Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones has never been one to hold back his feelings; his naked expressions of emotion are a big part of why the pioneering metalcore band has had such great success since he replaced original frontman Jesse Leach in 2002. On KSE’s self-titled fifth album, Jones sounds like he’s gone through a seriously rough patch, but wearing his bloody heart on his sleeve is exactly what he does best. “Nothing can change what you’ve done/Nothing can change how I feel,” he wails on album opener “Never Again.” “I’ve made so many mistakes/I’ve broken so many promises,” he sings later on “Save Me.” It skirts the edges of emo, but the band’s metal assault is so intense that Jones’ angst never sounds whiny or entitled; he really does seem to be ripping his heart out on every song.
The rest of the band backs him up just as well as it always has. Despite working with an outside producer for the first time (Brendan O’Brien, who co-produced along with guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz), KSE sacrifices none of its intensity or ferocity for this album. Both “The Return” and “Lost” engage in a bit of power-balladry, but it serves only to highlight the powerful songwriting and tight musicianship. “A Light in a Darkened World” is an uplifting epic in the vein of “The End of Heartache,” sure to get fists pumping and heads banging. It’s everything the band does well, slightly polished.