Forgiveness? For a topic on Music Monday? What is going on here? This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with music, metal or Mondays! But I do implore you, dear reader, to continue, for it shall all become clear. I hope.
Forgiveness. Acceptance. Moving on. These are all topics that we as humans have to learn to deal with. These emotions are what cause us to believe in, and act out, hope. These thoughts allow us to see a better tomorrow, or even a better now. Without these aspirations, no one would ever get around to accomplishing much in their lives, remaining paralyzed, stuck, in a pit of despair.
In today’s news cycle, your hear the bad, the ugly and the downright terrible on an hourly basis. You hear about some celebrity who has fallen from grace, you hear about the Amazon burning (no, its a very serious problem and we really should be doing everything we can to help), you hear all these things. But what you don’t hear is the good news, the news of forgiveness, acceptance or moving on.
Before I go further, let me say that the order of these stories is in no ways representative of their importance, or any sign of favoritism. These are just as they have come out.
I have written about Killswitch Engage before, when I covered my Times of Grace Sort-Of Music Review. But I’ll give you the cliff notes to bring you up to speed here.
Jesse was the singer. Jesse got married as KSE got big and went on tour. Being away from his new wife was not good for Jesse’s mental health and he left the band. Jesse stated he would never sing again. KSE found a new singer after some time – the legendary Howard Jones. And Que enter scene…
Howard Jones, one of the most powerful voices in metal, was with Killswitch Engage for three albums, spanning almost 10 years. While he was with the band, the lyrics and content of their songs grew more and more dark. For a band that prioritized upbeat, positive, almost happy lyrics in their music writing, this was a slippery slope. Howard starting suffering anxiety and would spend hours just laying on his bunk in the tour bus not talking to anyone, or engaging with the guys. He almost went so far as to commit suicide. The final straw was when Howard ‘allegedly’ got a stripper/porn star pregnant and refused to take responsibility for his actions.
For a band like Killswitch Engage, which have always been “good boys”, this was unforgivable. They let Howard go, and yet again Killswitch Engage found themselves vocalist-less.
Enter Jesse David Leach! After Times of Grace, Jesse had reconciled with his fellow band mates and decided to come back to KSE. This was in 2012. A few albums later, around 2016 or so, and during Killswitch’s tour of the UK, Howard Jones’ other band was also touring the area. This lead to a text being flicked off to Howard “wouldn’t it be great to have you come out and sing The End of Heartache with us”. To which he did. No animosity, no hard feelings. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Moving on.
And now, I present to you the song The Signal Fire by Killswitch Engage. Its track 2 on their latest album – Atonement – which came out this year, and is the bands 8th studio album.
I am so happy to have been able to see this beautiful moment. And that fist bump is probably the coolest moments in metal, nay, music for the entire 2019. The most amazing thing here is that its just Killswitch Engage. Its not Killswitch Engage featuring, or guest vocals by. Its Killswitch Engage.
This is what forgiveness looks like. All the hard times and the bad. You accept they happened. But you move on. You look for hope. Hope that one day all differences can be reconciled. Forgiveness is powerful.
But it doesn’t stop there dude! Strap yourselves in – this is about to get heavy.
I am sure you know the story of As I Lay Dying. Or if that doesn’t ring any bells – Tim Lambesis. Still nothing? Ok, let me break it down.
As I Lay Dying is a band made up of Christian guys, but not making Christian music. If its hard to understand, then think harder. AILD, as they are affectionately called, released 6 studio albums between 2001 and 2012, starting with Beneath the Encasing of Ashes. While each album dealt with human emotion, it wasn’t until The Powerless Rise (2010) and the subsequent album, Awakened in 2012, that people realised the lyrics and themes were changing.
Tim, who wrote most of them, was moving further away from his faith and not just questioning things, but being outright hostile to his religion and his band mates. Songs about overcoming became songs about succumbing. Songs about positivity, became songs about despair. Something was amiss with Tim. He got really into body building, he started taking steroids, he separated from his wife. His drive and passion that helped the band in their early years turned inwards and started driving him to focus on himself. His attitude went from “us” to “me”.
Everything came to a head in 2013 when Tim was arrested for trying to hire a hit man to kill his estranged wife. For those not in the band, and even those in the band, this came so far out of left field that it visibly shook them. Overnight, As I Lay Dying were over, cancelling their tour mid way. The other band members felt betrayed that their brother would go so far. As happens, people tend to blame themselves, wondering what more they could have done, where did they go wrong, why didn’t they help. Self blame becomes a big thing.
Tim was found guilty of solicitation of murder and sentenced to 6 years in prison. The rest of the band tried to move on – forming Wovenwar with a different vocalist, and trying hard to continue working, or keeping busy, just so they wouldn’t have to think about this situation. All of them left As I Lay Dying. They even went on record to say they would not work with Tim ever again.
Well 6 years past, and the members hadn’t really gotten closure, or processed anything when Tim was released. Slowly but surely he met up with each of them, and apologized and listened. Listened to the betrayal and hurt he caused, listened to the pain of losing someone so close. Sure, a few guys were resistant, and outright refused to met or talk to Tim, and honestly who could blame them. But after speaking to a few, they came to realise that here was a changed man. Someone who was mournful of his actions. Someone who they had not seen in a long, long time.
After a while, they decided to reform AILD with Tim, and did so in a way that I have not seen anyone do – the band held a round table, filmed it and put it on YouTube. In this video, each band member talks openly and honestly about what they felt, the anger they have for Tim, the unforgiveness in their hearts. Its raw and its powerful. Nick openly cries, Josh doesn’t mince his words, and Tim sits and listens. He knows he can never fix it, but he can try.
The new As I Lay Dying album gets released on September 20th, this year! And its called Shaped By Fire for obvious reasons. From the few songs they have released so far, this is shaping up to be their best release yet. All the songs are songs from Tim’s heart. Its his owning up to his past mistakes album.
The band have worked with the HeartSupport organisation to produce a video of their journey, and its well worth the 15 minutes of your time. This video tells the story or forgiveness and redemption, and we all could use a little more of that.
I will forever remain an As I Lay Dying fan, simply because of how these guys have handled what was (and still is) a very rough time – openly and honestly.
As Tim says in My Own Grave
The lies, the weight
It’s clear I lost my way
I thought I was an architect but I was just moving dirt
Stacking mud over malice covered-up forming nothing but a pile of hurt
I hadn’t been building
The time was spent digging
Boring the barriers that kept others away
The deeper the walls the less anyone could hear fall
So now I know there is no one else to blame
Buried alive inside of my own grave
And there’s no one else to blame
Buried alive inside of my own grave
Inside of my own grave
Beneath my lies
There’s not much more I can say really. Two bands on separate occasions have shown maturity, forgiveness and hope. No matter what we’re going through, no matter the mountain in front of us – never lose hope.