In 2007, while touring the UK with Killswitch Engage, Adam Dutkiewicz (the guitarist and notorious on-stage clown of the band) required emergency surgery on his back. Lying in the hospital bed after his surgery, with nothing to do and his music career looking less like a career and more like a phase, Adam started writing The Hymn of a Broken Man, mostly in his head, as a way to pull him out of his depression and anxiety.
Once he was out and on his feet again, Adam got in contact with the ex-lead singer of Killswitch – Jesse Leach because as Adam puts it “I don’t think I’m the greatest vocalist and lyricist so I wanted a little help in that department.” Adam recorded all the music himself, and was determined to play drums on this album, even though he was not a very strong drummer.
Now Jesse had left Killswitch Engage in 2002 due to a number of factors. The album Alive or Just Breathing had come out to critical acclaim and the band was preparing to go on tour. Jesse had also just married his fiancée 2 weeks prior. He became depressed with being on the road and couldn’t exercise control over his voice, blowing it out after a few shows causing him to struggle with the rest of the tour. At the time, Jesse didn’t even have the mental energy to talk to his band mates, let alone call them, and after a show one night, he simply left them an email and walked away. The email detailed what every Killswitch song meant and explained what the whole experience meant to him.
And he walked away.
Overnight, the hardcore scene, in which Killswitch Engage was at the very forefront, lost a very talented and powerful voice. Jesse reconciled with his bandmates in 2005 during the Roadrunner United 25th Anniversary concert, where he performed with then lead singer Howard Jones on the song My Last Serenade.
Now you may ask, what does this history have to do with this album? The answer is everything. Without this history, without these bonds of brotherhood, we might have something musically similar to this album, maybe riff-for-riff exact, but lyrically, where the power and the feelings lie, that could not have happened without all this history.
Before I go any further, I must tell you that the hallmark of Killswitch Engage is not only its fierce metalcore riffs, but the fact that every song is positive. Killswitch Engage made the decision from the beginning that there is too much negativity in metal, and so every single one of their songs is uplifting in a round about way. This is solely due to the band members’ faith – all the members grew up as Christians and even Jesse still is a very strong Christian.
From wondering if you’ll ever walk again, to playing drums, its quite a journey, and that journey is very well reflected on this album. It covers themes such as standing together, letting go of control, never losing hope and selfish thoughts. .
The album opens with Strength in Numbers and from the get go, you know this album is deeply personal, for both Adam and Jesse. Without each other, they may have been lost. Jesse helped Adam write this album and pulled him out his depression and Adam has always been a brother to Jesse.
The title song – Hymn of a Broken Man, was written while Adam was on his back in hospital, when he had nothing else to do but think. With that in mind, the lyrics in this song, actually, in this entire album, are even more powerful. Lying there, not knowing if you’re paralyzed or not, if the surgery was successful, I can only imagine the dark places his mind went into. The lyrics even speak to this state
“Now there’s nothing left
Nothing but apathy”
And even the name of the song “The Hymn of a Broken Man” speaks about his state of mind.
This album was always a good album to me, but it really became brilliant when, on the way to South Africa, I played this album from start to finish on my headphones while trying to sleep. The lyrics grabbed me, and didn’t let me sleep for the entire album. And listening to it loud, with ever nuance, every syllable present, really drove home the situation of both Adam and Jesse. Adam, lying on his back, not knowing if he will ever be able to play guitar again. Jesse, having the black dog of depression over him. And both men deciding that no matter what, they will stand up in faith. That speaks volumes to me of their character and something I really admire.
In good news, Jesse and Adam say they have new material, and we can expect their follow up album soon*.
*Not any time soon.