards, this album demonstrates their absolute mastery of their craft. Everything metalcore strives to be — a mixture of the brutal and the beautiful, a study in contrasts — is represented at the highest level here. Howard Jones acquits himself excellently as the band's vocalist, bringing his own distinct clean vocal sound and powerful screams.

The term "all killer, no filler" is often used, and The End Of Heartache is a perfect example of it. The running time is just a shade over 42-and-a-half minutes, and precisely none of that time is wasted. There are 2 instrumental interludes on the album — giving the listener a brief respite between sonic assaults — but otherwise, The End Of Heartache wastes no time ripping through quality track after quality track. The material follows a very obvious pattern of alternating heavy, aggressive verses with clean, melodic choruses, but the variety in composition manages to keep the formula from getting stale. The hooks are so catchy, and the riffs diverse enough to keep each track unique despite being unmistakably a Killswitch Engage song.

As a follow-up to a genre-defining album, The End Of Heartache absolutely succeeds. Since buying this album on release day, I have played it countless time; I still listen to The End Of Heartache at least once a year — and typically far more than that. The themes of rejection, anger and heartache were especially resonant at the time, and this record provided an engaging distraction at the time — despite covering exactly those topics, the album was is very cathartic in its storytelling. At the time of its release, The End Of Heartache felt like an album of long-term significance. Now, 14 years later, that feeling is proven correct: Killswitch Engage have been a fixture of the metal world ever since, releasing a large body of quality work to this day. The End Of Heartache is timeless, and sounds just as engaging and powerful as it did in the early aughts.

Summary

One of my favourite records of all time, The End Of Heartache has it all: great song writing, melodic and screamed vocals dripping with pathos and emotion, and a first-rate production job to tie it all together. For all intents and purposes, this is a perfect album; while everyone has their own personal preferences, I would rank this as my favourite Killswitch Engage album without question. If one has any interest in metalcore at all, it behooves them to listen to this album and its predecessor if nothing else.

Album Information

Release date: May 11th, 2004
Record label: Roadrunner Records

Howard Jones — vocals
Adam Dutkiewicz — guitar, backing vocals
Joel Stroetzel — guitar, backing vocals
Make D'Antonio — bass
Justin Foley — drums
Jesse Leach — additional vocals (track 2)
Phil Labonte — additional vocals (track 12)
Andy Sneap — additional guitar (track 7)

Track Listing

  1. A Bid Farewell
  2. Take This Oath
  3. When Darkness Falls
  4. Rose Of Sharyn
  5. Inhale (Instrumental)
  6. Breathe Life
  7. The End Of Heartache
  8. Declaration
  9. World Ablaze
  10. End Embers Rise (Instrumental)
  11. Wasted Sacrifice
  12. Hope Is...

—by Derek

Published: May 11th, 2018.