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"Our lives, the passion we have inside, defines who we are.." The first few words from the title track "Awaken" tells you that Jesse Leach is back. The original front-man of Killswitch Engage has put aside his distain for music and screaming, conquering the demons that plagued him to leave the band in the first place after releasing 2 fantastic, fresh albums into a dull heavy metal scene. Most fans adapted to the replacement, Howard Jones, but some still followed Jesse whilst he had a brief stint with a newly formed band "Seamless". The Empire Shall Fall is no Seamless. This is more heavy, more political and generally more satisfying. Awaken sees Jesse go back to his best with mighty screams that rival anything he's done in the past crammed into every single track. Admittedly, this album is a grower because it sounds alright at first but rapidly becomes one of your favourites amongst the KsE tracks of old, but with more focus on political situations as well as the events of 9/11, found in "Choir of Angels".
"Underneath all of the rubble, even after all these years, lies the pain of the truth, awaiting to be revealed. Concealed by these, I dub: Murderers. Betrayers. Count the cost of your lust for power."
No message has ever been put across so powerfully nor elegantly, from soulful vocals to a fiery accusation. 'Our Own' sounds like a mixture of the tracks already heard - but with jazzy interludes and solos that are totally unexpected. Such is the brilliance of some of the songs - literally, hairs on the back of your neck will stand because of the demonic bellowing of "Our Own" or the sequence of duel guitars sweep picking underneath the mighty cry of Leach. Consequently it seems difficult to admire every track as some strike a chord in you while others can be forgotten and simply blend into other songs at first. In particular "Lords of War" a dynasty warriors-esque tune with guitar tapping in sync as well as masterful guitar solos, followed by "Voices Forming Weapons" a double bass driven song with rather tame shouting. Luckily "These Colours Bleed" provides some brilliant head banging riffs that would make even a radio-friendly critic slightly nod in agreement, or at least crack a smile. 'The Kingdom' is as serious as you can get, a deadly stone faced riff beginning with pinch harmonics and shuddering verse lines. Starts with shouting, evolving into more incredible screams. Sounds similar to music in the Kingdom Under Fire games. If you're looking for a sound similar to the glory days of KsE, go and reminisce because whilst the brutal screaming is there, the melodies are less catchy (clearly the current members provided their fair share of material) and obviously the lyrics aren't about what Killswitch are peddling now.
As much as I like the new KsE albums from "The End of Heartache" to their self titled 2009 effort, the song writing has been kicked in the teeth by replacing the spiritual lyrics with mushy love poems. TESF has meaningful messages, not about break ups but breaking down barriers and stereotypes.