Metalcore representative Killswitch Engage combines a blitzkrieg bottom end that hunts with the springing fury of Pantera, labyrinthine Scandinavian metal melodicism, and agile yet sophisticated structures that showcase the band's hooks with more enthusiasm than a high-school trophy case. Their sound is anchored by Berklee School of Music alumni Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel on guitar, and the alternately screaming/soaring vocals of Howard Jones (no relation to the '80s pop star.) Though the sound is much minted, few deliver it with the precision or panache evidenced on the Massachusetts quintet's latest album, As Daylight Dies.
If slot-car racers were guitars, they might sound like U.K. power metal sextet Dragonforce. High-octane, neoclassical riffs rampage like rocket-fueled funny cars over operatic lead vocals and heart-exploding drum tempos that rival hardcore techno. The sound is nothing if not large, with lots of backing choir vocals and blaring horns like Judas Priest offering an ebullient take on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's cover of composer Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." You half expect it to win a Tony, yet there's a naive joy and boundless anthemicity to the music that suggest a prog-inflected Slade.
Saving the best for last (unlike the bill), Cleveland's Chimaira are the bitter cocoa amid the milk chocolate. They deserve a genre of their own, like meth-metal all steely-eyed, cheek-twitching danger. The haunted soundscapes that back their industrial throb put a grimy veneer on the adrenalized pulse and guttural growl. But like the allure of darkness, there's something beguiling within their churning hardcore void. The nuance-rich sonics, incredible musicianship, and relentless brutality truly separate this band from the rest. Their latest, Resurrection, is the most intense and sophisticated thing they've ever released like Bad Brains if they'd gotten wildly into math rock.