Killswitch Engage are well aware that excellence in metalcore is more than just a blender of noise and hardcore-rooted grunts. For example, they match melody with the soppy sensitiveness of their love-lorn lyrics, resulting in a smart, distinguished hybrid of styles.
Massachusetts fivepiece Since the Flood hail from the same area as the former, as well as Shadows Fall and Unearth, and play in roughly the same “-core” suffix. Truth is, their sophomore disc No Compromise sorely exposes just how much catching up they have to do, but in keeping with good old-fashioned heavy metal attitude, you can’t catch them giving a fuck. They follow a thrashing conventional hardcore approach already mined by bands like Hatebreed—in fact, vocalist Chuck Bouley sounds exactly like Jamie Jasta when he shouts, which he does on most of the record. Heck, he even looks like the guy. You know the drill for the rest: chuggy walls of sound; serrated, permanently distorted guitar work; a smashing cymbal throttle that thrusts each number into a breakdown; and the occasional twangy bass-on-steroids. The band certainly seem concerned about whether they’re macho enough, which presents a problem with the risible ex-girlfriend lyrics: “Promise me one thing… Don’t ever change!” Bouley roars on one such powerhouse. Killswitch would tell them that’s meant to be done with emotion.
Is their unoriginality really such a bad thing, though? The syncopation of the percussion and the way it works with the barrage of riffs is definitely cool, even if there is little or no contrast to separate it. No Compromise’s primary function is doling out hook-laden metal, and, as “I Am What I Am” defiantly shows, it does just that, even if it won’t do anything to change the minds of skeptics.
The album’s twelve short bursts find a chug and settle into it, only to find a new one and begin again. Bouley strains his voice for a particularly unpleasant and menacing experience, while most of its midriff are blasts under two minutes long. You have to wonder if the group are trying to be the next Slayer, now that those elder statesmen have respectably moved towards more sustained spite and compositions. Conveniently in line with Since the Flood’s brash, straightforward compositions, it’s impossible not to pick up how trite and passé some of the catchphrases in use are—too many to be reasonably discussed, but suffice to say that constant profanity is not a “hook” as such. Even R&B crooners use it for shock effect these days: its place in metal is long gone.
No Compromise is really an exhausting listen—a short, sweet foray into the new wave of American heavy metal, and impossible to enjoy without firmly taking into consideration that it’s best ingested in small doses… after all, the ‘songs’ are so utterly alike that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the next one begins. Fortunately, Since the Flood channel the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and/or “angry young men” ethos rather than the varied mix of metalcore’s leaders, and this line spewed out in the thick of the title track sums up their brutal aesthetic: “Everything we’ve done, We’ve done it on our own / No help from anyone”. A statement to their record company perhaps? With any luck, this release will fetch the New England quintet crowds across the country, and fill venues with fervent chants of “No trends, no emo, and no compro-mise!”