FIRE FORGED Original singer Jesse Leach (third from left) rejoins Killswitch Engage at this weekend's New England Metal and Hardcore Festival.
Of all rock genres, metal has proven itself to be perhaps the most accepting of the aging of its idols. Fans have flocked to reunion tour after reunion tour from the heaviest of the '70s and '80s, and now, with the re-emergence of the original Killswitch Engage lineup, even the cream of the late '90s/early '00s metalcore crop is proving to have a proverbial second act. "Metal has changed," says Jesse Leach, Killswitch's original singer, "but I've changed as well." Leach is now taking back the reins of the band he left in 2002, and his live re-coronation will take place on the stage of the Worcester Palladium as KSE headline this weekend's New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. "Metal is different," says Leach, "but so am I, after a decade. Rejoining Killswitch is a challenge that I'm up for."
The most captivating and legendary metal bands don't just have backstories, they have sagas, and the rocky tale of Westfield, MA's metal pride and joy is a galloping page-turner. Leach and Co. (mastermind drummer-turned-guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, bassist Mike D'Antonio, and, since 2003, drummer Justin Foley) forged Killswitch in the furnace of a burgeoning New England metalcore universe from the molten steel of early-scene titans Overcast and Aftershock. Leach wound up being the perfect spark for KSE's fuse, and after scoring their first show opening for In Flames, the band's legend spread like wildfire in the metalcore world. Leach himself flamed out sooner than anticipated, however, soon after the release of the band's sophomore long-player, 2002's Alive and Still Breathing — a combination of blown vocal cords and an onset of depression caused him to bow out just as the band was ready to begin pummeling worldwide. The band, however, didn't miss a beat, enlisting new vocalist Howard Jones, with whom they sailed to hitherto-unseen heights, culminating in the international success of their 2004 album The End of Heartache. The next seven years saw the band keeping the flame alight, until late last year when Jones left, citing health reasons.
The shocking thing isn't that Leach rejoined the band, but that he auditioned. This wasn't a slap from his ex-mates: "Auditioning was my idea, it's how I wanted to do it. I mean, look, this has been a very successful band for the past nine years. And I had something to do with it when I helped start the band, but I didn't do what they did, I didn't do what Howard did. And I thought that the best way to show these guys that I wanted to be a part of this process was to audition. And it wasn't just to prove it to the band — it was to prove it to myself." Luckily for all, he nailed the audition, and we can expect the old fireworks when he takes the stage for Sunday's headlining homecoming.