Formed in 1999 after the disbandment of Overcast and Aftershock. Killswitch Engage's current lineup consists of vocalist Jesse Leach, bassist Mike D'Antonio, guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz, and drummer Justin Foley. The band's membership has changed in the decade since its founding as illness, changes in life-situation, and new interests have drawn the men in different directions. The band has released seven studio albums (the latest one being Incarnate (2016) ) and one DVD.
Killswitch Engage rose to fame with its 2004 release The End of Heartache, which peaked at number 21 on the Billboard 200, and was certified gold in December 2007 for over 500,000 shipments in the United States. The title track, "The End of Heartache", was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005, and a live DVD titled (Set This) World Ablaze was released in 2005. Killswitch Engage has performed at festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Reading and Leeds Festivals, Ozzfest, Download Festival, Rock on the Range, Rock Am Ring, Mayhem Festival, and the Australian Soundwave Festival. The band has sold over one-million records in the United States alone and have been widely reffered to as "one of the founders of metalcore."
Killswitch Engage formed when the two metalcore bands, Overcast and Aftershock disbanded during the late 1990s. Following the disbandment of Overcast in 1998, bassist Mike D'Antonio jammed with Aftershock guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. Dutkiewicz recruited guitarist Joel Stroetzel from Aftershock, and vocalist Jesse Leach of the band Nothing Stays Gold (who were signed to a record label owned by Dutkiewicz's brother Tobias Dutkiewicz, who was also the vocalist in Aftershock), to form a new band, Killswitch Engage. The band's name is derived from an episode of the television series The X Files entitled "Kill Switch", written by William Gibson. Gibson named his episode after a chance meeting with industrial band Kill Switch…Klick.
In 1999, Killswitch Engage recorded a demo tape containing four tracks, including "Soilborn," Killswitch Engage's first song. The demo tape was first released at the band's first show, opening for melodic death metal act In Flames, in November 1999.
The band released their self-titled debut album in 2000. Although initially the album was not a financial success and did not land on any charts, it attracted the interest of Carl Severson, who worked at Roadrunner Records at the time. Severson handed Killswitch Engage to several Roadrunner representatives. Mike Gitter, a talent agent of the company, contacted D'Antonio, attended several of the band's shows, and offered the band a recording contract with Roadrunner. Realizing Roadrunner had the resources to promote and distribute Killswitch Engage releases, the band accepted his offer, declining several offers from smaller labels. For a brief time in 2000 and 2001, ex-Overcast guitarist Pete Cortese joined Killlswitch Engage, but left in 2001 when he became a father. Killswitch Engage began writing new material for their second album in November 2001. Mixed in January at Backstage Studios by producer Andy Sneap, the album was titled Alive or Just Breathing for lyrics in the song "Just Barely Breathing". A music video for the single "My Last Serenade" increased the band's exposure, and the album peaked at number 37 on the Top Heatseekers chart.
Following Alive or Just Breathing's release, which was written and recorded for two guitarists, the band decided to expand and become a fivesome; Dutkiewicz moved to guitar and former Aftershock drummer Tom Gomes filled in the vacant drummer position. After Leach was married on April 20, 2002 and began touring again he fell into a depression. Leach left the band a few days before the band was meant to play a show and sent the band members an e-mail telling them he had quit. D'Antonio said in an interview that "after three years of hanging out with the dude, and considering him a brother, to just get an email was a little bit harsh."
The band immediately started to search for a replacement vocalist and found Howard Jones of Blood Has Been Shed. Jones disliked the band's sound when he first heard it. He commented "I was like, ‘Meh.’ I come from hardcore and dirtier metal, and Killswitch sounded so clean. But the more I listened to it, I realized there’s some really good songs here". After hearing about Leach's vocal problems, Jones contacted the band and was accepted as the replacement. Philip Labonte of All That Remains tried out for lead vocals but lost to Jones. Without listening to the entire self-titled album or Alive or Just Breathing, Jones had to memorize seven songs for his debut at the 2002 Hellfest.
The new lineup played on the Road Rage tour in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in 2002 with 36 Crazyfists and Five Pointe O. Touring continued through the New Year's Day, and in 2003 the first song to feature Jones, "When Darkness Falls", appeared on the soundtrack of the 2003 horror film Freddy vs. Jason. Following the 2003 Ozzfest, drummer Gomes left the band because he wished to spend more time with his wife, to pursue his band Something of a Silhouette, and because he was tired of touring. He was replaced by Justin Foley of Blood Has Been Shed, and Foley's first tour with the band was the MTV2 Headbangers Ball in 2003.
The End of Heartache was released on May 11, 2004, and peaked at number 21 on the Billboard 200 with 38,000 sales in its first week, and it also peaked at number 39 on the Australian album chart. The album went on to sell more than 500,000 copies in the U.S and was certified gold on December 7, 2007. The album received mostly positive reviews, with Jon Caramanica of Rolling Stone calling the album a "stunning collection, retaining much of their signature musical brutality". Ed Rivaria of Allmusic commented "riff upon riff are piled sky-high into each number that follows, it's the unpredictable rhythmic shifts used to build and then relieve internal pressure that fuel the Killswitch Engage power source".
"The End of Heartache" became the main single for the movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and in 2005 the song was nominated in the Best Metal Performance in the 47th annual Grammy Awards. In late 2004, The End of Heartache was re-released as a special edition album, with a second disc featuring various live performances, a Japanese bonus track, and a re-recorded version of "Irreversal". During the summer of 2005, the band returned for Ozzfest, and on November 1, 2005, Alive or Just Breathing was re-released as part of Roadrunner Records' 25th anniversary. On November 22, 2005, the live DVD (Set This) World Ablaze was released, which contained a live concert at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts, an hour-long documentary, and all the band's music videos. The DVD was certified gold in the U.S. on April 8, 2006.
Killswitch Engage played the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2006, having already played Australian dates without Dutkiewicz, who was suffering from back problems and needed corrective surgery. On May 23, 2006, the song "This Fire Burns" was released on the WWE Wreckless Intent album. The track was intended to be the new theme song for WWE superstar Randy Orton; however, it was scrapped and later became the theme song for the WWE Judgment Day 2006 pay-per-view. "This Fire Burns" is currently used as the entrance theme for WWE SmackDown superstar, CM Punk and was later re-released as "This Fire" on the As Daylight Dies Special Edition.
Recorded in three months, As Daylight Dies was released on November 21, 2006 and peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart with 60,000 sales in its first week. "As Daylight Dies" proved to be one of their biggest albums yet. It also entered the Australia album chart at number 29. Mixed by Dutkiewicz, the album received mostly positive reviews—Thom Jurek of Allmusic called it "a Top Five metal candidate for 2006 for sure". Decibel Magazine contributor Nick Terry said "To call As Daylight Dies addictive would be an understatement. That it outdoes its already impressive enough predecessor could almost go without saying". Cosmo Lee of Stylus Magazine commented "the album is astonishingly badly sequenced", even though it praised the album as being "less emotionally heavy-handed, and a lot more fun". As of November 27, 2007, As Daylight Dies has sold more than 300,000 units in the United States.
The album's first single, "My Curse", peaked at number 21 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart, and is featured in the video games Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Burnout Paradise and is available as downloadable content for Rock Band and Rock Band 2. "The Arms of Sorrow" peaked at number 31 on the same chart. The band's cover of Dio's "Holy Diver", originally recorded for a Kerrang! compilation album titled High Voltage, peaked at number 12 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Early in 2007, the band had to cancel three of its European tour dates with The Haunted due to Dutkiewicz's back problems. He required emergency back surgery and was replaced on the tour by Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers.
Due to Dutkiewicz's back problems in early 2007, he was replaced by Damageplan and The Mercy Clinic frontman Patrick Lachman during the No Fear Tour. Dutkiewicz recovered and was able to finish the No Fear tour, and the band began filming its video for As Daylight Dies's second single, "The Arms of Sorrow". On August 6, 2007, Dutkiewicz was forced to leave the Warped Tour so he could fully recover from his back surgery and continue daily physical therapy. He was replaced by Killswitch's guitar technician Josh Mihlek for select songs, until his return on August 14, 2007.
Killswitch Engage entered the studio in October 2008 to start recording their next album with Dutkiewicz and Brendan O'Brien co-producing the album. In mid-February, bassist Mike D'Antonio confirmed in an interview with Metal Hammer that "drums were finished", and that he had “finished up the last few bass fixes". He also stated that Howard is in Atlanta finishing vocals, and that "it shouldn’t be too much longer now.” From March to May, Killswitch Engage was a part of Disturbed's Music as a Weapon IV festival along with Lacuna Coil, Chimaira, Suicide Silence, Bury Your Dead and more. On April 14, the band announced the name of their album as Killswitch Engage, the second time the band has self-titled the name of their album. The album was released on June 30, 2009, debuting at #7 on the Billboard 200, marking the band's highest chart position for an album. In July and August, Killswitch Engage took part in Mayhem Festival with headliners Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Bullet for My Valentine and others. In February 2010, Killswitch Engage announced that vocalist Howard Jones would not be performing with Killswitch Engage during their winter tour with The Devil Wears Prada and Dark Tranquillity; during the time, All That Remains vocalist, Philip Labonte was substituting for Jones until he could return.At least one source speculates that Jones' departure was due to back pain. On March 18th, 2010, original vocalist Jesse Leach returned to the band for a series of songs. From then on, Leach and Labonte performed as substitute vocalists for the remainder of the tour.
In 2010, they contributed the track "My Obsession" to the God of War: Blood & Metal soundtrack.
The band were later added as late replacement to 2010's Download Festival in June, after original sub-headliner, Wolfmother decided not to attend as scheduled. It was the first Killswitch Engage concert to feature their complete line-up (including Jones) since their performance at Taste of Chaos 2009.
On January 4th, 2012, the band announced that vocalist Howard Jones is no longer part of the band. The band commented that they would not expand on the reasons behind the departure, and announced that they would make finding a new vocalist a "#1 priority". The following statement was placed on the band's website by the four remaining members:
'To our family, friends and fans: We have decided to continue on without Howard Jones as the singer of Killswitch Engage. We love Howard and are thankful for the nine years that we’ve had him in the band. Out of respect for everyone involved we will not be discussing the specific reasons behind this decision. Howard is a part of our family and always will be, and we wish him well. He has left big shoes to fill, so we certainly have our work cut out for us to find the next singer of Killswitch, something we plan on making priority #1 going forward. Most importantly, thanks to all of you for all the support throughout the years and for sticking by us for all this time. We really do appreciate it and we very much look forward to having a new record for all of you in the not too distant future that we can all be proud of. Sincerely, Adam, Joel, Mike & Justin.'
Jesse Leach – lead vocals (1999–2002, 2010, 2012-present)
Mike D'Antonio – bass guitar (1999–present)
Adam Dutkiewicz – lead guitar, backing vocals (2002–present), drums (1999–2002)
Justin Foley – drums(2003–present)
Joel Stroetzel – rhythm guitar (1999–present)
Tom Gomes – drums, percussion (2002–2003)
Pete Cortese - guitar (2000-2001)
Howard Jones – lead vocals (2002–2012)
Patrick Lachman – guitar (2007)
Josh Mihlek – guitar (2007)
Phil Labonte – lead vocals (Feb-May 2010)
Jesse Leach - lead vocals (Mar-May 2010)
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