By now, you probably know the story of Jesse Leach, Killswitch Engage's original vocalist, returning to the fold of the band after 10 years away and picking up right where he left off. What you might not know, however, is that the metalcore veterans recently nearly lost Leach again – this time, under entirely different circumstances.
“It's been a bumpy road to this album,” says Adam Dutkiewicz, the band's lead guitarist and one of its founding members. “Jesse underwent throat surgery, and at the same time was dealing with a real case of writers' block. He was out for a month on his recovery, so we had to cancel shows... but then, when he came back, we were still scheduled to open for Iron Maiden. The first time he sang after surgery was in front of thousands of people... no pressure at all. It ended up being really great. It was a relief to hear that he was sounding really strong – there was a lot less throat fatigue than there was pre-surgery. It's a really good thing that he was able to take care of it.”
With Leach back in full force, Dutkiewicz and co. were able to continue assembling Atonement, Killswitch Engage's eighth studio album. It's an album that has been pieced together bit by bit across breaks between tours and gaps in the band's schedule. More often than not, the quintet were creating and functioning on a long-distance relationship. “I live in California, Justin [Foley, drums] lives in Florida and the other three guys still live around the north-east,” explains Dutkiewicz.
“It's pretty far – when you map it out, it's probably the size of Australia. We tend to write on our own now. I'll write an entire song and send it to everyone as a demo – and it can go one of two ways. If everyone likes it, we go in and record it. If we don't, there's a further option to explore where we can take the parts that we do like and work on those together. That can be really positive – and besides, it means we get to meet up and work face-to-face.”
Like nearly every Killswitch Engage album before it, production for Atonement was handled entirely by Dutkiewicz himself. At this stage in his career, the man fondly known as Adam D is just as at home behind the boards as he is strapped to a guitar – for him, it's all about servicing the songs and creating the best environment possible. “I love to see a song grow from its infancy, all the way up to its final mix,” says Dutkiewicz.
“I get such a rush out of it. The only stressful thing about producing your own band is the obstacles along the way. That could be something major, like Jesse's surgery, or something minor like a piece of equipment not working the way you want it to. Beyond that, honestly, it's the same as it ever was. It really is fun for me. Being able to work on the songs this way is something that I've always enjoyed.”
When it came to tracking the guitars for Atonement, it went without saying what the band would be using. In 2018, both Dutkiewicz and bandmate Joel Stroetzel were issued with signature guitar models from Caparison Guitars. The former's is a TAT Special FX, also known as a Metal Machine, while the latter's is a Delinger-JSM. The fact the two of them now have signature guitars to their name is something that still blows Dutkiewicz's mind. “Man, they'll just give them to anyone now, won't they,” he jokes.
“Truly, though, they are just absolutely killer. They sound great. The way that they're designed, too, means that they're really hard to get set out of tune. The set-up is so easy, and when we're playing them they just sound bulletproof.” It's not lost on him that, 20 years into the band's career, there are kids out there that would have started bands specifically because of Killswitch Engage – and releasing signature guitars is a cementing of that legacy. “It's an amazing feeling,” says Dutkiewicz. “It'll sure as shit make you feel old, though!”