Concert Review: Killswitch Engage, In Flames, September 2009

Killswitch Engage with In Flames at Arrow Hall, Toronto
Band: Killswitch Engage, In Flames

Date: September 9, 2009

Venue: Arrow Hall


By Aaron Binder
Photography by Karen Fader McBride

It seems that punk is no longer the Mohawk town.  Nor is Heavy Metal the fortress of the X chromosome anymore.  The light show is also not limited to only the likes of KISS or Van Halen these days.  As the golden age of live music dawns upon the concert-going population, the peripheral flow of added eccentricities has become an even more important aspect to any concert.

Set in the black-painted depths of Arrow Hall, a turbulent storm brewed.  Even though estrogen levels have been sidling higher and higher in the past decade, there was still more testosterone dripping onto the unforgiving concrete floor than a rugby team locker room at half-time; this is all before main support act In Flames had taken the stage.

As monolithic and groundbreaking as band as In Flames are, there is absolutely no comparison to their usurper, Killswitch Engage.  They’ve done it bigger, they’ve done it more aggressively, and they’ve done it all in less time.  Not only does everything about Killswitch scream big, it also reflects a band on the top of their game.  With the release of their self-titled 5th album, Killswitch has grown to heights that few alternative bands have the chance to achieve.

Combined with the success of their most recent album, their 2009 touring efforts have brought them to England’s famed Download Festival and on the Alterna-rock Music as a Weapon Tour, among others.  This has all led them to a headlining tour with the band that helped shape them musically, In Flames.

In Flames – Arrow Hall – Sep 9, 2009

As much man-juice as there was running around before In Flames lit the stage, the proverbial storm exploded as soon as lead singer Anders flailed his dreads full windmill and screamed out his beguiled first note.  Not even five minutes in, however the first bout of fisticuffs broke out, seemingly the norm at a metal show of this calibre.

Back into the fray and In Flames broke out some much heavier, knee-slapping, neck-cracking new material.  The third single off their new album, Delight and Angers, started rocking the hanger and proceeded to brutalize and destroy every fan in attendance.

In Flames, if you’ve never heard them before, is one of the innovators of second-generation heavy-melodic metal.  Their accolades run deep, not only have they been progressively improving over the past 14 years, culminating with the release of their most highly regarded album yet, A Sense of Purpose, the album itself has gone on to sell almost 300,000 copies worldwide, a tremendous feat for a small band from the city of Gothenburg.

In Flames – Arrow Hall – Sep 9, 2009

Their powerful range is exhibited through the masterful command they hold over their whole catalogue while playing live.  They tend to spend perhaps a little too much time in between songs, extolling slightly muted energy levels on stage than one might expect.  Once the shredding starts again, all is made right though, the storm picks right back up where it left off.

It would have been nice to see a little more stage movement out of the whole band, but even without an incredibly energetic performance, they still command the stage well.

Killswitch Engage at Arrow Hall – Sept 9, 2009

It’s hard to argue with a band that can bring thousands upon thousands of music fans to an old airport hanger in the middle of an industrial wasteland.  The new venue of Warped Tour in Toronto (the parking lot, at least), Arrow Hall is quickly proving to be an attractive venue just on the outskirts of Toronto.  The hellish commute is a testament to the fanaticism exhibited by Killswitch fans, all for an hour and a half with Howard Jones, Mike D’Antonio, Adam Dutkiewicz, Justin Foley and Joel Stroetzel.

From the second the quintet hit the stage, it was a veritable slaughter.  Frontman Howard Jones is electric on stage; the vivacious nature of his screams is soul crushing and mind destroying.  The solid nature of his vocal range is just the device to rebuild and redeem those broken pieces of the human anatomy.  Consider it a religious discovery for some people.

Unfortunately, the sound quality at an old aircraft hanger is not the greatest for a melodic hardcore band; it would probably be more suited to grind-core acts, as sound quality isn’t as much an issue there.  Regardless, some of the vocals became lost in some sort of muted, bouncy translation.

Every song is a brutal exercise in endurance for this band, and some of the numbers came off so incredibly violent it was amazing to see people still left standing after the dust settled.  They managed to work their way through fan favourite, “Rose of Sharyn”, at the end, Howard arched his back and let fly with what can only be described as a gut-wrenching display of musicianship.

Killswitch Engage – Arrow Hall – Sep 9, 2009

Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, laden with cape and cloth crown, was a veritable pauper’s king, peddling shrieking guitar to the black storm in front of the immense stage.  Killswitch Engage has a rather interesting repertoire, showcased by their ability to pluck almost any song from any album and have the fans react as favourably as them playing only their murderously popular hits.

As their set progressed, they continued to yank favourites from every record they’ve released, almost in an attempt to withhold the increasingly powerful storm brewing in front of the stage.  Some people may be put off by the epic nature of so much of their music, it truly is one of the more attractive elements to their persona; one life to live, the possibility that this could be your last night on earth, the perpetual search for meaning that plagues so many.  It is one thing to listen to the music and lyrics come together on album, but in person, it is obvious that so many people find their perfection.

After a show filled with lights staring down the testosterone-fuelled black storm, a band giving their all and music fans finding deeper meaning than the black nail polish stolen from their sister’s closet, it all ended.  Their megalithic 2004 hit, “End of Heartache”, finished it all.  The guitars faded, the lights stayed dim, and the inevitable encore was played, but for thousands in attendance, the storm mentality had found new meaning and one band had brought them all together.


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