Aggressive, commercially successful heavy metal is now as native to Massachusetts as teddy bears and maplesyrup are to Vermont. Unearth , Shadows Fall , and Killswitch Engage have been building since the mid-'90s, and New England's share of the ever-expanding metal market is the envy of other scenes. Killswitch Engage, in particular, has honed the recipe to something approaching perfection: three pints of Swedish metal, a sprig of emo, and a dollop of Boston hard-core, stirred vigorously and brought to the boil over a medium Pantera.
The new "As Daylight Dies " is the band's fourth album, and its second with vocalist Howard Jones , whose melodic instinct did so much to lift 2004's " The End of Heartache " into a realm of popularity not previously known to hardworking metal-core outfits (sales of 460,000 and climbing).
The pressure is on: To keep the ball rolling, Killswitch needs to top the commercial appeal of "Heartache" -- the tunes, the feeling -- without alienating its diehard metalhead base.
And it sounds, on the first few listens, as if the band might have pulled it off. Metal albums always take a while to percolate in the inner ear (for full enjoyment, one needs to be able to anticipate those time changes and energy surges), but the music of Killswitch has always had an uncommon immediacy. Produced with razor clarity by Killswitch guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz , "As Daylight Dies" will certainly satisfy those fans who were polled on the KSE website while the album was being made.
"What would you like to hear more of on the new record?" was the question: "more brutal" (25 percent) and "more singing" (23 percent) were the answers. So Jones's gutsy baritone hoists itself aloft with greater frequency, and the band shudders through some more-punishing-than-ever metal moves. Nor will the small constituency (10 percent) who wanted "more squeals" be disappointed.
But there's a new level of complexity as well, a riskier blend of gentleness and power, particularly on the track "The Arms of Sorrow ." Killswitch's secret weapon is its broken heart -- the best songs are always about grief or lost love -- and until that mends, it will remain unstoppable.