#1 Killswitch Engage – Alive or Just Breathing
Released in 2002 by Roadrunner
Best Songs: My Last Serenade, Just Barely Breathing, Numbered Days
Listen Also To Their Albums: Disarm the Descent, The End of Heartache
Interesting Facts: Alive or Just Breathing has been viewed as a landmark album in the metalcore genre and was well praised upon its release by fans and critics. The lyrics, which were all written by vocalist Jesse Leach, were aimed to bring a positive message through the music. Shortly after the release of Alive or Just Breathing, Leach left the band for personal and health issues. Killswitch Engage quickly recruited Howard Jones to replace Leach. Jones would stay in the band for nearly ten years, until his departure in early 2012, which prompted Leach to rejoin the band on the ten-year anniversary of Alive or Just Breathing. This is also the last album to feature Dutkiewicz on drums, as he would switch to guitar before the touring process.
In June 2000, Killswitch Engage released their debut album, titled Killswitch Engage through Ferret Records. The label’s CEO, Carl Severson signed the band without a contract simply to get the album out to the public because he thought the album “ruled”! After the album was released, Severson showed it to Roadrunner Records A&R man, Mike Gitter, who played the album for other Roadrunner employees and stated “The feeling was this was something that touched upon classic metal, pulls it up through hardcore, and creates something fairly new and completely exciting. When their music started circulating around the office, there was an immediate ‘Holy … this is great!’ feeling about it. After signing to Roadrunner, the band began work on their major label debut, which would become Alive or Just Breathing. Gitter has claimed that signing Killswitch Engage was the most gratifying signing of his career! The label agreed to let Dutkiewicz produce Alive or Just Breathing because they were impressed with his production skills.
Critical reception of Alive or Just Breathing was extremely positive.Metalreview.com said “it stands as a pretty trendsetting, stellar must-own example of metalcore”. AllMusic stated “This is a pure metal album that seemingly has ignored any fashionable trend and instead relies solely on skill and expertise to sculpt some of meatiest heavy metal since the glory days of Metallica and Slayer.” Dom Lawson of Kerrang! magazine (now of Metal Hammer) gave the album five “Ks” (or five out of five stars). He praised the album’s unique new sound, music, and vocal performances from Leach. CMJ said, “This album is more addictive than crack cocaine that’s been smothered in caffeine and nicotine and drenched with chocolate! Reviewing the 2005 re-release of the album, Blabbermouth.netsaid that Alive or Just Breathing is “one special album” and that its release “marked a defining moment in metal” and “one of the greatest albums of the new century”. Alive or Just Breathing is one of only 21 albums to have a perfect site rating on Blabbermouth.net!