Killswitch Engage guitarist Joel Stroetzel has been having a pretty leisurely time at home as of late. The band’s new album, ‘Incarnate’, is just about to drop and once it does, the real work – touring – will again becomes the band’s one and only focus. This week, Killyourstereo.com had the chance to speak with the musician about the group’s latest work.
While I thought that ‘Incarnate’ was good, it was exactly what I was expecting from you guys. Are you ever worried that when people listen to a new Killswitch album, fan or otherwise, they’ll know exactly what to expect and aren’t surprise? Or is that a good thing to you?
It’s hard to say, man. I definitely don’t think that we’re trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. We’ve been doing what we do for a long time now, and we write songs that we love and hopefully songs that translate well to other people. Hopefully everybody likes it [laughs].
Yeah, hopefully man. A lot of the media and press build-up to the record, sites such as Blabbermouth, stated ‘Disarm the Descent’ was just the comeback record and that this new one is the real deal – what would you say to that, and how do you feel about the two?
It’s funny; I think ‘Disarm…’ was a very excited record. We were just really happy to still be a band by that point. We were really shaken up when Howard [Jones, singer] left, and having Jesse [Leech, vocals] come back put a fire under our asses. I think with this one, we took our time with it. It was written over a year for the music, and Jesse took a lot longer on the vocals too. This is his first one that we’ve written from start to finish since he rejoined the band. So maybe it’s a more cohesive record in some ways.
I’m curious Joel, how do you define metal music, or do you think it’s something that is indefinable?
For me, it’s something that is just really aggressive. There are so many different kinds of metal at this point. I grew up with Slayer, Megadeth and Testament, and there’s so much more now. I think that anything that is loud, energetic and aggressive can be considered metal.
So, then what’s your opinion of someone like Babymetal then? Because that’s a very divisive band at the moment.
Sorry, what kind of metal man?
Babymetal…the Japanese band? You haven’t heard of them?
Babymetal? Nope, haven’t heard them [laughs]. Guess I really am out of the loop.
Oh, well they are something else. They are quite weird, that’s for sure. You’ll have to go look them up. It’s basically if Periphery had three female singers who belted out J-pop melodies with choreographed dance moves.
[Laughs] Oh my…that sounds…very interesting. Baby Metal… damn.
The reason I asked you about them is because the age-old argument of what is “true metal” gets thrown around a lot for that band. And as you said, anything that’s loud, aggressive and energetic can be metal, and that band definitely ticks all three of those boxes I think.
I’ve always considered us a true metal band too. But a lot of people say that we are too melodic, that we are “pop-metal”. In the classic sense, you think of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, but metal is very hard to define sometimes.
The line has blurred over the past couple years, for sure. But with that comment, where people say that you guys are too melodic, I wonder what they must think of bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest….
[Laughs] For sure. Maybe those people have been listening to too much extreme metal. But with those old bands, it’s all melodic vocals and guitar parts. We’ve always done melodic stuff since the very start.
Yeah, you guys mix the melodies and the hardcore stuff really well. Now in regards to this year’s Soundwave, it was touted that you guys were scheduled to play ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ in it’s entirety. Was that true? I only ask because of the entire drama surrounding the festival in the past few months.
Yes, that was true. We did it once for a few dates in the US, so when we got the offer from Soundwave, we agreed on it. We were pretty psyched to get over there, as we’ve loved Soundwave over the past few years. It’s a great scene over there.
How do you feel about the fact that fans will lose their shit and flock to you guys when you say you’ll play ‘Alive…’ in full and yet you’re still an active band with new material, and who still tours frequently? Does it ever take away from the new stuff knowing that any other anniversary shows you do will be bigger than the current tours?
Yeah, maybe they will. But we’ve only done it with ‘Alive…’ so far. When we did that tour, we played songs off our other albums too, and I’m not sure what other bands do in that scenario, but we had fun with it.
And it did fit in with your release schedule. Soundwave in Jan/Feb; new album in March. But with there since being no Soundwave, are you guys planning an album tour for us in 2016 or 2017?
Yeah, and we’ll be talking about that down the line. People were really expecting that and it’s a shame we didn’t get to do it.
Do you find it weird or maybe even humbling that people still give a shit about that record this many years on from its release?
I find it quite flattering, really. People go back to it and say its one of our best records. And we really appreciate that, and we just always try to keep the train rolling and trying to keep making good music.
So, do you personally have a favourite KSE album, or is that like picking your favourite children?
Yeah, you can’t really do that. Right now, the new one is because it’s the freshest in my mind [laughs].
‘Incarnate’ is out March 11th through Roadrunner Records.