Overall Score: 10/10 Epicness: 9/10 Musicianship: 9/10 Debut Level: 10/10 Pros: Stunning Debut | Consistently Brilliant from Start to Finish Cons:
If you’re around my age (25) or a little older (or a lot older), you will no doubt remember Killswitch Engage’s mainstream debut release, Alive or Just Breathing back in 2001/2002 (note I said mainstream debut, not debut for the nitpickers out there). Featuring one of the metal anthems of the 00’s, My Last Serenade, along with other cracking songs such as Life To Lifeless, it seemed like Killswitch, with frontman Jesse Leach and guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz were going to take the metal world by storm.
Then, as so often happens in bands, there was trouble in paradise and Jesse parted ways with the rest of Killswitch Engage after suffering from depression, to be replaced by Howard Jones, and Killswitch went on to great levels of success (though maybe not quite the levels expected by some when they first burst onto the scene and onto our ears).
Meanwhile, fast forward to 2008 and Adam Dutkiewicz was in hospital recovering from back surgery and writing new music and decided to contact Jesse Leach with a view to writing music again, and over the next two years, Times of Grace was born. The debut album, The Hymn Of A Broken Man lands in the shops in 2 weeks time. What does Rocksins think of it? Read on…
Times of Grace album opener Strength In Numbers opens with a menacing drum beat which grows into a spoken intro before a huge growl and pounding drums mark the start of the song proper with a great main riff and ferocious drumming (proving that Dutkiewicz can drum just as well as play guitar). There is a great interchange of clean and growing vocals and the pace of the song increases for the chorus which is designed to have several thousand people singing along to it. Adam also flexes his fingers with a great sounding complex solo to cap off a fantastic album opener.
Fight For Life has a low rumbling intro with moody sounding downtuned guitar work held together with Jesse’s vocal work and the song has a very dark, despairing feeling to it (appropriately enough for the song title). The chorus’s chants of “Fight For Life” make me think of Hatebreed’s “Live for This”, though the two songs are otherwise completely different. Another great track.
Willing starts off with an almost thrash like quality to it for the first part of the song before developing into something of a rock/metal ballad complete with huge chorus before going back to speed riffs with drumming to match and some growls thrown in for good measure before returning to stadium territory. The description makes it sound like a mess but it works very well, something of a new take on the metal ballad.
Where The Spirit Leads Me has an intro that has a Trivium feel to it before the main riff kicks in and the track has a feel of old school Killswitch Engage about it for the first time on the album (hardly surprising considering the participants) with Jesse showing off his vocal ability on the chorus and then his ability to quickly change back to growling style vocals within the space of a few seconds. The last third of the song in particular is a slice of metalcore at its finest.
Until The End of Days sees Adam take a turn at vocals over a slowing burning guitar part and shows that the man of all instruments has a good voice to go with all his other abilities, before this gives way to some evil sounding dual vocals and pounding drums, before returning to the almost serene nature of the opening section but with added bite on the drums and Adam and Jesse alternating vocals. This is a slow burning song but one that will particularly appeal to anyone who likes dark, moody, slow burners from the likes of Paradise Lost or Red Sparowes.
Live in Love is a straight up melodic metal song with all the ingredients you might expect to find within. That doesn’t make it any less good though, as it is very good, particularly the last 90 seconds or so as they do a very good Sylosis impression (with a little more clean vocals than you’d find on a Sylosis track).
In The Arms of Mercy is a short instrumental piece which is in something of an odd position on the album, but is very pleasant and my only complaint with it is that it could do with being a bit longer (often like a good Torche song).
In The Arms of Mercy also leads nicely into the albums title track, The Hymn Of A Broken Man, which has an absolutely fantastic main riff and is 21st century metal at its finest, with fierce vocals, fast drumming, hectic riffing and a belter of a chorus, another one guaranteed to generate very large singalongs, a song that could cause a few speeding tickets with certain parts of it.
Hope Remains builds slowly in the intro with double bass pedal drums becoming louder and louder before launching into the main part of the song with a huge growl from Jesse and is another song with leanings towards 21st century thrash, certainly featuring some great guitar work and is one of many guaranteed “involuntary headbanging” tracks on the album, you’ll be doing it before you even realise. The solo is underpinned by some rediculous kick drumming and is the high point of another great track.
The End Of Eternity is the albums slowest track, voiced mainly by Adam D and carries the feeling of a track where the subject matter is the end of everything with lyrics such as “futures crushed and forgotten”. It is quite haunting in the vein of something like a Katatonia song, with more growling, indeed at times the vocals approaching something you’d be more likely to expect from a Dimmu Borgir record and at others as clean as a whistle, its difficult to explain this one so the best option is to hear it for yourself!
Worlds Apart begins with some cracking guitar work that the likes of Scott Ian would be happy with several catchy riffs underpinning a song that could happily race up the rock/metal radio charts being one of the more “radio friendly” songs on the album whilst losing none of the appeal that the rest of the album has and could be a good entry point to the band for fans of lighter music.
Album closer Fall From Grace is something of a lamenting track in its theme but while it is a mournful sounding track this does not detract from the quality of the song, Times of Grace have the ability to do dark and moody metal songs in an authentic way and the fact that is a song completely different in style to any of the others shows the diversity of this 11 track collection.
What do we think overall?
To sum it up, its an absolute fucking masterpiece. Adam Dutkiewicz said that it would be a genre-spanning and defining album and I think hes right. Its crunchingly heavy in places and wonderfully melodic in others. The musicianship is first rate as you would expect and the vocal work from both Adam and Jesse is first class. In my opinion it has such a broad appeal that fans of bands from Bon Jovi to Devildriver will lap it up. The bar for metal albums released in 2011 has just been set here, and its been set rediculously high. May we hope that many artists can hit the highs of Times Of Grace in 2011.
For Fans Of: Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Shadows Fall, Devildriver, Torche, Furyon, Bon Jovi and everyone in-between