Year In Review: Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage and Times of Grace delivers his 10 Best Albums of 2021

Year In Review: Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage and Times of Grace delivers his 10 Best Albums of 2021

- By Ramon Gonzales

From lo-fi ambient to pagan folk metal, from industrial to grindcore, one of metal's most articulate voices weighs in on which albums stuck with him in 2021.

As one of heavy music's most articulate, assertive voices, Jesse Leach of both Killswitch Engage and Times of Grace mounted quite a charge in 2021.

Among the highlights of the year included the revival of his Times of Grace project with follow KsE bandmate, Adam Dutkiewicz. Songs of Loss and Separation was an album a decade in the making. Packed with soaring vocal entires and incendiary instrumentation, the collection of songs was unanimously well-received and further proved that good things are certainly worth the wait.

On the Killswitch front, the band successfully ventured onto the streaming platform with a landmark broadcast that showcased KsE performing two of their most important catalog entries. Taking over The Palladium in Worcester, MA – which has played host to many of the band’s pivotal performances, Killswitch performed both their 2019 album Atonement and their 2000 self-titled release in their entirety. The footage of the monumental event was directed by David Brodsky and Allison Woest for MyGoodEye.

In addition to the band's digital footprint, Killswitch would make a triumphant live return as an integral component to the 2021 iteration of the Knotfest Roadshow. Performing along with Slipknot as well as the next generation of heavy in the tandem of Fever 333 and Code Orange, the cross country trek proved to be a vital reassertion of the power and experience of live music.

In the midst of exploring their digital possibilities with streaming and resuming their run as veteran road dogs, Killswitch Engage also earned another in a long list of career accolades in 2021. The band's fourth album, As Daylight Dies which was released by Roadrunner Records in 2006, was certified platinum by the RIAA. The album fruited some of the band's most enduring singles in "My Curse" and "The Arms of Sorrow."

Riding that momentum into the new year, Killswitch is quickly getting back into the swing of things with the confirmation of The Atonement Tour set to begin early 2022. Enlisting August Burns Red and Light the Torch for the run, KsE will be decimating the U.S. and Canada on the highly-anticipated 33-date trek.

In what has been an especially productive year for Leach, the frontman is now taking inventory of the last 12 months and weighing in on the albums that resonated with him. Ranging from hip hop to ambient, pagan metal to industrial, his roster of essentials is as dynamic as you'd expect.

10. Rivers of Nihil - The Work

Leach - Been a fan of these dudes for a few years now. They kill it live and are really nice guys on top of it all. This album shows them expanding and becoming more diverse. They are able to incorporate saxophone with out it feeling throw in in or cheesy. It's Killer death/progressive metal with an almost goth Pink floyd influence coming through on this album. Also to be clear their progressive element isn't over the top and sort of self satisfying complex for the sake of being complex, it's tastefully and sparingly done. This band makes Metal I like to hear. I loved the last album "Where Owls Know my Name" but to me this album shows them at their prime! Great record!

9. Unto Others - Strength

Leach - To me this band is a breath of fresh air in Metal and rock. They blend dark goth tinged heavy metal vocals with great riffs and solid songwriting. I hear a bit of Danzig/The Cult and even some solo Ozzy but making a style and sound all their own! I really love the vocal style and over all feel of this band!

8. Lustmord/Karin Park - Alter

Leach - Lustmord can only be truly understood if you see him live. He is a master of dark atmosphere and sound. That and his visuals live are next level. I saw him a few years back and it was a total surreal experience I will never forget. You can not casually listen to any of this many sonic offerings, you have to set aside time and truly experience them. I recommend listening with headphones or on a quality sound system to truly feel the wall of sound he creates. What I really like about this particular album/collaboration is the addition of the incredible vocalist Karin Park. She adds a whole other layer of sound and emotion whilst still maintaining Lustmord's dark atmosphere....It reminds me at times of the prolific "Dead Can Dance" a group I am borderline obsessed with. In short this album is a sonic work of art, albeit predominantly melancholic and dark...but after all he is the Dark Lord of ambient music.

7. The Orb/Alex Paterson and various artists - Connecting the Dots

Leach - Massive fan of the Orb, it is my most listened to duo/group of all time, I have every album and truly enjoy everything they put out. This is Alex Patterson mixing various songs of other artists showcasing some great electronic cuts from the legendary Kompakt records. It's a chill out sonic story unraveling as per usual with anything he touches. This will calm your anxiety, make you breathe deeper and if you close your eyes with headphones on it will give you visuals. To me he and his musical counterpart Jimmy Cauty are pure genius with their ability to layer and create sounds that soothe my soul. This album is no different, anything with "The Orb" name attached to it is certain gold in my eyes. No fail.

6. Urne - Serpent and Spirit

Leach - These guys came out of no where for me and I instantly really liked what I heard. It's solid and well played Metal with a nice blend of styles. The songs all clock in around 8 minutes on average and yet I do not find myself even thinking about song length. There is aggression and heaviness but more importantly a ton of soul in the playing. I also love the vocal range from a solid yell/screaming style to melodic. Unlike a slew of bands when the melodic vocals hit it feels genuine and more rock oriented than a typical here comes the melodic part "metalcore" stuff. I can hear the influences but they are blended so well with their own style it comes off genuine. You can hear the urgency in what they do, its a band that is firing on all cylinders. I can see this band growing to become a force to be reckoned with if they keep this up.

5. Youth Code/King Yosef - A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Perception

Leach - Been a Youth Code fan since seeing them open of Chelsea Wolf years ago. This collaboration sees the vocalist Sara Taylor going a bit more melodic as opposed to her usual "I just ate a glass bottle yell" that I absolutely love. Its a welcomed texture and really makes the songs a bit more memorable. This is hardcore industrial done properly, all killer no filler with conviction in tact.

4. Czarface MF Doom - Super What

Leach - I've always been a hip hop fan, I am however more of an old school fan. So when MFDoom passed away it was a big blow to Hip Hop. I was not aware of this collaboration until I was on tour with Slipknot and our Lighting director Cody Played this album for me while we sat out side the bus in a hotel parking lot on a day off. I had listetened to Czarface before and always dug his style, this collaboration however really brings out some real fire! Between the blunt laced production and beats to the clever word play and comic book random commercial humorous sampling this is pure entertainment. It's clever and classic the way I like my Hip Hop. I hear new metaphors with every listen.

3. Wardruna - Kvitravn

Leach - I admit am a recent convert to pagan folk/Viking style music. I found myself binging on various groups in this genre of music as I sat by the fire in my backyard riding out the pandemic. Wardruna stood out as I continued to discover new groups and became a staple in my playlists. This album transports you to another place and time it feels a soundtrack to an adventure or a movie. Turns out they provided the music for a show I truly love called "Vikings" so it all makes sense. Great band great album, I am a big fan!

2. Full of Hell - Garden of Burning Apparitions

Leach - This band has been churning out blistering a noise ridden grindcore for years and shows no signs of letting up! I saw them open for Nails a few years back and they stole the show that night, I was in awe of their power and relentless bludgeoning sound. This album continues to show they are going to keep beating listeners down with their ferocity. All hails to the mighty Full of Hell, so damn good!

  1. If Anything Suspicious - Offair: Lullabies for the Damned

Leach - This album is 100% chill out from the mind of Anders Friden vocalist of In Flames. I love it, this is the type of music I listen to most during the day when I am writing or hiking through the woods. If you are fan of ambient music this is for you. Instrumental soundscapes with quiet beats and textures. I am a big Brian Eno fan and it seems as If Anders is very much going down that path musically with this. I am all in!

Catch the rebroadcast of Live At The Palladium from Killswitch Engage streaming on Friday, January 14, 2022 at 7pm ET, with continued on-demand viewing access through Sunday, January 16 — this time with all band members live-chatting with fans in real time during the performance stream.

Fans who previously purchased tickets to the initial broadcast will be able to re-watch it for free. Plus, all ticket holders for the North American Atonement Tour 2022 will be able to view the stream for free, as long as tickets are purchased by January 10, 2022.

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