If you’re a fan of modern metal, you’ve likely heard of Killswitch Engage and are completely aware of their masterful take on metalcore, pioneering the genre and leading the way for a lot of today’s scene. What you may not have heard of is Times Of Grace, a project that began ten years ago after then ex-Killswitch vocalist Jesse Leach re-joined forces with guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz to make some music that was a little more brooding and dark than they were used to.
The end result, ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’, was nothing short of magical; a dynamic and punishing journey that reminded us of the potent musical connection that its two members shared. Fast forward to now, and not only have they been reunited in the band that brought them together, but they’re returning to Times Of Grace for their long awaited second record ‘Songs Of Loss And Separation’. Sit somewhere comfortable and prepare to be moved – this is an album you’re going to really want to take in.
As you listen to this album, you’ll find yourself wondering whether you’re listening to the right thing. The core of it is most definitely metallic, but there are lots of other influences stemming out from it, and they reach far and wide. Album opener ‘The Burden Of Belief’ is a dusty country road ballad, slowly rolling forwards as the sun steadily rises on passionate guitar playing and stirring vocals. ‘Mend You’ develops that feeling, opting for a more alt-rock feel as it toys with more dramatic rises and falls to drive its message home.
Things begin to take a more familiar shape by the time it reaches ‘Rescue’, boasting the trademark Leach growl accompanied by crisp riffs and climactic choruses. ‘Medusa’ has a recognisable tone, too, armed with ground-cracking chugs, mesmerising melodies and spine-tingling delicacies that represent both the beauty and terror of its namesake. ‘To Carry The Weight’ is like a slightly more relaxed and slower version of ‘My Curse’, a metal-infused ballad centred on the pain of grief. But, as mentioned above, this is so much more than just a metal record.
Alongside all the expected metal contents, this album dips its toes in experimental waters in order to better tell its stories, and to great effect. The eerie and ominous ‘Currents’ sways in and out of darkness, tasting the light for a select few moments before disappearing back into the shadows. ‘Bleed Me’ couldn’t be more atmospheric if it tried, constantly building towards an emotion-filled crescendo that sees Leach plead with his demons to leave. There’s the beautifully serene ‘Cold’, the dramatic closing epic ‘Forever’ – metal or not, this record is still an intense and captivating journey.
After Leach had spent so much time away from Killswitch Engage, the debut Times Of Grace album ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’ felt like Killswitch version two, acting as a window into how they might have sounded if he was to return to his vocal duties. He obviously did make his return and the band have released three records with him back at the helm, which has given the Times Of Grace project the space to distance itself from full-on metalcore and walk a different path. Where they’ve ended up looks very different to where they started, and it’s a truly wonderful place to be.
The album is incredibly touching, with real emotional sincerity pouring from every single track. The music effortlessly spans from fragile acoustic lullaby all the way to devastating metal colossus, but it’s Jesse’s vocal delivery that’s the crowning jewel, able to traverse a number of different emotions with pure honesty flowing from every word. Combine them and what you get is a cathartic and poignant record; a collection of music born from solitude and isolation that’s blossomed into something truly breathtaking.
‘Songs Of Loss And Separation’ is a record that really makes you feel things, and that alone makes it something very special. It’s not the balls to the wall metalcore record that some fans will have been expecting, but it doesn’t matter. It’s stunning.